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Student film illuminates challenges experienced by people with disabilities in Ghana

People with disabilities are often overlooked or left behind in discussions about global humanitarian relief aid and advocacy. But the number of vulnerable disabled people living in poverty and suffering in poor health is staggering in many communities. Eighty-two percent of people with disabilities live in poverty and more than 90% of children with disabilities do not receive education.

A new, short documentary film, Beyond the Margins, tells the stories of several unlikely heroes in Ghana—people with disabilities. Behind the cameras was Messiah College senior Derick Esch ‘14 who undertook the film as part of a graduation project.

The film shows the difference that inclusion makes in the lives of people with disabilities and in their communities, and it was intended to challenge viewers to consider their own perceptions and responses to people with disabilities.

Esch says of the experience: “I think the biggest thing I learned through making the film was just how resilient the people we interviewed are, and how they did not wait for assistance from non-governmental organizations, but took the initiative themselves to better their situation.”

The individuals featured in the film are working to ensure all people in their community can experience the transformation that comes with clean, accessible and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene. When persons with disabilities cannot meet their basic needs, their challenges are compounded. Too often, children with disabilities are kept at home, unable to access education or participate in development.

Rodney Green, executive producer of the video and program manager of the Collaboratory for Strategic Partnership and Applied Research, spent two weeks in Ghana with Esch. Green recalls, “I was inspired by the fierce passion of people with disabilities to empower themselves and those around them to do what they might have thought was once impossible. I was excited to see how they are volunteering in their communities or pursuing their dreams. It felt like a force that will not be stopped.”

The film was a collaborative effort between the Collaboratory, Messiah’s film department and World Vision, who are partnering in several countries to find simple, affordable and locally producible ways to make clean water and sanitation accessible for people with disabilities.

“I hope that this film influences the audience to reflect on how they view people with disabilities, prioritize access issues with people with disabilities to promote equality and to open their minds and imaginations on how people with disabilities contribute to the overall well-being of society,” said Green. “I also hope that these stories can inspire other people with disabilities to pursue their dreams and to overcome their challenges in reaching their full potential.”

Story adapted with permission from World Vision International.

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