Here is the simple, hidden story of Mr. Matolo. Mr. Matolo
is a paraplegic Xhosa man, mid-50’s, who is permanently disabled from a car
accident in 1975 and has been wheelchair-bound since. Life as a paraplegic in
rural South Africa has many challenges, not only because of the poverty and lack
of resources, but also because of cultural beliefs such as curses and the role
of men within the culture.
Nevertheless, Mr. Matolo returned to work in the
orthopedic hospital as a craft teacher. The government provided him free
accommodation consisting of a small room far from the hospital and difficult to
access by car. He relied on the good will of the hospital driver who will bring
him back and forth from his home. More times than not, he would be waiting for
hours and there would be no vehicle to take him to work.
So Mr. Matolo decided to work extra jobs fixing shoes,
selling crafts, etc. to save for building a house near the hospital so he could
go to work every day because many patients would be waiting for him to learn
some skill to survive. Finally his dream was accomplished and now he can push
himself up and down the hills and on dirt roads to get to work at the hospital
Mr. Matolo is always present to his neighbors. The women
at his location (neighborhood) came to him with a need for a day care program as
some of them found jobs in town. So this man, from his wheelchair, organized the
families to build a shack where some of the women not working would take turns
watching the children. Mr. Matolo has become the leader of the community in the
short time he has been there and he still works extra jobs to save for this
When it was time for us to leave South Africa, I found
that my suitcase was in need of repair. I thought that I could use the occasion
to give some extra money that would go to the day care project. Mr. Matolo fixed
my suitcase. When it was time to pay I was ready with the money but he refused
to accept it. He just said that when I come back, I can pay him.
At that time we weren’t sure where our future would be, or
where God would lead us but now I know that he knew. We will return to Umtata in
February, 2001. We have a debt to pay.