Ability within disAbility

“Ability within disAbility: The Life of Maclean Atzu Dzidzienyo”


Maclean was born in Dodowa, Ghana, a poverty stricken community in West Africa. At age 9, he suffered from polio and became paralyzed from the waist down.

Disowned by his own family and ostracized by his community, Maclean had nowhere to call home. He crawled through the rocky hills of Ghana on his hands and knees, a gun strapped to his back. To make a living, he hunted rabbits and other rodents and sold them in a nearby market. At night, he slept in abandoned buildings or whatever makeshift shelter he could find.

This was his lifestyle for nine years, but he never was defeated.

“This is the situation I find myself in,” he says, explaining his mentality from that time and into today. “All I can do is take it day by day and keep fighting, knowing that God is on my side.”

Maclean’s enduring faith was affirmed when he met Raphael Botsyo Nkegbe in 2010. This was young man, who also has physical disabilities, introduced Maclean to the world of wheelchair sports.

Here was an opportunity for Maclean to use the same perseverance that had kept him alive to work toward a new goal beyond mere survival—one that would give him the community he’d been deprived of, help him realize his full potential, and help others to do the same.

His work has certainly paid off. In the past year alone, Maclean won three gold medals in the IPC Arizona Desert Challenge, championing the 100m, 200m, and 400m with personal bests across the board (16.28, 28.28, 52.95 seconds, respectively). He also took second place in the 2016 South Africa Millennium Marathon 21k with a time of 46:06.

This platform has given him the opportunity to advocate for continued advancement of people with disabilities in his country. Moreso than his impressive collection of medals, Maclean's success is most evident in the impact his journey has had on others.

“I will be a motivation to people, and use my life story to encourage people who are giving up in life.”

Most recently, he came across Ayishetu Seidu, a woman in the northern region of Ghana who had been disregarded by her family on account of her disability. Just as Raphael had to him seven years ago, Maclean introduced her to wheelchair athletics. Soon after, she won gold at the Millenium Marathon.

While he was not able to go to the Paralympic Games and represent his country in Rio de Janeiro, Maclean now has his sights set on the Para Athletic Championships in London this summer.

Phase 1:
Past fundraising efforts on this page ($7,305 since June 2015) primarily went toward the funding of Maclean’s new racing wheelchair, a $5,000 state-of-the-art piece of equipment that has maximized the translation of Maclean’s tireless training into his recent successes. The remaining funds aided with traveling costs to various competitions. Due to a lack of funding for para athletics in Ghana, traveling expenses are left to the athletes and their organizations, unfortunately limiting the amount of competitions Maclean and his teammates are able to attend.

Phase 2:

With this next phase, our goal is to raise $4,000 to cover Maclean’s training costs, airfare and accommodation for the qualifying meet in Arizona (2017 Desert Challenge Games) and the Para Athletic Championships in London this summer.

Thank you for helping Maclean as he continues his mission both in athletics and in empowering people of all abilities to triumph over struggle and break down any barriers others have imposed on them.

“Disability is how you make your mind. With the fear of God, determination, and perseverance, the sky will not even be your limit.”                         -Maclean Dzidzienyo


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Organizer and beneficiary

Andrew Helmin 
Frankfort, IL
Vivian Richendollar 
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