Banji, whose full name is Princess Blessings Banji Mulumbu, is from a remote village in Zambia. She survived a perilous birth that resulted in severe cerebral palsy. No one expected her to survive, but her mother, Nophreen, was fiercely devoted and Banji managed to live and then thrive, even with cerebral palsy. She has always had a lively mind, and at six years old began to ask to go to school. After initial misgivings, she was accepted at a special boarding school in Monze, Zambia, paid for by Sister Agnes Daka, the head of the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home. Despite her disability, which prevents her from even holding a pencil, all went well until eighth grade, when the principal feared that, because of her inability to write, Banji could not keep up with the increased workload. A donated computer solved the problem, and Banji graduated at the top of her class!
Her story is remarkable - click HERE to read her own account. With heroic assistance from her mother and friends she has continued to find a way to move forward with her education, sometimes with years between funding sources. There have also been many technical problems stemming from long, daily electrical outages which frequently prevented her from charging her laptop battery. She was completely dependent on her laptop for writing, and all of her notes, readings and papers were stored on it, so when it was not operable, learning was impossible. At times she really had to struggle, but she persevered.
Banji is currently enrolled in a 4 year degree program in Community Development at the Monze Community College (in conjunction with University of Zambia). Much of the time is spent learning remotely, but she must spend several weeks on campus. Her physical requirements to do that are daunting, and she will need a full-time caretaker. Despite that, her financial needs for this first leg of her education are modest, considering the circumstances. To fund the on-campus time she will need:
TRANSPORTATION, FOOD, BOOKS: $500/year
OTHER EXPENSES: Laptop: $300, smart phone, $100
After she completes this 4 year degree, she plans to work for a few years to gain experience before going on to pursue a master's degree. Her heart’s desire is to become a civil rights lawyer to work on behalf of disabled people. This is a lot to aim for, but it is not her only goal. Full of passion and ideas, she dreams of starting a school for children with disabilities, and also an orphanage. Along the way she wants to study mediation and conflict resolution. I have known her since she was 9 years old, and have witnessed her amazing journey. She is one of the most intelligent, generous and determined young women I have ever met. The only thing holding her back is lack of funds. Even so, she continues to work towards a future that will bring about improved status for people with disabilities in Zambia.
The AACDP is seeking help to fund her education from any foundation, institution or individual who wants to see this smart, ambitious and idealistic young woman become a powerful force for a group of marginalized people whose potentials are too often ignored and dismissed.
Together we can find a way to make Banji's dream to study law come true. After that, I believe there will be no holding her back.