Nicholas Vujicic was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, to a mother who is a nurse and a father who is a minister. Nick was born with no limbs. There was no clear medical reason behind his handicap; Nick’s siblings are normal.
Today Nick is a handsome 26-year-old with no limbs. He has degrees in computer science and real estate finance. He heads two companies in the United States and the non-profit organisation ‘Life Without Limbs’. Nick says he believes his role in life is to inspire hope and courage by telling others of his story and experience. He travelled to more than 19 countries visiting schools, prisons, orphanages, and hospitals carrying his message of inspiration and hope.
It was not always this way. When Nick was born his parents were shocked and grieved to have such a baby. “It took my mother a few months to come to terms with the matter.”
“As I grew up,” he says, “I went through some very hard times. I was one of a kind; there was no-one else with a disability such as mine.” At the age of eight Nick was so depressed; he turned suicidal. “I was so scared of living a lonely life,” he remembers. “But my parents’ love and support, and their absolute faith in God saved me.”
“We had faith,” Nick says, “that God makes no faults. I came to believe that there was a purpose in my life, I had to find out what it was and to realise it. I was absolutely sure God had created me with no limbs for a purpose.”
“When you try to achieve but fail,” he stresses, “you have two options; you either become a failure or you remember that God gave you enough strength to defeat the impossible. You can try again.”
“God gave me such strength, continues Nick, “that I was able, with my ‘chicken foot’ that has only two toes, to work on the computer, swim, and play golf.”
“Last year I saw a 19-month-child with no limbs. I ran to him and hugged him. His mother saw me and had tears running down her cheeks. ‘I had prayed so hard that God would show me my baby was not alone, was not one of a kind,’ she said. ‘Now I have hope for my baby’.”
Earlier this month Nick took Egypt by storm. He began his visit with Alexandria where he was hosted by the festival of “Challenging Disability through Will”, organised by the Hope Village headed by Nada Thabet jointly with the American NGO the Road to Success.
The festival was held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) under the auspices of Alexandria governor General Adel Labib, Minister of Social Solidarity Aly Messeilhi, and head of the BA Ismaïl Serageddin. Participating were the Special UN Commissioner for the Handicapped Sheikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Thani, the Swiss Ambassador to Cairo Charles Held, Reverend Safwat al-Bayadi, head of the Evangelical Church in Egypt and representatives from all the churches in Egypt, Ms Yvette al-Bayadi, head and founder of Road to Success and Aly al-Baroudy, member of the association of foreign correspondents in Alexandria. A number of local and international media people were on hand to cover the event.
General Labib lauded the role of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak with the handicapped in Egypt, and her efforts to promote social acceptance of them. He said Alexandria governorate pays an annual sum of EGP1,170,000 in pensions to 11,000 persons with mental or physical disabilities. In Alexandria, he noted, 621 disabled persons are employed in five institutions for vocational rehabilitation, 15,000 work in six offices for social rehabilitation and 376 disabled children are enrolled in eight pre-schools. Egyptians, he reminded, garnered 12 medals in the recent Beijing Paralympic Games—Alexandrians alone won four of these medals.
Sheikha Hessa gave a moving talk in which she stressed the importance of fully integrating the disabled in mainstream society. She said that, within the most basic framework of human rights, we owed them equity and support.
Mrs Nada Thabet, head of The Village of Hope for Development and Rehabilitating Persons with Intellectual Disablities which she had founded in 2000 talked about accepting and integrating the disabled in society. She said the Village of Hope offered technical support, encouraged civil institutions to network their efforts to influence the decision makers in the country in favour of the disabled, and ran awareness, rehabilitation, and support programmes for families. Mrs Thabet talked about the projects the Village of Hope established to help the mentally handicapped, including the bakery, green houses, the educational kitchen funded by the US embassy Self-Help Programme, and the project of integrating the aged with the mentally disabled in one home. The Japanese aid association JICA, the Canadian CIDA, the World Bank and Orascom are some of the organisations which funded these projects.
The children of the Village of Hope then performed a lively operatta Innocence and Tenderness, in which they sang and danced with gusto. The operetta ends in a very moving song that extols the value of the human being. The audience was enthralled.
Everyone is handicapped
Nick began his talk by pointing out that people were mistaken to look at disabled people with mere pity. “Every one suffers from some sort of disability,” he said. “Fear causes disability, hesitation causes disability, broken families cause severe disability. I once asked myself if I would trade my disability for a broken family, and decided I never would.”
He then went on to tell the audience that they can each help any disabled person not by offering pity but by offering love. This is what a disabled person needs most; help with love relays strength and warmth.
Nick said how excited he was to be in Egypt. “I studied history ever since I was in primary school, and every project I had I did on the pyramids of Egypt,” he said. “The pyramids always absolutely fascinated me. Now I can actually see them first-hand.”
The wonderful eight
The Egyptian American Yvette al-Bayadi, head of the American NGO Road to Success says she is Nick’s Egyptian mother. Mrs Bayadi said that in spite of living outside Egypt, she was truly concerned with helping the disabled in Egypt, and said Mrs Suzanne Mubarak had strongly encouraged her.
On the stage of the main hall in the Bibliotheca, Mrs Thabet honoured eight figures who had successfully challenged their disabilities. Ahmed Hakim Ibrahim lost both arms in a car accident but is today a calligrapher. Sherifa Massoud, who is blind, is managing editor of Watani Braille and is working on a PhD in Education. Sarah Ezzat and Alaa Eddin, who are both deaf mute, are successful painters. Omar al-Sawi and Yusra Abdel-Latif challenged their mental disability and won medals in the Paralympic Games. Ali Ahmed Khalil earned a law degree and is doing post graduate studies despite cerebral palsy. Ghada Ahmed lost both arms and earned a degree in History.