The mantra ‘disability does not mean inability’ has become so casual to an extent where many have forgotten the glaring inabilities being aggravated by poverty in the lives of people with disabilities like in the sad story of Tsitsi Mutambwi, a 16-year-old Gutu girl with albinism, who now languishes with a cancerous growth on her face.
Speaking to Tsitsi, one can sense the obvious hope in her voice—hope that pain will one day disappear and life can get better despite a childhood laced with hardships, including losing both her parents at a very young age; her father died, her mother abandoned her and has not been in her life since she was a toddler and is believed to have remarried somewhere.
Tsitsi is in form one at Mutambwi Secondary School, and is currently not attending classes due to the excruciating pain from the cancerous growth.
The little girl was left in the care of her maternal grandmother who was said to be mentally unstable and was taking Tsitsi around the Matombo area under Chief Munyikwa in Gutu to beg for alms as well as doing menial jobs to put food on the table with little consideration to her condition thereby exposing her to the scorching sun in many instances which affected her skin.
Community members are said to have influenced her to run away from her maternal grandmother’s home to go and find her father’s relatives in Mutambwi area where her paternal uncle and his wife took her in.
The aunt, Marvellous Mutisi said the family is desperately looking for help so that Tsitsi can have her life back like children her age but they are of very little means and can hardly make ends meet, let alone afford medical fees for Tsitsi’s treatment.
“When the growth started on her face above one of her eyes, we thought it was just lack of lotions that people with albinism are supposed to use and we could not afford them.
“A community charity organization, Vanobva kwaMunyikwa Development Trust (VAMDET) started assisting her with the lotions after they had visited Mutambwi Primary School in one of their initiatives, but in 2021 it started getting worse,” Mutisi said.
The organization, which raises its funds through donations from well-wishers took her to Harare in the hope that she could be assisted at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, after which they later decided to look for a second opinion at Karanda Mission Hospital as they had been given a date which was further away at Parirenyatwa.
At Karanda, a sample of the growth was tested and the results came out indicating that she had basal cell cancer, and because of its gravity it required her to go back to Harare to see specialists for an operation as it had already affected her eye.
Back in Harare, she was given December 6 2022 to return for treatment funds permitting.
VAMDET Founder Watson Chatiza said they assist Tsitsi to the best of their ability but because they only rely on donations from well-wishers there are currently very few resources for both Tsitsi’s treatment as well as upkeep while she is in Harare.
“We took on Tsitsi’s case after her school head Mr Ziyapa called us and told us she was no longer coming to school because of the growth after our initial visit and we used the few resources we had to take her to Parirenyatwa then Karanda. I had to accommodate them in my home because her family does not have anywhere else to go in the city.
“Tsitsi’s case is heartbreaking as she is now failing to continue with her education because of her condition. We are appealing to well-wishers to help her get the required treatment so that she may be relieved of the pain she has to endure daily. At the moment we are seized with the matter as we try to fundraise for that as her condition is now worsening”
“We will appreciate any amount from well-wishers because all we are focusing on is her getting treatment,” Said Chatiza.
Tsitsi now spends most of her days sleeping due to pain, which she said is now causing persistent headaches, with the aunt confirming that she is no longer eating well probably because of pain.
“The growth is causing her so much discomfort. She spends most of the day sleeping now and we only wish that she gets help and is able to lead a normal life. She has potential to do better even in school if only she could carry on learning without being disturbed from her books due to her condition,” Mutisi said.
When prompted to speak, her very first words were; “Ndirikurwadziwa (I am in pain).
(Wellwishers can contact Watson Chatiza on +263733876747)