The challenges of Victor Pusey-Brown
CURATOE HILL, Clarendon:
VICTOR PUSEY-BROWN was born and raised in Curatoe Hill and has spent his entire life being scoffed at and discriminated against because of his disability. Although he was born a normal child, Pusey-Brown was placed in the care of his grandparents.
At 16 months old, Pusey-Brown contracted poliomyelitis and that illness worried his caregivers.
"My grandparents didn't know what was wrong with me so they assumed it was obeah. They took me to several obeahmen, but they still couldn't find out what had caused me to get so sick. Eventually, they took me to the doctor and he told them I had polio, and, at that time, the stigma now attached to AIDS is what it was like when someone had polio then," he told Rural Xpress.
Poliomyelitis is a viral infection that affects the nervous system and is most common in infants. In Pusey-Brown's case, it affected his joints and limbs and caused his right leg to be stunted in growth. The long-term effect on him is that the leg is noticeably smaller and shorter than the other, and it causes him to walk with a permanent limp.
The scorns and stares began when Pusey-Brown started attending basic school at five years old. "My grandparents, especially my grandmother, were very protective of me, so when the children started to trouble me, she would move me from one school to another."
He recounted some of those painful memories: "I remember the first time I moved, the parents of the other children didn't like me because I was different from all the other 'normal' children, and they said they didn't want their children to mix up with no handicap."
While settling in the second basic school, one day I told the teacher I was thirsty and she said she didn't have any water to give me, so she sent me alone to walk all the way home to get water. When my grandmother asked me what happened and I told her, she didn't even send me back that day, and I moved again." He told Rural Xpress that, before he realised what was happening, he had been enrolled in the fourth basic school. This time, it was one outside of the community.
Pusey-Brown said he also received treatment at Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre.
"At 10 years old, I was enrolled at the May Pen Primary School in grade two," Pusey-Brown said, as he explained the uncomfortable situation he was made to bear being in a class with six- and seven-year-olds. "Di pickney dem used to tease me a lot and call me handicap."
Despite the mocking and jeering, he excelled in the academics and moved on to the May Pen Senior School, where the discrimination continued.
However, he noted that he has met some good people who have encouraged him on his life's journey. Pusey-Brown was trained in social work and has given of his services and expertise to several government agencies during his working years.
Now retired, the 62-year-old still remains very active, doing voluntary work, serving on boards and committees. He is also the coach for the Clarendon Special Olympics team that has travelled to several countries and continents. He likes to think of himself as a friendly individual who always has good advice to give anyone who will accept it. "I share my life story with others to motivate and uplift them and teach them not to look down on or discriminate or stigmatise people with disabilities. I always tell them there is a thin line between 'ability' and 'disability' so be careful what you say to or about people who are 'differently abled'.
Victor likes singing, reading and writing short stories and plays. He has had a play
that had a cast and was performed for a live audience.