Matakon is a dynamic 17-year old boy in Moudawa, a hard to reach locality in Mouda, a subdivision in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Matakon has a mobility impairment, which he sustained from a fire incident in 2014. With an endearing smile, Matakon recounts the events of the dreadful day.
“I was alone at home, something unusual, since I come from a polygamous home and our compound is rich with young children. It was harvesting season and my mother’s hut was full of cotton bags. I can’t remember exactly why, but I had a torch with a gas lighter in my hand and I wanted to open a cotton bag. I found the task quite arduous, so I decided to use what I had in my hand: the gas lighter. The first cotton bag caught fire and my legs can tell you the rest of the story”.
Matakon was caught in the fire that charred his lower limbs before help came by. He was taken to the nearby health center. The facility was inadequate in terms of skills and equipment to provide the standard of care needed for deep burns like his. In February 2015, he was taken to Fondation Bethleem, a Partner Organisation of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) that takes care of children with disabilities. He spent an entire year there, going through rehabilitation before being referred to another hospital in the vicinity for proper management. During this time, he had to grudgingly drop from school, a situation that compounded his physical pain.
As the saying goes, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining”. As Matakon’s situation was improving, CBR workers in Fondation Bethleem enrolled him in a school in the same premises as the hospital, so that he could be followed up bothfrom the health and educational fronts.
Today, Matakon is a form three student in the Government High school of Mouda. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, he came top of his class with 15 average. Thanks to CBR activities in the locality, the school is now accommodating many children with disabilities. Advocacy efforts have led to the building of ramps in the school to facilitate access to children with mobility impairment like Matakon. Matokon’s first dream was to become a medical doctor to help children like him. But his dream has changed, since his performance in biology is not the best. His next ambition is to become a civil administrator, a position he thinks will give him the latitude to influence policy and impact the lives of children like him.
Matakon believes a disappointment is a blessing Without the fire incident, he wouldn’t have come in contact with CBR workers, who are now “fireproofing his future dreams”. With assistance from the Liliane Foundation, no fire can destroy his future, he beams with a subtle determination. Explaining the apparent paradox, Matakon says without hesitation that he would have probably gone the way of his numerous siblings, who are for the most part not educated. His high academic performance has pushed his father to embrace the way of education for his younger children.
Echoing the sentiments of his son, Matakon’s father expressed his gratitude to the Liliane Foundation, the CBCHS and Fondation Bethleem, for saving the life of his son and giving him a better chance to participate meaningfully in life. Even at this stage, Matakon is already having an impact not only in his family, but also in the community by making other children with disabilities believe in their potentials.