Stigma and cultural barriers couldn’t keep these love birds from tying the knot. Joel Morais is a disability advocate from Timor Leste and a paraplegic resulting from a motorbike accident. His now-wife, Helen Nixon, is from Australia. Watch a promo of their story:
The challenges for people with disabilities in Timor Leste
Joel learned about life with a disability in Timor Leste first hand after his accident. “It’s very difficult for people with disability to live here,” he shares. Not only does he struggle with inaccessibility, but there are also judgements and negative perceptions in society. He never thought he’d find love, but then he met Helen. “They never think that I will have another girlfriend when I have a disability,” he shares. The pair met on a trip Joel took to Australia to discuss disability issues in Timor Leste.
“Joel was convinced right from the start that I was the right person, but I was less convinced. I think in my head there are probably a few obstacles to overcome. Even though I’m trained as an occupational therapist and I’ve worked with families with people with disabilities.”
Finding true love
After years of friendship, love blossomed. “I just became very in love…with his character,” she shares, “because of his friendship and his approach to life with a disability.” In a country where most people with disabilities don’t leave their homes, Joel and Helen are breaking all kinds of perceptions and forcing those around them to reconsider disability.
Helen and Joel work closely together on projects to promote the rights of people with disabilities and educating people on leprosy. A month before their wedding, they take a trip to a school to visit a 14-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy who, thanks to Joel’s hard work, is attending school for the first time in his life. It’s very new for someone with a disability to be enrolled in school. Helen is proud of Joel’s work getting the kids used to having a friend with a disability. Their common goal and work has strengthened their bond. When they announced their engagement, they got negative feedback from both sides. As they prepare for their wedding, the couple shares cultural exchanges and adjustments as a multi-cultural couple, and talk about their plans for honoring their love.
Share Joel and Helen’s story to show an example of a unique relationship, grounded in mutual respect and love.