Office duties like photocopying and answering the phone fall under the daily role of Randy Mathurin. (Picture by Christoff Griffith.)
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March has been designated Month Of The Disabled, and on Mondays this month, the DAILY NATION will focus on men who are disabled or work with people with disabilities. Today we feature Randy Mathurin of the Barbados Council for the Disabled.
FOR 13 YEARS, St Lucian-born Randy Mathurin has been gainfully employed at the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) as a general worker.
Before moving to its offices, he made and repaired shoes and did landscaping, but had his challenges.
He arrived in Barbados in 1999 as a polio victim and felt there was much more scope for people with disabilities here than back in his homeland.
“When you are working for the first time it can be a challenge when you are not trained. I want to see myself try at everything; I will offer to do it even if I fail at it. At least I tried. I am that kind of person, I never give up on nothing that will test me,” he said.
Mathurin said his indomitable spirit was something at which he had to work really hard. He said his mother sought to “protect” him but he felt as if she was holding him back as he pushed to have his independence.
“I find that most parents shut in a disabled child to prevent them from going out and having friends, but I was never like that. I went outside and I told my mother I do not want to be shut up in the house,” he said.
“I told her that if she did that, when she left for work, I cannot take care of myself or I do not know where to go or who to go to for help. ‘Stop treating me like an egg, I am not going to break’.”
Mathurin said he was better as a result of his insistence that he wanted to be outside. Otherwise, he would have been very timid and afraid to talk to people.
School life was not easy for him. He was taunted and teased a lot. Children did not want to sit next to him. They felt if they had touched him they would catch polio.
“It was because most people had a lack of experience interacting with persons with disabilities,” Mathurin said.
He told the DAILY NATION that he had to be strong to go out “in the society with a hand and foot like this and everybody staring”.
“I have grown up and I have learned how to deal with it. I am getting a little slow now because I am getting older, but as Bajans say, I used to be at every catfight so I pretty much don’t even think that I have a disability because I can drive, I can cook, I can work, I can wash, I can do everything I put my mind to.”
Comparing Barbados to St Lucia, he said he was so surprised to see how independent some people with disabilities were here and how they were given representation and assistance.
“Coming to live here, honestly I said to my friends I am in a gold mine. The reason for that is you get more attention here with a disability. St Lucia is a bit backward; it is a place where you get discrimination and I always say, don’t get me wrong, but it is very hard for a disabled person to grow up there.”
He added that the government did not offer much assistance and families had to struggle on their own. That struggle, Mathurin explained, was what led him to want to work and get his own money and take care of himself.
He said when he first moved to Barbados he used to get monetary assistance. He had it stopped. He thought: what was the sense of staying home doing nothing, knowing nothing about the outside world?
Randy Mathurin, general worker at the Barbados Council for the Disabled, is asking employers to give people with disabilities a chance.
Having had the Barbadian experience, he is contemplating using what he has learned to help an association for the disabled in his homeland.
“I would not mind doing that. I do it here where I go to schools and tell my story and show the children how to treat persons with disabilities. It is basically that we are just like them, have the same needs; we just look a little different and do things a bit differently,” he said.
He also wants people to know of the importance of being vaccinated and all the different conditions that could impact children.
Mathurin said his mother told him that when he was younger, he did not get his immunisations on time and that led to his condition. Even though it had some impact on his life, he said he felt quite normal; the only thing was that his nerves “act up” sometimes. He has to squeeze something in his hands to steady them.
He, like other disabled people, wants to see better access to buildings but is pleased that things are progressing.
Mathurin also called on business places to give the disabled a try.
“One thing I can say is that everyone deserves a chance because you may look at me and say he cannot do that and I say I can do it. Just give me a try to prove myself. My grandmother always tell me to show off what you can do; people out there may see you and pity you by giving you a job but you might do it better than the average person.”
It was this confidence that convinced him that the job at the BCD was his after he was interviewed.
“Whatever I do I am sure about it because I always put God in front.”