by Harris Rodgers
Abed has been a massage therapist for over six months now, a job she says she found by luck.
“I didn’t grow up aspiring to be a therapist. My passion was in psychology. I believe I am a very good listener, and so I knew my skills would be very effective,” she says, as she gently moves her hands, softly kneading a client’s back.
The client is lying on her stomach, enjoying the slow movement of her therapist’s hands.
Abed, who is very determined and hardworking, was born and grown up at Ongandjera in the Northern Omusati region of Namibia, where she is part of a family of six.
She attended a local special school, but unfortunately failed her Grade 10 examinations.
Determined to do better and complete her Grade 10 with enough points to go further, she moved to capital Windhoek in 2015, where she enrolled at the Namibia College of Opening Learning (Namcol), to improve her grades.
But she failed again, leaving her devastated and heartbroken, with no hope for the future.
“I failed, but I knew I had to dust myself off and find something else to do,” she says.
It was at this point that Abed’s story took a turn for the better.
She learned that the owner of Nomad Spa in the capital had a program to train disabled massage therapists.
Nomad Spa specializes in holistic treatments through massages. They provide treatments such as executive facials, waxing, body polishes, luxurious massages, hair tinting, manicures and pedicures.
Abed took up the offer to train as a massage therapist in September last year in full body, back and neck massage, as well as foot scrubs.
“When we were in training, the trainer would take my hands, and then I would follow what she was doing,” she says. “I was taught how to be patient, friendly and carrying, so as to give customers value for their money.”
On a good day, Abed, who has already established a significant client base, receives about five customers.
“I take my time and pay close attention to my clients’ needs and they are always happy with me,” she says.
The spa has five therapists, with five more in training. Among the trainees are other blind therapists.
“Many people think that having a disability means that one cannot have a lucrative career, which is not the case,” Abed says.
Being blind has not only given her a heightened urge to succeed, but also the courage to do what many might say is impossible.
“I don’t want people to view and judge me as a blind person or someone with a disability. I want to be treated fairly.”
Abed says she plans to open her own spa in the North, after she has acquired enough experience.
“People with disabilities should learn to fight for their dreams and not let their disabilities hold them back. What you cannot see, you can use your hands for,” she says.
“She went from being cooped up in a room in the village, to interacting with international people, an achievement which brings joy to my heart. She is one of our popular, sought-after therapists. I am really proud of her,” says the spa owner Marianne Akwenye.
Akwenye began the project to train disabled women, after realizing that they were neglected and did not have many opportunities to prosper in life.
Upon this realisation, the concerned owner did research on organizations training blind women to focus on beauty therapy.
“Research showed that the whole of Africa did not have such a program and this gave me the urge to continue,” Akwenye says.
She has so far trained 14 women, with some moving on to other spas.
The spa has also received inquiries from people in other African countries, such as Kenya, who are keen to start a similar program.
“We want to be a beckon of hope for the visually impaired,” Akwenye says. Enditem