When Didace Niragire was 15 years old, he had an accident that would leave him without his right leg.
After the leg was amputated, he was left with no option but drop out of school.
That was the beginning of his woes.
Not only did he drop out of school, he also found himself isolated, from his former playmates and his own family members whom he said found him useless because he could not perform daily chores, like fetching water and collecting firewood.
That was in the early 1990s. He was just in Senior Two, but the accident brought a premature end to his education.
He was later disowned by his parents.
Niragire walks by crutches as he lost his right leg. / Régis Umurengezi
On his own, Niragire, now 42, was faced with two choices; put an end to his life or accept his fate that he is a person with disability and look for what a person of his status can do to survive.
He opted for the latter.
“It was like the whole world had crumbled on me. At that tender age, I was abandoned by everyone, not even a relative would allow me to stay at their place when I was thrown out by my own parents,” he said during an interview with The New Times.
He lived in this misery for over two decades until he got his break.
After close to two decades of surviving at the mercy of well-wishers, Niragire came up with an idea to approach a cobbler from his neighbourhood so as to learn from him how to repair shoes.
He figured that this is something that did not require him to have both legs nor did it necessitate him to go to school.
Niragire showcases a plot of land that he bought thanks to the money he earns from his daily business of making and mending shoes. / Régis Umurengezi
Niragire was determined lead an independent life and that was the motivation he needed to pursue his newfound trade.
“It was in 2007 when I approached the neighbour who was at the time making a lot of money through repairing shoes, I begged him to coach me which he graciously allowed,” he said.
He added: “It only took me a week to become a good cobbler and I started earning my own money. Despite getting the basics, it never stopped my thirst to learn more.”
Now, besides repairing shoes, he is fabricating them and he always has a ready market at the Cyanika Cross Border Market near the Rwandan border with Uganda.
He says that at least he makes a profit of Rwf10,000 on a daily basis with Rwf200,000 as his monthly take-home on average.
Niragire testifies that since 2007 he makes living out of nothing other than his business that he emphasises has helped him take good care of his five children who are still in school.
He noted that he has since built a house worth Rwf15 million and bought three plots of land worth Rwf3 million each.
A view of the house that Niragire is building at his home area thanks to the funds he daily generates from his business. / Régis Umurengezi
“My achievements have been made possible thanks to a savings culture I embraced early on; I am an active member of a cooperative which enables me to regularly save and borrow; that is how I managed to build my own house,” he said.
“The plan is to increase my properties and I am confident to achieve more,” added Niragire.
A piece of advice
Niragire scoffed at people with disability who think they are better off begging on streets, saying that there is so much they can do and earn a living in a dignified way.
He urged those living with disability to strive for self-reliance, saying that unlike previously, there is political will where those with disabilities are facilitated to eke a living by themselves other than being a burden to the community.
“Disability is not inability; as long as you have functioning brains, you will always make it. What it all requires is determination,” he said.
His neighbours commend his achievements pointing out that he is exemplary not just to people with disability but to everyone.