The Executive Director Tells it all
The realization of the Samuel Wellington Botwey (SWEB) Foundation is an age-old dream that has come true. It is a great refreshing delight to me, the Botwey family and friends.
Reflecting back to where it all seemingly begun, I can recall and now understand why the issue of disability is more of a passion than a profession; no wonder the emergence of SWEB Foundation and its programme direction in empowerment and livelihood chances of all persons with disabilities.
Being the maiden official release on our website, I believe it will interest you to know how the seed of passion for the Foundation was actually sown.
In 1960, at the age of six, while a little boy in basic two at the Sefwi-Awiaso Methodist Primary School, I recall becoming faintly conscious of my father, Samuel Wellington Botwey, losing his sight. He was then the head teacher of the school. He had stopped teaching in the classroom and wore thick glasses. He would often bump into objects in the house and in school. I vividly remember him repeatedly telling me while I was playing: ‘‘Kofi, be careful of your eyes’’. At that time, he was a single father and considered me, his ‘world’ and ‘eye’. Later on, he told me his loss of vision was due to an accident he had many years back while working in his parents’ cocoa farm.
In 1961, Samuel Wellington Botwey was transferred from Sefwi-Awiaso to the School for the Blind in Wa in the Upper West Region of Ghana. At Wa, he was the first teacher in the school who was virtually ‘blind’. At the time, every possible orthodox medicine was tried but to no avail. His desperation for a cure led to the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. I had accompanied him one evening to the herbalist to seek treatment and witnessed the man drop a mixture into his eyes. He then bandaged his head to keep the mixture on the eye. A couple of days later when the bandage was removed he had lost the remaining vision.
From that moment, I grew up as a guide and a reader to my ‘blind’ father. Not long, I became the tradesman in the house, i.e., gardener, the carpenter and repairer of dad’s radio and type-writer by trial and error. I had to guide him to his school to teach before continuing to my school to learn. I was almost always late to school and often missed the first lessons. As a result, I could not become a grade ‘A’ student; neither was I a grade ‘D’. I lost the usual youthful adventurism, and at that early stage, I schooled, learned, played and fought with visually impaired children.
I joined the staff at the Wa School for the Blind, after my post-secondary teacher training in order to continue to offer the needed support to dad. When dad died in July 1977, I knew my future was already cut in the field of visual impairment and for that matter, disability. The interval between 1977 and the establishment of SWEB in 2010 is another line of history of adventure in the field of disability and professionalism in Ghana and Africa, for a different platform.
It should now be easy for one to relate SWEB Foundation to its vision of all children and adults with disabilities in Ghana and the rest of Africa, enjoying the same rights and opportunities as their non-disabled peers. The pivot of our mission is to forge collaboration with allied national and international organizations, Governmental and non-Governmental, to do what we aim at doing.
Our uniqueness lies in our desire to be innovative and to be as indigenous in our approaches as possible, but professional. Our innovative flagship programme, the Community Interventions for Empowerment and Livelihoods (CIEL), is planted in the community based rehabilitation (CBR) strategy, at district level. Through CIEL, we work closely with local disabled people’s organizations to implement their own organizational development and project activities. In the process, we also work with self-help groups of caregivers and parents of children with disabilities. District Assemblies are our allies in facilitating access to mainstreaming services through training of the decentralized agencies.
Within the CIEL framework, our website will begin to unveil to our visitors the varied activities that are and will be taking place.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge my dad, the late Samuel Wellington Botwey and the entire Botwey family, for educating me. Note of mention is an old colleague, Kwasi Ayim-Dakwa, our Director of Finance and Administration, who joined hands in SWEB’s very infant stage. I must also acknowledge the contribution that the West Africa offices of CBM and Sight Savers have made in my professional career.
SWEB Foundation will ever be grateful to Liliane Foundation, our current Strategic Partner, for the steam to come this far in so short a time. We have a name, a family, a vision and a passion to protect, and will therefore judiciously guard our current and future partnership obligations.