Miss Ghana USA embodies everything the great nation of Ghana represents. Since its independence in 1957, Ghana continues to be characterized as a nation of peace. It is endowed with natural resources, such as cocoa and gold; and an affluent culture. Unquestionably, Ghana remains strong, fulfilling the dynamic declarations that propagated its independence.
Twenty years ago, on a summer’s eve, my mother went into labor and was admitted into The St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was a jovial experience that rapidly transitioned into her worst nightmare. During my delivery, I developed a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibers formed by cervical and thoracic spinal nerves. Injury to this area is often caused by excessive stretching of the neck during childbirth. The stretching causes a rupture to the nerves found in the spinal cord and extends to the muscles and nerves of the brachial plexus. Once the brachial plexus is injured, the fragile nerves stop sending signals to and from the brain, causing arm and hand muscles to stop functioning properly. As a result, I endured a loss of sensation and numbness in my right arm. In hopes to improve mobility, surgeons replaced the damaged brachial plexus nerves with the excess nerves stored in my legs. The scars resulting from my surgery were placed in visible areas on my body- behind both legs and the upper right shoulder. I spent the majority of my childhood going through physical therapy in efforts to restore some mobility to my arm. Unfortunately, years of therapy did not completely eradicate the limitations I experienced throughout my right arm.
My injury propelled my mother into deep emotional unrest. As a Christian woman, she prayed and fasted habitually, asking God to bless me with intelligence. She prayed that my intelligence would compensate for my physical disability. During childhood, my mother enrolled me in classes and programs that were designed to enhance my motor skills. I engaged in activities that stimulated not only my body, but my mind as well. Henceforth, she witnessed my substantial academic progress, as I became an Honor Roll student. I realized that my mother’s guidance facilitated my deep love for education. Currently, I am a sophomore at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising, and a minor in Psychology.
My mother continued to help nurture my intelligence. However, I encountered self-esteem challenges along the journey. The scars behind my legs were often the topic of discussion with strangers and as a result, my meek nature and immaturity prohibited me from addressing it. I wanted to hide my scars and fit in as much as possible. In order to do so, I avoided wearing shorts and skirts during the summer for long periods of time. When people would ask me about my scars, the exuberant little girl before them transformed into a shy, mumbling child who no longer made eye contact with them. Presently, the young woman I am today is proud to share this story.
In Ghana, there are many negative attitudes and social taboos toward children with disabilities. This leads to neglect from parents who feel it may be unnecessary and a waste of resources to send their children to school. Many children are not offered the opportunity to develop their God-given potential; the same potential my mother was able to nurture in me in order to make me who I am today. My ability to overcome my disability enables me to help enact change in Ghana.
As Miss Ghana USA 2013, and advocate for children with disabilities, I endeavor to collaborate with various Ghana-based organizations and hospitals to help promote this cause. My goal is to enhance the work of these institutions by educating, empowering, and supporting individuals with disabilities.
I strongly believe that my injury did not manifest in vain, but occurred so that I may be an instrument of promoting awareness and change for disability. With the prestige of the Miss Ghana USA title, I anticipate provisions of limitless and enhanced resources needed to improve the education and lives of children with disabilities in Ghana. I sincerely thank my parents for their unfailing strength and encouragement throughout my life. They truly motivated me and are the catalysts for the self-assurance I have today, the same assurance that makes me comfortable enough to share this story with you. Consequently, I am eager to apply the same dynamic values and principles that my parents taught me to my advocacy work for children with disabilities. It is my utmost desire that disabled children and the world will realize that one is not defined by their impairment. Everyone has been endowed with the power to accomplish what the mind and heart agree to do. I wish to be a source of empowerment and a beacon of hope for many who constantly stare blankly into the abyss. Education is a powerful tool that transforms the mind and encourages success. Conclusively, I dream of a Ghana that encourages all children to attend school, whether disabled or not.
I understand the importance of the Miss Ghana title and what it symbolizes. She is a leader, who is not only beautiful outwardly but inwardly glowing. She is respectful, classy, educated, determined, motivated, and innovative. She inspires those around her, and sets examples. She is Lisa Aidoo, an agent of change.