Bringing out the best

Normal, Weekender

ENTHUSIASTIC and self-assuring can best describe a group of special people who entertained the audience at a gala concert on Dec 3 at Crowne Plaza to commemorate the International Day for Disabled Persons (IDDP).
The event was also to raise funds for Paralympic sports.
My colleague Bosorina Robby prompted me to attend the event.
On arrival, we were asked by a lady at the registration desk; “Did you bring your tissues with you?”
Bosorina and I exchanged glances and responded “No! Why?”
“Because you will surely cry tonight,” she replied.
Francis Kompaon, Papua New Guinea’s champion Paralympian was among others who opened the night with words urging more support for people living with disabilities.
Mr Kompaon, who won a silver medal in the recent Paralympics, said it took endurance, inner strength, courage, and harmony, to realise his full potential.
The first group to perform comprised young energetic hearing impaired boys and girls from the Red Cross who danced to the beat of the garamut.
Choreographed to perfection the group kept the audience on the edge of our seats.
To achieve such performance, it takes time, practice, commitment and sacrifice by all involved, I was told.
“Just like any other able-bodied person, they want to make use of their abilities, and want to be heard like everybody else,” one of the teachers said.
A pair from St Johns then took the stage to perform the hit song by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers called ‘Greatest Gift’.
They sang with such passion conveying a message to the audience that for people with disabilities, the greatest gift of all is to love and accept them and not discriminate against them.
The night was still young, when youngster Moka Ripori from Aroma in Central province, a service user at the Cheshire Home kept the audience clapping and singing along with him and his acoustic guitar.
Vision impaired Moka impressed the audience with renditions of Eric Clapton’s ‘You look wonderful tonight’, Dolly Parton’s ‘Think about me’ and John Denver’s ‘Country Road.’
The last group to perform was the vision impaired group from Mt Sion centre for the Blind, called the Braille boys band.
My sons Jireh (3), Samuel (2) and I had watched this group performing a couple of times on Kundu 2 TV.  I told my sons that the members of this group were vision impaired.
I hope my sons, able bodied children and people understand and appreciate these special people and treat them as equals in society.
The group comprising a drummer, keyboardist, bass and lead guitarist and lead singer were splendid on stage.
Conchita, the lead vocalist, was one of two females in the group.
Conchita works as a coffee taster with a coffee processing company in Goroka and surely impressed the audience that night with her voice.
‘Forget my disability, look at my ability; I can do anything, anything, anything, anything that you can do I can do just as good as  you…’ they sang with vigor.
These lyrics from one of their theme song made me ponder about their rights to be heard and treated fairly like any other person.
It was an inspiring night for all. The performances showed me just how much we abled bodied people take for granted.
And lest we forget, the time and dedication that teachers, carers and parents of these special people, put into helping them realise their potential.
I hope this story prompts each of us to do our part, together with organizations like the Paralympics Committee to bring out the potential of these people through sports.
People with disabilities face daunting challenges each day trying to cope in a world designed primarily for the able-bodied.
I found out that night that people who have special needs are not dumb or incapable of doing all the things that you can do. They are people who are making an effort to face the challenges ahead. All they need is a little help and a lot of understanding from society.
Oh and yes, I should have brought along a box of tissues.