When each night falls, Paulina Paul wishes she could be massaged out of the stress of each day. But that is only a mere imagination, just like the ones she sees in movies. One she thinks will never become a reality.
Paul, a person with a disability, is always sweeping the pedestrian bridge at Mogadishu Cantonment in Asokoro, Abuja. “I have been sweeping for seven years, and the money I get from kind passers-by is what I feed myself with. I have no other job or source of income, so I do this every day,” She said.
The 30-year-old, an indigene of Nasarawa State, said she was born and raised in Lafia by her parents, who always carried her because she couldn’t walk. “I am used to this life because it has been a part of me since I was born. My Parents worked hard to ensure I grew up satisfied because they showed me love and support. So I accepted my nature as God’s blessing,” she explained.
Now in Masaka, a satellite town of Nassarwa, she lives alone and fends for herself.
Since she is just 36.9 kilometres from Abuja, she goes to Abacha Barracks daily to clean the pedestrian bridge. “The members of my family are poor, and since I already became a youth, I decided to leave home and try as much as I can to start a business,” but that didn’t work for her.
A love lost
Three years ago, Paul found her ‘Eldorado’ in person. It was a man who stepped into her life with far-reaching love that she never thought she would have.
“I have never seen anybody care so much about me in my entire life. He came into my life and gave me hope for my present and future. He was with me all through, but all of it did not last long,” she told Prime progress with a sigh.
Paul’s fiance also couldn’t walk and still worked hard as a tire technician to ensure he had all the funds to marry the soulmate he had found.
“I was already pregnant when we were planning for our wedding. When I was three months pregnant, he died of a severe Ulcer that had done so much damage to his system.”
She was devastated. “I was hopeless with no husband and no better life. I was planning to stop sweeping places to earn money after our marriage, but all that plan didn’t work because he left me, and I still had to be strong for the baby I was carrying,” she said.
Paul’s family gave her the support they could, but she still had to carry her cross. Soon enough, she gave birth to a girl and pushed even further with sweeping. “When I gave birth to the baby, I had to carry her around with me to the places I swept because i needed the money, and I couldn’t leave her with anyone since I was breastfeeding her.”
“It wasn’t easy, but I did it. After my baby was weaned, my brother and his wife took her in to take care of her while I kept trying to survive,” She exclaimed.
Paul wants her daughter to live a normal life filled with many opportunities and options.
The daily tussle
Paul goes to her usual sweeping spot daily and uses her broom to clear all the dirt from both lanes. It has been her daily routine, and she is now used to it. “ I usually come here around 1 or 2 PM and start sweeping around 5 or 6 in the evening. I don’t come early because the task force around the area usually sends us away. So I target a suitable time when I know they are not there, and I come.”
She said Sweeping the pedestrian bridge is not easy for her, but she has to do it to get money from kind people who see her situation and pity her. “I could have easily sat beside the road or gone to different streets to beg, but I want to do something worth the money. People pass the bridge, and it gets dirty every day. So I decided to contribute by keeping the bridge clean,” she said.
Interestingly, Paul said she makes up to N3,000 on lucky days. In other instances, she gets less than N2,000. “ The money I get here sometimes makes me so happy, and that is why I keep coming back because it helps me a lot.”
Paul uses crutches that aid her with movement, but when she wants to sweep the bridge, she drops the crutches aside and drags her body across the bridge while she sweeps.
“Sweeping that entire bridge with my situation is slow, but it takes me an hour to finish it all, or sometimes one hour thirty minutes. I take my time to sweep while being careful not to push the dirt on people passing by,” she explained.
Transporting herself to and fro is relatively easy, so that she can come every day. “ I use part of the money I get for transport, but thank God for some traders under the bridge that stay in Masaka. Sometimes, we go home together and easily get free rides. We also have a tricycle rider who takes us home occasionally,” she said.
Even sweeping the bridge comes with its challenges for Paul. “ I used to sweep in Area 1 before, but the task force there warned me not to come back again,” she has also received insults from her family, who had tried to talk her out of it. “But I can’t pretend I have it when I don’t,” she said.
She believes that what she does will bring her blessings in the near future, and for her daughter, she will keep being resilient. “My daughter is two years old already, and even though my family will not allow her to come to be with me, I believe she will surely give me the massage I always desire after a long day. She will even massage me with riches by God’s grace,” she added with a smile.