Even with the best medical care and resources, living with a physical disability presents a wide range of difficulties on a day-to-day basis, both emotional and physical. So, what happens to those with disabilities living in places where services are far less than excellent? This question struck a chord with Daniel Lundberg, LSOE ’17 and member of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program, during his freshman year of college.
In an effort to respond to this question, Lundberg founded an organization called Ghana Strong Books. The enterprise upholds two mission statements, the first being "to provide people with disabilities in southern Ghana with widespread access to transportation, financial empowerment and education through innovative social enterprise solutions," and the second: "to publish and popularize new young adult novels worldwide that raise consciousness about issues of inclusion, tolerance and marginalization to finance our investments toward change," according to its website.
Lundberg will be speaking here at Boston College on Thursday, February 19th at 7 p.m. in Stokes S195, in an event called "Ghana Strong: Ambition, Ability and Advocacy with Dan Lundberg." He plans to address the human rights abuses currently affecting people in Ghana, as well as sustainable fixes for the problem.
During high school, Lundberg had the unique opportunity to do a research project about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) as well as volunteer as a soccer coach for children with disabilities at the Courage Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His research, which ended up being consequential, and his connection to the boys he met with DMD sparked a passion that has continued throughout his life.
As Lundberg researched about what the lives of those living with disabilities were like in the developing world, he found a newspaper article detailing the stigmatization of three boys with muscular dystrophy in Ghana. This article led him to apply for one of BC’s Advanced Study Grants to fund his project.
As part of his application for the grant, Lundberg created a booklet explaining disability in terms of Western African folklore, planning to distribute in Ghana throughout rural libraries. He received the grant and travelled to Ghana in 2013.
Lundberg met hundreds of people with disabilities during his time in Ghana, but the stories of two people in particular have stayed with him. “They spent about fifteen years living periodically in healing and prayer camps to cure their disabilities and experiencing some truly horrific things—being forced to drink maggots, blood, being left alone for hours in rooms or taken to the ocean at night and dug into holes—all which stemmed from a lack of understanding of what was causing their conditions,” Lundberg said.
Since 2013 Lundberg has run in seven marathons as well as one Ultramarathon last week. He has used these races as fundraisers and opportunities to raise awareness for disability rights in Ghana.
Currently, Lundberg is in the middle of a one-year leave of absence from his studies at BC, during which time he will continue working to further develop Ghana Strong Books. His day to day experience is variable, and includes everything from experiencing life alongside the people he has met with disabilities to travelling across southern Ghana in cramped vehicles.
In his own words, Lundberg sees himself “probably in Ghana--hopefully riding in a bus that is accessible to people who utilize wheelchairs” in ten years. Wheelchair-accessible buses are not currently available anywhere in Ghana, an unfortunate reality Lundberg is working to change. For now, Lundberg is making the most of his leave of absence from school by being a true Eagle for others.