Ndopu to defy odds all the way to space

07 December 2018 - 11:20
By Karabo Ledwaba
Eddie Ndopu refuses to let disability to stop him from doing whatever able bodied people can do./Supplied
Eddie Ndopu refuses to let disability to stop him from doing whatever able bodied people can do./Supplied

A 28-year-old disabled man, who was not expected to live past the age of five, is
planning on becoming the first disabled person to travel to outer space.

Eddie Ndopu, a graduate of Oxford University, said he wanted to prove that with human ingenuity people living with disabilities can do what able people do.

"We don't see disabled people having value in society. I want to create an iconic movement where disability and possibility go together," he said.

Ndopu was born with the severe and rare degenerative disorder, spinal muscular atrophy, which affects the nervous system's ability to control voluntary muscles . He said as he has grown older, his condition has worsened.

"I used to be able to hold a fork and I can't now. I need help with everything," he said.

"There is a reason someone with a disability has never been to space. It is hard, but with a little bit of ingenuity anything is possible," he said.

Ndopu said with the help of television giant MTV, he will be documenting his journey campaigning to travel to space where he will deliver a message compiled by young people who feel excluded by society.

"I want everyone to know what it will take for me to go to space. The tears, the financing, the vulnerability that everyone will see," he said.

Ndopu said he had been prepared for being a global leader through his education at the esteemed African Leadership Academy (ALA) where he saw what he was capable of.

"ALA was a real turning point in my life. It changed the perception I had of myself. I saw myself as a leader and as someone who can inspire change," he said.

Ndopu also broke barriers by becoming the head of the Africa youth engagement programme in Amnesty International at the age of 25.

"I often say to people that the more barriers I break down the more inaccessibility I find. There is no pipeline of disabled professionals, no single disabled CEO on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange," he said.

These are some of the issues Ndopu wishes to speak about in his address from space to the United Nations.

He said he has been blessed to have a strong support system, including his mother who he described as a fearless woman. However, he said not all disabled people had this support.

Ndopu said his campaign had been viewed positively by people all over the world. He was also a Bill and Melinda Gates goal keeper at the Global Citizen festivities this past weekend where he met international celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.

"I want to influence decisions. I want to be an icon and transcend structures and barriers, not just for disabled people," he said.