‘I want to take care of myself’
Disabled young woman appeals for help to improve living conditions, start business
At 21 years of age, Sudan Lawson does not believe she has been given a fair chance at pursuing her passion in life.
The disabled young woman spends each day crying and hoping for a better life inside the dilapidated one-room dwelling she shares with her father Eaton Lawson and grandmother Nalda Findley in an inner-city community along Oxford Street in downtown Kingston.
Sudan, who aspires to become an entrepreneur, told The Gleaner that she suffers from congenital hemiparesis – a condition that causes the muscles in the right side of her body to be weak. This has been affecting her chances of landing a job since graduating from Mona High School with five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) passes in 2019.
Her cry is similar to those of hundreds of disabled youth across the island: She wants a chance to earn and prove herself in an equal society.
Sudan, who is unable to walk without some form of assistance, said that now that she is an adult, she wants to reduce the pressure of caring for her on her father, grandmother and aunt, who have been supporting her for 21 years since her diagnosis and the disappearance of her mother.
“Life hasn’t been the way that I want. That is why I try my best to reach out for help because I’ve reached a point in life where I want to take care of myself,” Sudan told The Gleaner on the verge of tears as she sat on the steps to her home on Sunday. “I want to be independent. I have so many goals and I really want to see them become a reality.”
The roof to the room she shares is caving in and the family’s refrigerator and television do not work well, she revealed, showing her living conditions.
Sudan has never had the comfort of taking a shower. For all her life, she has been showering from basins brought to her with water. The family shares an outdoor bathroom and sanitary conveniences with several other persons.
“The condition of the house is really poor. The walls are splitting in two. There is no proper [sanitary] facility. The yard is a one-way. I don’t have enough privacy, enough space,” Sudan explained.
But dreaming of a better day, Sudan has conceptualised the business she intends to start, and has gone as far as to borrow a laptop to design its logo.
“My passion is to become an entrepreneur. I want to start selling haircare products, which are conditioner and shampoos, styling gel, hair moisturiser, and hair oil. I love my hair, so I always want to treat my hair to the best, and I also want to use this to make money as well,” she told The Gleaner.
“I’m passionate about business. I don’t want to leave the world without making an impact, so that is the reason why I’m trying. ... I want to be a world changer,” she added.
With the first anniversary since the Disabilities Act took effect coming up on February 14, she also wants to contribute to making lives better for persons living with disabilities or special needs and single parents.
“It’s not me alone as a person with disability going through it. I want to help single moms – single parents – because I grew up with a single parent,” Sudan reflected.
Three months after she was born on November 20, 2021, her mother disappeared, leaving her in the care and protection of her father and grandmother.
Taking care of Sudan has not been an easy journey for the duo.
Her father told The Gleaner that he worked as a market vendor to earn enough to send her to school, and that his mother ensured that she had breakfast each morning before they left home.
“I just try to do the best for her, get her into school to get an education that she nuh less than no one, and mek she feel like she is someone. Give thanks for my mother, who has been here with me throughout the years. Mi have a sister, sometimes she will come through and give mi a strength,” Eaton Lawson told The Gleaner.
He, too, is hoping for a brighter future.
“We hope and pray that better can come. Weh we live right now, it nuh really accommodative, but we still have to do wi best and move on because we hope and pray that better can come. Mi woulda like something weh mi can do fi really take her out of da situation ya, so she can [be the person she wants to be],” he said. “Mi do mi best and mi would like fi do more ... if mi get the opportunity ... .”
Lawson admitted that taking care of a child with a special need over the years into adulthood has caused him to face depression several times. However, he said he never gave up, even when he had to push Sudan’s wheelchair to the bus stop so she could get transportation to attend classes at the St Andrew-based Mona High School.
“Mi realise seh is a special child, and see when you get a special child, that means seh you special, so regardless of the garrison weh mi inna, mi nuh give up,” he said.
LIVING IN FAITH
He said that even when there is a flare-up of violence in their community and a voice in his head would say, “don’t come out fi bring her go school”, he was undeterred.
“You know seh God never leave him people, and you see from God is with you, the rest is history, so mi just put God inna mi fi faith and push through because mi know seh one day to come, she a go make mi proud, and mi see she come do it [when she passed her CSEC subjects],” he said.
“She a go make mi prouder than how she mek mi proud now. If she get a chance fi do weh she really waa fi do inna life,” added Lawson.
Seventy-five-year-old Findley constantly encourages Sudan to keep the faith, telling her that once she remains ambitious and faithful, better days will be ahead.
“She really full a ambition. Every year she plan. She want a house fi just set herself, weh she have di convenience, weh she can go and come. She tired a siddung up and dung one place every day. If she get a business, she feel like everything will alright fi her, ... but mi left everything to the Almighty God,” the grandmother said.
Sudan said that some time ago she had reached out to Food For The Poor Jamaica for housing assistance, but was informed that she or her relatives would need to have land or be given land to be considered for the charity to build a house for them. She is hoping a good Samaritan will help them with a piece of land to have this done.
In the meantime, she is seeking assistance to either refurbish the house in which they now live or to get assistance to relocate and lift their standard of living.
How you can help
Persons interested in assisting Sudan, can contact her at 876-487-3199 or 876-513-8335.