Army hero survived 3 poisoning attempts after being accused of being 'evil child'

Army hero survived 3 poisoning attempts after being accused of being 'evil child'
Published: 2013 December 04 07:32:50 (11484 Views)
As a soldier in the British Army, Paul Apowida has been in great danger many times.

During a tour of Afghanistan he calmly led his team to safety after an IED went off 50 metres from one of his men.

But the rifleman's instinct to survive is unsurprising once you learn that the 28-year-old had cheated death three times before the age of five.

Born in Ghana, he was branded a 'kinkuru' – a child possessed by evil spirits and believed to bring misfortune – after eight of his relatives, including his parents, died.

His own family attempted to kill him by giving him a poisonous drink before leaving him outside to die in 35 degree heat.

But Paul's life was saved when he was found by a local nun.

Now he has told his remarkable story in his autobiography, Spirit Boy, and is working with the British charity that supported him and aims to put an end to the ritual killing of "spirit children".

He says: "I believe I was kept alive to be used to help the people and to let the world know about me and what I've gone through.

"I'm proof there's no such thing as evil children or spirit children. You never know what a child might grow up to be."

Meningitis was the likely cause of his parents' death and shortly after six other relatives died.

"My mum did all the chores so the disease spread through the family – but my community didn't know," he explains.

"They couldn't understand how a tiny baby had survived when all these healthy adults had died.

"It wasn't a hard conclusion to reach. There was no obvious cause except me."

The belief in spirit children is apparently deep-rooted not only in Sirigu, Paul's remote village, but across the whole northern region of Ghana.

It's not known how many children have suffered because the practice is shrouded in secrecy.

He is one of the lucky ones. Most don't make it to adulthood.

After his parents' deaths, Paul's worried uncle turned to a soothsayer who ordered his stepmother to give him a lethal dose of poisonous herbs.

"They gave me a concoction like a medicine, and then left me out in the sun to die," Paul says.

Luckily, he was spotted by Sister Jane Naaglosegme, 60, a Catholic nun who had been posted to his village to care for children like Paul.

She had converted a former toilet into an orphanage called the Mother of Mercy Babies Home.

"She came to my aid and took me," he says. "She nursed me through the pain I was going through. I'm so grateful to her."

Sister Jane allowed Paul to return to live with other relatives but after they made two attempts to kill him she brought the five-year-old back to live with her at the orphanage.

There he met British charity worker Georgie Fienberg, 35, who would become his legal guardian.

She was 18 and on a gap year when she first visited Sirigu. After hearing about Sister Jane's work, she became a volunteer at the orphanage.

She later returned to the UK to study at Oxford Brookes University but continued to visit Paul every summer. She also raised £30,000 to help support the orphanage.

In 2002, Georgie founded the charity AfriKids which, along with contributions from Sister Jane, helped put Paul through boarding school in Ghanaian capital Accra.

Too young to remember his ordeal, Paul was 18 when he heard the truth from a villager.

"They told me everything," he says. "I felt really, really sad. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to be alone."

After leaving boarding school, talented Paul won a place at art college in Accra and looked set for a promising career as a painter.

But in his final year, he changed his mind. Instead he decided to join the British Army as a way of showing his gratitude to the country.

"I wanted to do it to say thank you to the people that helped save my life," he says. "I told Georgie that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to stand on my own two feet and return to my community one day with my head held high."

As members of the Commonwealth, Ghanaians are able to join the British Army - and Paul moved to the UK in 2008 and Georgie became his legal guardian.

Source - Mirror


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