Physically Challenged Hagie Drammeh: self-made CEO, philanthropist, activist, journalist
By Cherno Omar Bobb
It is William Shakespeare, author of Twelfth Night, who says some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness trusted upon them. And one of those people in The Gambia who have achieved greatness out of serious struggle and hard work is Hagie Drammeh, a Gambian who is physically challenged.
Hagie Drammeh was born in Diabugu Bataba in Sandugu District, Upper River Region of The Gambia and attended Diabugu Bataba Primary School, Sheikh Mass Kah Junior Secondary School and Pipeline Comprehensive School now Daddy Jobe. He left the village for Bakau in 1997.
After completing senior secondary school in 2003, he attended the Business Training Center in Bakau where he did a Level 1 Certificate course and a Diploma in Information and Technology with respectively credit and destinction in 2006 and 2007.
In 2008 he become a businessman after setting up his own business and selling mobile phones, perfumes and other beautification items. This came at a time when his grandmother was trying to set up her own business and persuaded him to join her as a vendor in April 2009.
After 10 months of business experience he switched from trading and took up broadcasting and became an employee of West Coast Radio in January 2010. Following his employment in April of the same year, he worked at the sports unit of the radio station as a reporter and proved to be very committed to and diligent in duty.
His commitment to assignments earned him respect among his colleagues.
Mr Drammeh’s first international engagement came in 2010 when he travelled with a NISA delegation to Thies in Senegal to participate in a regional football championship that was eventually won by the Gambia Immigration Department FC for the first time in the history of the team.
Following the successful outing in the sub-regional championship, he was again selected by NISA to accompany the Gambia Armed Forces for the same competition representing The Gambia as defending champions in Djurbel, Senegal.
In 2013, he travelled to Ramala in Palestine under the invitation of world football governing body FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter and the Palestine Football Federation to cover, as part of the young sports journalists, the establishment of football pitches by FIFA in Nahba, Nablus, Jerusalem and Batlaham.
The same year, West Coast Radio management sent him and colleagues to IPAM for a 6-month course in Mass Communication Level 1 certificate.
In March 2014 he was promoted as head of sports department at the said radio station.
Mr Drammeh also did cover the 19th edition of the CAF Orange U-20 Youth Championship in Dakar, Senegal, as the only Gambian journalist.
He reported and covered all sports practice in The Gambia and was also a producer and presenter.
Hagie grew up under one of the best radio broadcasters in the country Peter Gomez, who took him as a son and encouraged him as well as open all doors to him.
In 2016 he was appointed as the press attaché for the Gambia National Paralympic Committee, a body responsible for sport for the disabled in the country. Few months before the Rio Games, he was co-opted as a member of the executive to serve as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the committee due to his commitment to the course of Persons With Disabilities and population in general.
The association believed as a physically-challenged person, he could add value to their course and encourage others to join.
He went with the team to Rio in Brazil and along the way was encouraged to do many things including a powerlifting coaching training that would see him become The Gambia’s best para powerlifter coach.
He also attended the first-ever Para Africa Games in Algeria and the first Para Powerlifting World Cup in Kasakstan.
In 2020 before the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, he and the Gambia Para team also represented the country at the Africa Para Games hosted by Abuja, Nigeria.
The same year he went to Manchester, the UK, for the third Para Powerlifting World Cup of that year. Even with the Covid-19 restrictions in place, The Gambia and a few other countries participated in the Manchester championship.
In 2021 he was part of the Gambian delegation that took part in Paralymic Games in Tokyo, Japan, as press attaché.
He was also part of the first-ever Gambian Paralympic team that participated in the Commonwealth Games in Barmingham in 2022 as well as the Islamic Games in Turkey.
In 2022 he was elected as the PRO of the Gambia National Paralympic Committee at the committee’s first congress since its inception in 2000.
Before he left for Tokyo he started engaging in social activties, especially with Persons With Disabilities. Fortunately he was able to meet many Gambian businessmen who believe in his course and support for Persons with Disabilities.
He believed that as a Person With Disability the best thing he could do was to further encourage people to follow in his footsteps and therefore established in 2020 an online platform named Tales of Hagie Drammeh to serve as a true role model to people with disabilities in The Gambia and beyond.
