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‘I don’t plan to give up’ - Camille Royal rises above anger as Abilities Foundation gives legs to her dreams

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2019 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Camille Royal, a budding cosmetologist who is not about to let her disability get in the way of her dreams.
Camille Royal

Since birth, 34-year-old Camille Royal has had legs so tiny, she was never privileged to walk. She was also deprived of her right to a stable education.

Today, although she can use a pen but cannot read, Royal remains undaunted.

Behind her are the days of being angry about a disability for which she was not to blame. With guidance from the Abilities Foundation, an organisation in St Andrew that empowers persons with disabilities by equipping them with vocational and entrepreneurial skills, Royal is looking forward to operating her own business and owning her own home.

“I have never been to school, probably because they (parents) were a bit ashamed of me,” Royal told The Gleaner yesterday. “I want to prove something to people who say that I have no reason here on earth. Growing up, I was like a tom girl – playing with my cousins, running up and down on my hands and knees. Seeing everybody going to school while I stayed at home made me cry. I thought that everybody was like me, but then got better. Then I realised that I wasn’t going to get better. It would make me feel angry at myself and the fact that my mother had me.”

Ray of hope

One day, around May last year, hope came in the form of a television programme and the Abilities Foundation.

“I was searching for a school and got the contact for Abilities Foundation. Right now, I am doing my best at Abilities Foundation. I am not perfect, but trying to be. I can write but I cannot read. With the reading I am trying, but it’s not staying with me. I guess I need better help with that,” she said. “I don’t plan to give up, though. Ten years from now, I would love to own my own house.”

But her journey has not been made easy, especially by the way she is treated by some members of society, including taxi drivers.

“I don’t really go on the road on my own. Sometimes I have to ask my cousin to put me in the car, but sometimes she is really busy. Sometimes the taxi dem don’t want me in their car. Once I am on the road, I have to be in a wheelchair or in a car.”

Abilities Foundation director Susan Hamilton told The Gleaner that Royal has been excelling as a budding cosmetologist.

“She said, ‘Miss, ‘I can clean and I can do everything for myself,’ so we registered her. What is good about this programme is that because she has a special knack for beauty services, she does very well. Although she is a non-reader, HEART has an oral system of assessment, where she would be asked questions and tell them the answers.

“She has passed everything so far, and was one of the inspirations for a US$25,000 grant we won from the US Embassy to execute projects to save women with disabilities,” she revealed.

Hamilton has been noting Royal’s progress and has seen how the programme has been helping to give her a positive outlook on life.

“When you have a disability, you are really locked away and locked out. You don’t get to go out and you don’t even know what Half-Way Tree looks like. Her confidence level has grown! We are taking her through her business plan. She is good with hair and nails, so we will journey with her and discuss with her what she really wants to do and see what can transpire out of that.”