My disability became my strength


Gloria Oersen’s legs are sluggish. At best they allow her to amble along. More often her malaise is debilitating. The lasting curse of the polio she suffered as a child, which left her with damaged motor nerve cells that govern movement. Oersen’s struggle towards gaining full mobility is unceasing. In the face of this she lives with an inspiring sense of positivity due to the love she has received from others.

Unemployed and without the prospect of doing any hard labour, Oersen’s condition bound her future with thick seams. Believing that there was more for her to explore in the tapestry of life, she turned to the Angle Hearts Workshop for people with disabilities. Founded by Karen Kemp, the Bloemfontein based programme offers people with disabilities the opportunity to learn arts and crafts skills. The items they create are sold to provide them with income. Oersen learnt to sew, and in doing so stitched up a hole in her heart.

“I love the work I do, because it makes me feel free,” she says. The bags, purses and toys that she makes have given her purpose, as well as support for her three children. Angel Hearts has established a sense of community for a marginalised group of people, connecting them to one another and the rest of society through the creation and sale of their crafts. Though Oersen’s body remains restricted, she has found emancipation for her soul.