He started by telling stories of people with challenges and began with Magistrate Muhammed Krubally, the first principal magistrate and only physically-challenged high court magistrate in The Gambia.
The online platform currently has a studio and a few staff without any sponsorship.
He also owns a printing and stationery shop at Westfield called Yusuf Gai Stationery and Printing Shop also known as the Disability Corner where they print T-Shirts, banners, stickers, business cards, invoices, receipts and others items.
The advocate for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) said he opened the stationery and printing shop to inspire and discourage other PWDs from begging, saying it breaks his heart whenever he goes to supermarkets or is on the street and sees some of his colleagues sitting under the hot sun the whole day and at the end go home with D35 or less when they can venture into something that can earn them more.
“Most of us are not educated because our parents at the time thought that taking us to school was to expose our disability; not knowing that such would have been the best thing,” he said, adding that the best decision his father took in his life was encouraging him and giving him all the support to go to school.
He said they are always willing to teach those willing to learn how to operate a computer at the stationery and printing shop.
He further said that they are also extending the stationery and printing shop to accomodate a female colleague whose hand is amputated but is a very talented artist designer.
Drammeh the physical-challenged has never hindered his vision and dedication, as earlier this year he also launched a charitable organisation called Hagie Gai Drammeh for the Physically Challenged.
Within days of the foundation’s establishment, it donated wheelchairs to Gambians as well as hospital materials to the country’s main referral hospital in partnership with the Canadian Gambia Youth and Development Association, and their Canadian partners.
The Charitable Foundation came to birth after he was entrusted with various materials and cash by many philanthropists for Persons With Disabilities.
“During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, people came to me with money and food items to share with colleagues to ensure they sit at home and be safe,” he explained, saying such trust and his resolve to advance the cause of Persons With Disabilities also contributed to the establishment of the foundation.
“If we work legally their are partners, individuals, NGOs, parastatals, government, philanthropists who will engage us,” he told Persons With Disabilities while calling on Gambians to support his foundation to ensure he reach out to more needy people.
“We are paving the way for people who will join us in future. We do not pray for people to be disabled but we do not own destiny. We do not want you to join the family and get stressed and die,” he said, adding that anything donated to the foundation will be transparently develivered to the intended beneficiaries.
Mr Drammeh’s determination to uplift the wellbeing of the disabled in The Gambia has earned him respect among his family members, friends, co-wokers and all.
The visionary and hardworking young man also runs an Estate Agency called Jaha Real Estate Agency, says the agency manages properties by collecting rentals for property owners and deposit them in the owners’ accounts for a commission. However, they do not sell land, buildings or houses.
The shares he gets from managing properties is what he gives to their members who cannot afford to pay transport fairs when they are to receive donated materials from them.
“Most of the money we gather from all these businesses goes back to the public because I do not want to see my colleagues begging every time,” he reiterated, saying: “I want to help positively to impact people’s lives with the little I have.”
While also appealing to Gambians to assist Persons With Disabilities, he says: “Some times we need each other but begging should not be a habit because you are challenged in some form.”
He however appeals for support, saying: “When you help a person with disability you are creating an enviroment for people who are marginalized or stigmatised to face society.”
He said the only time they are sometimes needed is when some people have organisations that want to donate to Persons With Disabilities.
“We are your brothers and sisters,” he says. “Today we are leading the way but no one knows what tomorrow brings.”
He urged people to see them not as those who could not do anything just because they are on a wheelchair, have one arm, one leg or are limping.
“We are not disabled but are physically challenged and every human being has a challenge. Therefore let the people give us job opportunities to contribute to the development of society,” he appeals.
He further called on government institutions and politicians not to only think of the disabled when it is election time or when they need them. “We are not asking for anything but what belongs to us,” he said.
He also said that roads and infrastructure do not cater for Persons With Disability when they are being constructed.
Mr Drammeh thanked his wife and mother for always being there for him and not seeing him as someone with disability. He also thanked his late father for giving him everything he needed to learn.
He also thanked his colleages in his different businesses for being ever ready to serve humanity.
He further appreciated Peter Gomez, owner of West Coast Radio, for taking him as a son and giving him all opportunities to develop professionally and as a person.
Furthermore, he thanked the Gambia National Paralympic Committee as well as the government, the Gambia National Olympic Committee and everyone that is extending a helping hand to him.