I was born in 1969 in Rivers State, Nigeria. At a young age, I contracted polio, which affected mobility in my legs; sadly this rendered me useless and hopeless in the eyes of some family members and villagers. We moved away to Port Harcourt City. When I was four years old, I went to live at Port Harcourt Cheshire Home.
It was the beginning of a transformation. At first I was sad, angry and aggressive; I felt rejected by my parents, and I kept myself isolated. Gradually, however, I began to socialise with other residents, staff, and people who visited the home. I realised I had opportunities: the chance to go to school, and to develop hobbies and talents.
I became quite creative. I entered poetry and painting competitions, winning awards from Leonard Cheshire and other charities. I set up a choir and formed The Gospel Glee Band, releasing an album, Happiness, in 1998.
As a young child I had not been given much support with my condition and I would have to crawl to get around. The physiotherapy I received at Port Harcourt meant that I could start walking – at first with calipers and crutches, and then eventually without a walking aid.
I met Leonard Cheshire twice – once at our home and once at the first Cheshire Home, Le Court, where I remember him telling stories and jokes. He was a man of great compassion and warmth.
In 1989 I went to the charity’s international conference in London, before staying for a month in the north of England at what was then Matfen Hall (the service is now Bradbury House). It really was a wonderful time that I have never forgotten.
Eventually I had the confidence and the opportunity to get a job, and then in 2010 I moved out of the home to live independently in the community. In 2014 I married my wife, Rose. In the lead up I sent a letter to The Queen – who is the patron of Leonard Cheshire Disability — writing about my wedding and how the charity had supported me to this point. I got a nice letter back wishing me a very happy wedding day! Rose and I have a two year-old son and we’re expecting another child next year.
Leonard Cheshire is my hero. He gave hope to so many disabled people, and had a hugely positive effect on the lives of millions of disabled people around the world. My life has been transformed and I’ve reintegrated into society. All this would not have been possible without Leonard Cheshire.
My life has been transformed and I’ve reintegrated into society. All this would not have been possible without Leonard Cheshire.