Video: Helping people with disabilities in Ghana

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/1/2006 7:32:36 PM ET 2006-09-01T23:32:36

Four tires, some nuts and bolts, a frame and a lawn chair. Together, these are the items that can change a life — for thousands.

The man who is making it possible is Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.

Anne Thompson: As I was watching you build these wheelchairs today, I thought if you build a chair, you build a life.

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah: Right. It's true. This wheelchair costs like $45, and it changes somebody's life in a country like my country.

Under Yeboah's direction, New York City fifth-graders assemble the wheelchairs for delivery to Ghana — Yeboah's country — where the disabled often crawl and beg.

Thompson: That means a lot to you, not to see disabled people beg.

Yeboah: That is something I want to change. And always, when I go near them to ask them why are you begging, they say the government is not supporting that and we are not getting any help from anywhere so we have to beg.

Yeboah was born with a severely deformed right leg and into a culture that once not just ignored the disabled but tried to eliminate them.

Thompson: They asked your mom to kill you?

Yeboah: Yeah, to kill me. Yeah, because I'm a deformed child. And she said no, I can't do that. Emmanuel is my son, I'm going to take care of Emmanuel.

So now, he's taking care of others.

Four years ago, on a donated bike, he rode across Ghana to bring attention to the plight of the disabled.

In this country, the Wheelchair Foundation took notice and has sent 2,400 chairs to Ghana —almost 600 this year alone.

"He's living proof of what you can do if you're given a chance," says Don Schoendorfer of Free Wheelchair Mission.

The story of Yeboah, just 29 years old, attracted world leaders, a documentary team and many honors, enabling him to set up a scholarship fund for the disabled in Ghana.

"Maybe I can see see a disabled person or handicapped person who is a doctor, who is an engineer, and people say it's Emmanuel who educated this guy," Yeboah says.

But first he will lift them up. One wheelchair at a time.

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