Fifteen-year-old Thompson finds joy despite the hardship he faces. 

Back to all stories | Posted on 04/27/22 in Blog

As we drove towards the communal yard to meet Thompson, there was great energy and activity – he and another boy were careering around at high speed, with only the two back wheels of Thompson’s wheelchair making contact with the ground. 

Until he was eight years old, Thompson would have been running around the yard on two feet with the other children in his community. However, after falling ill with bone tuberculosis, his life changed forever. He endured joint pain all over his body and is now unable to walk unaided. 

At the time, his family sent him to a bush medicine practitioner for treatment, which included burning coals infused with herbs for him to inhale underneath a blanket. After almost two years and with no improvement in his condition, he was brought home. Aside from the pain, Thompson said the period spent in the “medicine bush” was hard because he had no friends and was unable to see his mother. 

Now 15, he is far smaller than his peers and has deformed limbs, so getting to school is very difficult. He wakes up at 5am to prepare for the long walk to school, which is a 30-minute walk even for an able-bodied child. During the five-month rainy season when the red dirt roads turn to thick mud, the journey becomes particularly difficult. His brother, Timothy, 14, either pushes him in the wheelchair or carries him on his back. Life was even harder before Thompson received his wheelchair from a government senator because he had to be carried everywhere. 

Thompson’s sickness delayed the start of his education; he received no schooling while he lived with the bush doctor. He is now in the first grade. Looking down, he describes the shame he feels about being the oldest student in the class and says other children sometimes laugh at him. However, his face lights up when he speaks about Mary’s Meals and says the meals give him the boost he needs to go to school. 

Despite the evident hardship he faces, Thompson has a frequent smile that lights up his face. He is a dynamic and clearly-not-unhappy child. He uses a pair of wooden sticks to support himself as he leaves his chair to join in a shoe-throwing game with the other children. 

Thompson told us, “I like going to school to learn. Mary’s Meals cooks for us and, because we eat, we are happy to go to school. Mary’s Meals encourages us to go to school because if we stay home, there’s no food.” 

“The first thing I do to move on with my life is accept my condition and endeavour to make progress to cope with the evolving reality of life. My main aim is to receive an education to fit into this changing world.” 

Open quote mark I hope my disability will be transformed into possibility and positivity. Close quote mark

Reading is Thompson’s favorite activity at school and his favorite book is Little Turtle. He also enjoys spelling and math. Thompson cherishes every day he spends at school. He feels great sadness when he is forced to miss lessons because of ill health, but he is determined to get the best education he can and will not allow his condition to hold him back in life. 

“I like to read at school. As a matter of fact, reading is my favorite subject,” Thompson explained. “It helps to widen and sharpen my comprehension skills.

“I would like to be a Pastor to preach the good news of Jesus Christ so that man will be saved.” 

Thompson’s mother, Oretha, who is raising her seven children alone and caring for elderly relatives, sells vegetables with other women at the highway intersection to make a living.  

Oretha said, “Mary’s Meals helps me because when I can’t sell, my children can’t eat anything. Without Mary’s Meals, life would be difficult.”