For the past 22years Jean Marie Vianney Semasaka has been suffering from a rare disease that left his legs swollen.
Unable to walk for many years, Semasaka always sat on a mat and would be lifted back to the house by family members. The father of six lives in Remera sector in Ngoma district.
Without losing hope he got interested in weaving baskets-a trainer would find him at home daily until he perfected his weaving skills.
“The first thing that came into my mind was weaving baskets. I was convinced I could do it since it requires just the arms, which I have,” recalls Semasaka.
However, when Semasaka shared the idea, his family members laughed at him. But his wife asked a neighbour skilled in weaving to train her husband.
“I did not want to die begging,” he told KT Press.
After acquiring enough skills, in 2005 Semasaka started weaving on his own and sold many baskets. Residents in his village got stunned by beautiful baskets he weaved.
Proceeds from baskets have enabled Semasaka to build a 4-room modern house that replaced their dilapidated 2-room house. He has also acquired clutches to support him in walking.
In 2011, the neighbours thought other disabled people in the village for inspiration from Semasaka mastery weaving.
Sixty people including; the blind, deaf and several other disabilities have since learnt from him and significantly transformed their lives.
“We have formed a cooperative ‘Nawe Arashoboye’ and we were lucky to get a market in the United States of America where we sell our products, thanks to the support of our local leaders,” said Semasaka.
Every member of the cooperative earns Rwf70, 000 per month.
“We never thought a disabled person can be of any use, if not begging. We are proud that our colleague has restored our dignity as human beings,” Valentine Mushimiyimana one of the cooperative members said.
Musabyimana says, she has since bought six goats and also caters for her family on a daily basis.