Enterprising couple with disabilities


He was born like any other normal child but at the age of six, he lost the ability to hear and speak after her mother beat him at the back of his head and ‘died’ after battling for his life for two months.
This is a story of the ‘resurrected’ Petros Chiwaka, born in 1980 to a mother (now dead) who was just impregnated by an unknown man believed to be from Rumphi.
Chiwaka’s mother had only two children and he is the firstborn in the family.
His is an epic story of mystery and miracle told through the mouth of his aunt Nellie Mhango, a block leader for Chibanja South in Mzuzu City.
Mhango recalls the event surrounding the genesis of Chiwaka’s current hearing and speech impairments.
“His mother beat him severely after spilling washing powder. She hit him in the head and the boy fell unconscious. He was admitted to a certain hospital in Zomba for two months before he ‘died’,” she says.
According to Mhango, after doctors pronounced the boy dead, his body was kept in mortuary the whole day before relatives came to collect it for burial at his home village.
Burial ceremony was scheduled for the third day and while on the way to the cemetery, something weird happened, according to the aunt.
“Pallbearers heard some noise from the coffin,” narrates Mhango, “The noise brought fear among the people who thought the dead body had turned into something else. Some even started to run away.”
She adds that when some courageous men opened the coffin, the boy came out but in a confused state.
“It was shocking; many of us thought it was a ghost. Some people even started throwing stones at the boy. Since then, Petros developed a hearing and speech impairment,” Mhango says.
She says many people including his mother and relatives did not accept his ‘resurrection’ thinking he was a ghost; the little boy started living in the nearby bush.
“He was living on grasshoppers, frogs and millipedes.
“When some people wanted to give him food such as bananas, they just threw it from a distance fearing that the ‘ghost’ would attack them,” Mhango says.
But Clinical Psychologist at St. John of God Hospitaller Services in Mzuzu Ndumanane Silungwe says he does not believe that the boy died.
“In neural psychology and neural psychiatric medicine, we believe that when one has a head injury, one goes into a coma which can take days or months to recover from,” says Silungwe.
He further says since the brain is the most delicate part of the body, any major injury can lead to loss of sight, speech and hearing depending on the part of the brain that has been affected.
Following the pathetic condition, Petros was living in, his other aunt (now late) took the boy from Zomba to Mzuzu.
“When he got to Mzuzu, the boy, though looking abnormal, was showed true love like any other child.
“The people he was living with started looking for traditional herbs to get his mind settled.
“Gradually, he started settling. He was eating normal food and taking a bath but both impairments remained,” narrates Mhango.
She adds that when Petros grew into a man; he became industrious in that he turned himself into a bricklayer.
“His first construction work was a kraal for my ducks. Since then, he has risen into a skilled and reliable bricklayer.
“I tell you, God has his own secret. Despite having a hearing and speech impairment, Petros can now build any house regardless of size or plan,” Mhango says.
Now 37, Petros is married to Jennifer Phiri. The wife also has a hearing and speech impairment due to a serious sickness she suffered when she was young.
“When Petros and Jennifer families met for marriage vows, we were told that she suffered cerebral malaria for a month and she was unconscious for a week before developing her current condition,” Mhango says.
The Chiwaka family has two children; Alice aged four, and two-year-old Favour.
Mhango says Petros first met Jennifer at Matete in Nkhata Bay, about 120 kilometres from Mzuzu when a certain person hired him to construct a house at his home village.
“When my nephew was introduced to Jennifer, he was very happy because many normal girls in town were just cheating on him. He used to spend a lot of money on those girls but to no avail.
“Similarly, when Jennifer met Petros, I understand she was very happy because no man was proposing marriage to her,” she says.
As the saying goes, “Disability is not inability”, Jennifer sells vegetables and firewood and, on average, she makes K1,500 per day for the family.
She says she communicates with people using sign language and her customers are now used to it.
“I order vegetables at K500 and firewood at K300. It is a small business just to keep us going daily,” says Jennifer in sign language.
But there is now one challenge in the family – communication with children. There is often poor communication between the parents and children as the latter do not understand fully the sign language their parents use.
Mhango says because of this problem, the firstborn, Alice, was sent to her father’s home village in Mzuzu because she started being naughty towards her parents.
“At times, she could coordinate well with her parents but most of the times she could shout and produce obscene words towards her parents.
“We saw that the girl was becoming very problematic; for instance, when her parents sent her to buy a packet of salt, she could buy sweets. And when her parents asked her in sign language, she could just shout at them,” Mhango says.

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