My name is John Nkubito. I was born in 1983 with a disability to my left arm.
My disability was always a source of insecurity for me. Growing up, I was often excluded at school – no one ever wanted me to play on their team.
I hid my arm by wearing oversized shirts and kept my left hand in my pocket so my disability would not be seen.
Even when I began dating, I would hide my arm – my wife did not know of my disability until after we were married! Shocked, she asked me why I had never shown her my arm. We have been married for nine years now, but life has not been easy.
I began to let my anger intrude on our family. My pain was deep and I had learned to let my anger win.
But one day I came to see a change.
In November 2010, a very shy and aggressive man with a negative mentality was invited to a Right To Play Red Ball Child Play training.
That man was me.
After some sessions, including Promotion of Inclusion and Communication and Feedback, I came to see my disability and my life in a new light: having daughters was not a curse and I was not as useless as people used to call me. Through my Right To Play training, I learned that I needed to adopt new behaviours.
At home, I apologized to my wife and daughters, and for the first time in my life, I stopped hiding my disability from the world. Beginning in my own community, I formed a club I called Agahozo (in English it means “Consolation”) where I could promote the inclusion of both children living with disabilities and girls in play and sports activities. We use games, sports, poems, songs and theater to encourage inclusion in rural areas.
With the Red Ball Child Play resource I have learned to implement so many games and children are eager to join Agahozo. Numbers are increasing every day, and the children are learning critical messages. By understanding that children with disabilities need to be integrated, Agahozo members have begun to report any children with disabilities that are being pulled out of school by their parents. With support from local authorities, we are advocating on their behalf to get those children back in class. To date, our efforts have helped more than 9 kids living with disabilities re-enroll in school.
Parents of children participating in Red Ball Child Play activities are seeing the change too. In fact, parents are insisting their children join my club because they are so appreciative of the values being taught through the sport and play activities. Children are learning respect, self-esteem, tolerance, self-confidence, cooperation and so on. Parents in the community have come to show me great support. In February, parents in the community even proposed that I run for office in local elections… And I won!
I am now in charge of Youth Development at our cell level, Entertainment Agent at our sector level and Chief Coordinator of Xavier’s Movement in the districts of Rubavu, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Nyabihu.
(Editorial note: Rwanda is divided into five provinces. Administratively, the provinces are divided into districts, which are divided into sectors, further divided into cell- level administration)
I am now also the representative of Caritas Rwanda (a Catholic agency for international aid and development) in our cell and hold a number of other positions.
Most importantly, however, is the harmony and safe relationships I now enjoy with my family and other community members. That is the real sign of personal resurrection for me. Red Ball Child Play activities have changed my life and I am a living example of the positive impact Right To Play activities can make on individuals and communities.
In conclusion, I want to say this: In a country like Rwanda, where 90 per cent of people living in rural areas are illiterate, the society faces the challenge of negative mentalities, such as genocide ideology, violations of children’s rights and other cultural beliefs. These mentalities hinder not only the development of children and youth, but social development as a whole. It is in places like this where Right To Play programs like Red Ball Child Play are prominently needed.
I am the evidence.
If I am a respected man now, who crossed his disability-based barriers and whose influence is impacting lives of many people each day, Right To Play has done its job. I am who I am today, because of Red Ball Child Play activities. It’s because of Right To Play programs, and I am so grateful to them.
Testimony of Coach Nkubito John
Partner of Right To Play Rubavu