Born with genetic abnormalities in 1983, Tsegereda Debrom had to face life with her impairment. This strong Eritrean grew up in a family that made her feel she wasn’t different from anyone else and that she could do anything in her life.
Tsegereda, an agronomist by training, paints, plays sports and does all kinds of house chores using her feet. Here is a translation of an excerpt of a short conversation she had with Eri-TV.
I have never felt like I am different from anyone else
Growing up, I remember my family spoiling me extensively, especially my father. I don’t think I can ever have enough words to describe how well my father took care of me. I have never felt that I was less than my siblings or anyone else, for that matter, except at those times when I saw the reaction of guests who came to visit us at home. My father knew me well and fully understood my thoughts and ideas. And if there is anything I learned from my mother it was ‘hope’. I grew up knowing that I could do anything I put my mind to. I remember that my father had to go visit many schools to enroll me but they rejected me.
Through his determination, though, he was finally able to enroll me. Of course, that didn’t mean the challenges were over. Everyone was wondering how I was going to cope with the demands of the school work. I was born with impairment in my hands, so people wondered how I was going to be able to write. However, with God’s help, I was able to use my feet like my hands.
Sawa, a place where I made friends and made my way to college
Of course, there were difficulties I had to go through, but Sawa is the place where I had a good experience and a good time. Most of all, there, I got to meet people from across the country and shared experiences and culture. What made me happy was making lifetime friends in Sawa. Those people cared for me and supported me in ways that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. I didn’t only get support from the students but from the superintendents as well. I don’t remember all their names, but I am forever grateful. I know that can’t be the only reason I was in Sawa. I was there to continue my education and take the Matriculation Exam, which I passed to study for a diploma in college. After first going to the Eritrean Institute of Technology and Science, I joined the Hamelmalo College of Agriculture where I got my diploma from the Agronomy Department. After graduation, I was assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture where I worked for a year.
I was inspired by Yemane, a guy who painted with his mouth
There was a program on TV about Yemane, who painted with his mouth. Watching it got me thinking why I can’t paint with my feet as I do all my activities with them. Then I went ahead and joined Satreb and Segen Art schools and took courses on painting. I honestly can’t say that I have made a lot of progress, especially considering how long it has been since I started painting. But all the same I love to paint. I live at a small family house, and I am not always able to paint freely, but I don’t let that prevent me from painting.
Injera is the only thing I don’t make at home
Every one of us needs help sometimes, and there are times when I need help to do certain things. I try to participate in almost all the daily chores at home, washing clothes, making and serving coffee, cooking, cleaning the house and running errands. I just can’t sit and look at people doing something. Whatever they are doing I can do with my feet. I sometimes think that if people help me figure out ways, I want to ride a bike and may be drive. The only thing that’s a challenge for me is making Injera using the traditional oven.
There is something I want to remind you about
When I look at people without disability struggling and doing nothing in their lives, I wonder why they can’t use their time and try to discover their talents. I was inspired by someone I saw on TV and that is why I’m doing this interview, to motivate people to do something in their lives. To show people that people with disabilities can do anything they put their minds to and achieve their goals.