23 - 29 October 2008 Issue No. 919 Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Beautiful mind Disability, as Nicholas Vujicic tells Enjy El-Naggar, is barely ever defined correctly -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click to view caption Vujicic lecturing at the Villiage of Hope; Adel Labib, governor of Alexandria, Thabet, Vujicic and El-Baiadi -------------------------------------------------------------------------- To Nicholas, or Nick Vujicic, disability is not usually understood right. To him, disability is really "fear, guilt, the feeling that someone whom you can't forgive hurt you, or being unable to achieve something you love." Born with neither arms nor legs -- without any medical explanation -- 25-year-old Vujicic was raised in Melbourne, Australia, to become a successful businessman in a very short stretch of time, and a motivational speaker as well. Having obtained a Bachelor's degree in financial planning and accounting, Vujicic became director of Life Without Limbs, an organisation for the physically disabled aimed at giving people living without limbs the motivation and inspiration they need. He is also chairman of Attitude is Altitude, a public speaking company. Both organisations were established to help Vujicic deliver his message across world, with the support of his business- savvy father and many others who believe in Nick's message, and in God. Vujicic regularly travels internationally to speak to Christian congregations, schools, and corporate meetings. He has spoken on four continents -- Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. His goal is to go out and share his story and his unique experience with others. His activities don't stop there. Indeed, his first book, planned for completion by the end of 2009, is to be called No Arms, No Legs, No Worries! But life hasn't always been so rosy for Vujicic and his family. In fact it was a gloomy day for his parents when he came to life. "If God is a god of love, then why would He let something like this happen?" they wondered. Nick recalls his parents' comments about his disability. But parental love being what it is, he soon came to be accepted and loved. Meanwhile, Vujicic's life became tough when he joined school. There he was rejected and bullied because of his physical appearance. So great was his suffering that he attempted suicide at the young age of eight. "I was surrounded by kids who kept teasing me and putting me down," he remembers. "When you face that every day, you start to hate life," Vujicic told Al-Ahram Weekly. It was simply awful to experience the loneliness he did, excluded as he was and unable to play with his classmates. He didn't know what he'd end up with in the future, though he seemed certain he would have "no love, no job and no family". But being brought up in a religious Christian environment -- as his parents are lifelong Christians who inspired him with love and belief in God -- put him on the right track again, enabling him to come over his disability. "My parents always believed in God, and my father always told me: 'Nick, don't worry. God has the future all planned out,'" he said. The turning point in Vujicic's life came as a result of an inspiring article written by another physically disabled man. At 13, he read an article in a newspaper about a man of disability in which he said that a disabled had the power to encourage people in a way one could never imagine. "I had a choice, either to try, or to give up. Basically, because of the strength God had given me, and because I realised God will not leave me though he knows how much my heart hurt, I chose to try," Vujicic said. >From that day on, he forgot his disability forever, and even thanked God for >his little "chicken bone" as he calls it -- one small foot with two toes >protruding from his left thigh -- which helped him become independent and take >care of all his personal needs, including shaving, brushing his teeth, combing >his hair, dressing and taking care of his personal hygiene. He even gets >around the house by jumping around and outside the house assisted by an >electric wheelchair. For recreation, he enjoys swimming, fishing and playing >football. His current journey began when he hit 19 years of age, when he was invited to lecture 300 students in Australia and a disabled girl sitting in the middle of the room cried when she listened to his story. "I want to hug you and I love you because no one has told me that I'm beautiful or that they love me," the girl told Vujicic. That incident changed his life. Now, he could positively impact people's lives, indeed make them think about things differently. "And that's the greatest feeling one can have -- making others happy," he said. When he started as a motivational speaker, Vujicic was inspired by Phil Toth, a 22-year-old friend whom he met when he was 19. "He was funny, strong, charismatic," he said. Suddenly the doctors discovered Toth suffered a form of muscular degeneration called ALS that damaged all his muscles and organs, which soon spread throughout his body and slowly brought it to shut down. Doctors said that Toth had only three months to live, but his love of life enabled him to live five years. "When I met him, I saw a smile that I'll never forget. That smile changed my life," Vujicic told the Weekly. Meanwhile, though he is aware of his power to help the physically disabled, Vujicic is very glad his life is not just focussed on encouraging people with special needs, but is also able to speak about God and his deep faith to all people, whether disabled or able-bodied, rich or poor, young or old. "I grew able to break all the boundaries of everyone who needs a hug and the love of God," he said. So far Vujicic has visited over 22 countries to preach his message that he believes God has charged him to convey: "No matter what you look like, or what you do, it's about God. God has a plan for you and your future." His hope is to achieve his mission, which is to cross boundaries and break down barriers, and to bring people to the love and hope found in God. Egypt was his first Arab destination and the 23rd stop in his tour around the world. Invited by the head of Village of Hope Nada Thabet and with the support of Evit El-Baiadi, media figure and founder of Roads to Success NGO, he has visited a number of places including the Cairo district of Moqattam, and met with 3,000 attendees at a church in Heliopolis district. "I'm really happy and inspired by the warm welcome of the Egyptians, and Egypt does have the potential to raise many people of special needs to be independent and become successful professionally," he said. As for him, there is little concern for his happiness or strength. "I found strength when I loved God and believed in Him," Vujicic said with a marvellous smile.