“Back home there are only few of us with intellectual disabilities who have special care,” Deon Namiseb told MediaGlobal. Namiseb’s own life story is a testament to that. Namiseb was born in Namibia and when doctors detected that he had multiple disabilities, including paralysis, he was left in the corner to die alone. Luckily, his aunt, a member of the hospital cleaning staff, found the infant and rescued him.
Namiseb survived, became a soccer player and grew to become a national sports hero in his country. At the Clinton Global Initiative, however, he was given a new role, introducing former president Bill Clinton at the launch of the Special Olympics’ new “Healthy Communities” initiative.
The Healthy Communities program will be launched in seven countries: Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand. The idea behind the project is to establish a healthy community of health providers worldwide and to pay particular attention to combating diseases of extreme poverty like malaria, and HIV.
Created with $12 million from Paychex founder and three-time New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano — the largest donation ever to Special Olympics — the program is designed to help the 200 million people in the world with intellectual disabilities who are denied access to quality health services.
“People in our country back home with intellectual disabilities have been neglected…they think they are not capable of doing anything,” Namiseb told the room while introducing Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Namiseb stresses that people with intellectual disabilities not only experience poorer health than the general population but in developing countries, where medical assistance is scarce, those with special needs don’t get the attention they deserve.
Sadly, Namiseb’s isn’t the only traumatic story of neglect in a health clinic in the developing world. Victoria Pair from Jamaica is the mother of Esther, a 25-year-old with Down syndrome who has had her share of bad experiences with doctors.
“Its always been hard to find someone who could treat my daughter,” Pair told the press at CGI. “I even had a doctor tell me forget it I will never work, just put her in a room and get another child.”
These discriminatory practices extend far beyond the clinic. Children with disabilities are often not welcome in schools. At least 90 percent of kids with disabilities in the developing world are denied the right to education. At times it’s the parents themselves who keep their children from going to school.
“Mothers are pulling their kids out of society so that they aren’t known by the world,” Namiseb explained to MediaGlobal.
If he had not been given a chance to get involved with Special Olympics, Namiseb very well might also have remained hidden and his talents never showcased. He might never have been heralded as an inspiration by CGI.
“I’m very proud of myself to stand here and also to tell my story… if my mom should have taken me away I won’t have this opportunity to come and meet this president of the United States and for me it’s a big honor,” Namiseb tells MediaGlobal.
Attending the Clinton Global Initiative and meeting other global leaders isn’t the only thing Namiseb has accomplished. He discovered that he is gifted in other ways that the general population is not.
“You know porridge? Porridge you basically need to have two hands to stir the pot…I can do it with one hand.”
Not only is his ability to perform household tasks with one hand impressive but his athletic skills are amazing to say the least. “I can do a pushup with one hand!” the athlete exclaims. By encouraging people with disabilities to do sports, the Special Olympics not only improves the health of those with Intellectual Disabilities but they give them the courage to develop and strengthen their talents.
“What you can do, my dear, I can do it a thousand times better,” Namiseb says.