If you are born disabled in Ghana, West Africa, you are likely to be poisoned or left to die by your family. If you are not poisoned or left for dead, you're likely to be hidden away. If you're not hidden, you will most likely spend your lifetime begging on the streets. Of the twenty million people in Ghana, two million are disabled. One of them, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, born with a severely deformed right leg, has a mission to change the destiny of the disabled in Ghana forever.
Emmanuel is the subject of the documentary film Emmanuel's Gift (narrated by Oprah Winfrey), directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern. Emmanuel has dedicated his life to changing the perception and treatment of the disabled in his homeland. To focus the attention of his countrymen on this issue, Emmanuel decided to ride a bike across Ghana. Though he'd mastered pedaling with only one leg, there was another obstacle: he didn't own a bike. He sought out the Challenged Athlete Foundation in the United States. In July 2002, on a bicycle provided by the CAF, Emmanuel embarked on his journey, which was documented in newspapers and on the radio. By the time he reached his destination, Emmanuel was a national hero.
One year later, the CAF flew Emmanuel to San Diego to compete in a triathlon. Arriving with two crutches under his arms and three dollars in his pocket, he rode a 56-mile bike segment as part of a relay team. Doctors at Loma Linda Medical Center evaluated Emmanuel and determined that his leg could be partially amputated and fit for a prosthetic that would free him of his crutches. In April 2003, Emmanuel was given a brand new life.
He has since turned his focus toward improving the lives of Ghana's many disabled citizens. In April 2004, at an unprecedented ceremony at the King's Palace in Kibi, Ghana, Emmanuel awarded educational scholarships to fifteen disabled children and presented five disabled athletes with sports wheelchairs. Today, his goal is to build a state-of-the-art sports academy for both able-bodied and physically challenged athletes, which will employ only the disabled. He also organized a team of disabled athletes that represented Ghana in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. With the Free Wheelchair Mission, Emmanuel distributed over one hundred wheelchairs to fellow disabled Ghanaians. Eventually he aims to run for Parliament.
In 2003, he received the Casey Martin Award from Nike, which honors an individual who has excelled in athletic pursuit while overcoming significant physical, mental, societal or cultural challenges, and/or who proudly serves as an advocate for fellow athletes with disabilities. In 2005 Emmanuel received the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY's with his friend Jim MacLaren, who inspired the creation of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The two men received an emotional five- minute standing ovation. Previous winners include Muhammad Ali, Jim Valvano, and Billie Jean King. Later that year he and Jim appeared together on The Oprah Winfrey Show. His story has also been featured on Nightline and Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith. Emmanuel had the honor of meeting with President George W. Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Emmanuel’s first book, A Mother’s Love, a short autobiographical text about his childhood in Ghana, was published in 2012. The book is a part of Reflections Publishing’s series “Kids Helping Kids Through Books.”
In speaking to First World audiences, Emmanuel is raising awareness about disability around the world and raising funds for the Free Wheelchair Program and his scholarship initiative. The directors of Emmanuel's Gift, Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern, are also available to talk about Emmanuel's remarkable story, in conjunction with footage from the film.
Emmanuel's Gift is a story about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who was born disabled in Ghana and had nothing but gave everything to change a nation forever
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah ESPY Awards presented by Oprah Winfrey
Three years after Emmanuel's Gift was released, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah shares an update on how his life has changed since that time.