Since I arrived to the U.S., I have learned a lot of things about cultural differences. I came with sadness and when I say that, I mean real sadness. I arrived here without hands and without my biological parents. My hands were both cut off when I was twelve during the Sierra Leone Civil War. Being disabled is the equivalent of being dead in my home country. Many disabled people do not have access to education or proper health care. Every disabled person I knew back home was on the street begging for his or her survival. I came to the U.S. to be fitted with prosthetics hands. I did not speak English– I only knew how to say, “Hello” and “What is your name?”
I arrived during a brutal winter season. I experienced a cold weather that I never experienced in my childhood. I had to learn everything from scratch. In addition, learning how to travel from point A to point Z. I was lucky, however. I lived with friends who also came to New York from my home country. We all learned how to navigate in the city by our self. I was willing to learn everything without hesitation because I know my condition and I cannot depend on my fellow human being.
In life we know our beginning, but we do not know our ending. Some of us are born with a disability and some of us received it through an accident or a terrible civil war like my experience. But I believe we all have something in common, which is patience and courage. When I lost both my parents and my both hands as a child, I did not know what to do when this kind of tragedy happened to me. But I did have three things in me: courage, patience and hard work. When I came to the United States, I knew I had to apply those things in order for me to succeed in whatever thing I am doing.
I do not overcome my tragedy just by sitting down feeling sorry for myself or waiting for help from outside. I work hard in school. I also know I have a lot of challenges to overcome so I have to keep going. I am not only patient with others that meet me; I am also very patient with myself. I also have been courageous with myself. I know things would never be the same. I just keep doing what I love to do. Sometime I never even consider myself handicapped. For example, I love to read and I love to write. I also love to listen to music– especially from my home country.
My courage and patience has helped me to move on with my life. I face challenges every day, but even if something may take me hours, I always persist without hesitation. Every giving day I consider myself very lucky to be alive because so many of my colleagues I knew back home in Sierra Leone have died from depression and other things.
I think living in the United States has given me a lot of strength to do what I want. I knew if I was living in my home country, I would not be able to go to school or to take care of myself financially. I would surely be depressed, as are many of my colleagues back home. Every day I always thank God I am alive, and I am able to provide for myself and my family members in Sierra Leone. I never thought this would be possible when I had experienced my tragedy. However, as difficult as my past has been, I have also seen that things are possible, and I am grateful for what I have.