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Trésor... the budding doctor

Democratic Republic of Congo

Trésor, 12, has been fitted with an orthosis and receives follow-up care from Humanity & Inclusion (HI) as part of an inclusive education project in his school. It has transformed his life.

After Trésor contracted polio at the age of three, his life was never the same again. He lost the use of his leg and his ability to walk.

After Trésor contracted polio at the age of three, his life was never the same again. He lost the use of his leg and his ability to walk. | © Thomas Freteur/HI

After Trésor contracted polio at the age of  three, his life was never the same again. He lost the use of his leg and his ability to walk. Severely disabled, he spent the next few years in a very dark place. But after meeting HI and finally starting school, Trésor is now a model pupil who enjoys life to the full.

Trésor lives in a disadvantaged neighbourhood of Kinshasa’s sprawling suburbs. He has six brothers and two sisters. His parents struggle to provide for them. His mother, who sells biscuits by the roadside, is the only one to have her own small business. But his family is close, and he spends a lot of time with his older siblings, including his 27-year-old brother Nsumbu-Mateka, who has played a decisive role in his life.

The day Trésor fell ill  

"I remember when my little brother got polio like it was yesterday. He had a very high fever. Our parents rushed him to hospital. But it wasn’t long before we realised Trésor would never regain the use of his left leg. We were so shocked. He couldn't play or run around like before. Our parents were really unhappy about it but there was nothing they could do. Then Trésor started to hold his knee with his hand, which made it slightly easier for him to move around," recalls Nsumbu-Mateka.

Starting school at the age of nine transformed Trésor's life.

Distressed to see his brother excluded from the sort of everyday activities children love to do, Nsumbu-Mateka started to make enquiries. He heard that there was one school in his neighbourhood that accepted children with disabilities. He talked it over with his brother and parents, and at the age of nine, Trésor started school. Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

"There are a lot of people like my brother around here, but unfortunately most never leave home. The children don’t go to school. They can’t move around, and in some ways, they’re excluded from the community."

Trésor meets the HI team at school

Trésor first met HI’s team at his school, where the organisation runs a project to promote the school enrolment of children with disabilities. It helps teachers provide an inclusive education, and ensures the school is physically accessible to children with reduced mobility, for example by fitting them with access ramps, or adapting toilets and other spaces. It also trains teachers in learning methods adapted to the needs of some children with disabilities. HI provides individual support to students with disabilities, along with equipment and rehabilitation care when necessary.

Trésor has a new orthosis

Trésor was one of those children. At the time, he was unable to move more than a few yards from his home. There are no surfaced roads in his local area and heavy rain in the wet season causes frequent mudslides that block paths and trails.

HI arranged for Trésor to come to the local orthopaedic-fitting centre where he was given a pair of crutches, an orthosis, and a custom-made orthopaedic shoe. He is particularly fond of his orthosis, which he calls his “device" or "libende", which means "piece of iron" in the Lingala language.

As Trésor is a growing boy, HI supplies him with an average of two orthoses per year.

Trésor works hard and hopes to be a doctor one day

Two years after enrolling, Trésor is as diligent as ever, despite the fact that his orthosis and crutches complicate his journey to school, which takes him forty-five minutes over damaged roads.

His school friends are amazed at his willpower. But most of all, despite his courage, Trésor is their friend and classmate. His favourite subjects are calculus and French and he dreams of becoming a doctor so he can care for others.

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