Edward (Eddie) Ndopu, an alumnus of the Academy’s inaugural class is an activist on disability rights, who sought to push boundaries from an early age. At age two he was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. Once he reached the age of seven, however, he was determined to get an education and began attending regular school.
Today, his long list of achievements is extraordinary. In 2008, he was part of the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg. He later graduated summa cum laude from Carleton University in Canada, where he served as a research analyst for the World Economic Forum. At the age of 20, he was invited to attend a Master’s Tea at Yale University and, until recently, he served as the Head of Amnesty International’s Youth Engagement Work for Africa. Eddie has been named one of the World’s 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 by Pacific Magazine. In 2012, Mail and Guardian Newspaper named him one of the “Top 200 Young South Africans”. With such impress feats at 25, Eddie was determined to take it one step further. During his college years, Eddie served as a Research Analyst at the World Economic Forum to examine the links between business and education, and as a Program Associate for the Clinton Global Initiative’s Global Minimum InLabs project.
His tenacious nature sees him embarking on a journey to the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. He leaves for Oxford on 14 September. “Receiving a scholarship to attend Oxford is unprecedented. Now I have a massive moral and political obligation to do something with my life. This is so much bigger than me.” Eddie was awarded a full scholarship, to attend the university but had to raise funds to cover his living expenses.
An online fundraising campaign with the hashtag #OxfordEddiecated was born, and as a result, managed to raise enough money to cover his living expenses and immigration paperwork for his nurse and caregiver. “I’m absolutely delighted. There have been many challenges but thanks to individual donations and the various corporates who came to the party, I can continue pursuing my dream,” he says.
A staggering 90% of people living with disabilities in the developing world don’t have access to basic education. For this reason, he recently founded his own non-profit organisation called Evolve Initiative, which aims to look at how public policy can close the access gap for people with disabilities.
He speaks boldly about the challenges he faces as a young person with a disability. “There is a common misconception that people with disabilities aren’t full human beings. Our lives are often reduced to the basic notion of access. But it’s about so much more than access to parking lots and elevators. My goal is to help provide others with equal opportunities so we can all live our best possible lives,” he says.
He plans to mobilise resources and enter into talks with key stakeholders across the globe. After graduating from Oxford he intends to embark on a two-year journey that will see him filming a documentary about living with a disability and will culminate in him going to space.
He adds that it’s time for a paradigm shift and he is happy to carry the baton. “Living with a disability is the most courageous existence. Just getting out of bed each morning can be a challenge so I’d like to encourage society to affirm us as humans and give us the space to thrive.”
Source: DestinyMan (online platform)