Local entrepreneur Donald Martin is taking full advantage of the latest and fast-growing cottage industry in The Bahamas – the mass production and sales of masks that help to combat the community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
And while Martin does not mass-produce the masks himself, his decision to get into the sales aspect is proving beneficial.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, 46 years ago, Martin has never taken a step on his own and has to use a motorized scooter for his mobility. Martin says while he needs the scooter for his mobility, he is not “confined to or limited by” that scooter.
“The Holy Bible says a person’s talents will make room for them, that their abilities will make room for them and Mr. Donald Martin epitomizes that,” Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Frankie Campbell said.
“Donald Martin is also the epitome of what I like to say about the community of persons with disabilities, which is that their abilities are far more impactful than their disabilities.”
Campbell’s comments came following a chance meeting between himself and Martin, whose “base of operations” is on Farrington Road (between Eden Street and Hibiscus Street), where he sells his masks, catering to children and adults. The social services minister, who has responsibility for the community of individuals with disabilities, was returning from a meeting when he spotted Martin and decided to stop and purchase some masks for himself and his family members.
“Mr. Martin should serve as an inspiration for all persons because there he is with what some people may consider a legitimate excuse or reason – if he wanted it to be one – to not take advantage of this growing industry due to the fact that he is living with a disability. But he is out here assisting himself, taking full advantage of an opportunity for entrepreneurship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a government decision to place some restrictions on the importation of masks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and instead offer those opportunities to Bahamian entrepreneurs.”
In addition to his roadside sales operation, Martin is also offering potential clients the opportunity to order masks via phone. Campbell said this is in line with the digital transformation underway at the ministry, its departments and divisions, one of which is the Disability Affairs Division. The ministry is also home to the secretariat of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
“I am pleased to note that as a ministry, we are doing all that we can to ensure access and inclusion; that we are doing all that we can to introduce various mechanisms – including the use of apps – that will benefit persons with disabilities; that will make things easier for persons with disabilities to participate in everyday business opportunities; to facilitate the transactions that are necessary for their daily lives. But he is truly someone who is not waiting. Whatever it is we are doing is going to catch up with him, but he is about his business, he is empowering himself and I am pleased that we will work to help empower him.”
Martin said the opportunity for entrepreneurship “has been going well”. He laughed at the notion that living with a disability equates to being disabled.
“I thank God for life. You have some up days when business is booming and then you have some days when business is not as good as the others, but in all things you give thanks to God. I have never given up on life because everybody has some challenges in life; you just have to be able to put them aside.
“With the help of my best friend – Bond Munnings, who keeps encouraging me – and the assistance of some other very good friends and family members who won’t allow me to feel sorry for myself even if there were times I wanted to, I am able to push on. My being out here, doing my own thing, that’s just me pushing on.”
Munnings, a lifelong friend, said Martin serves as an inspiration.
“I am very proud of Donald. He will not allow you to focus on the fact that he is living with a disability and actually lives by himself and literally does everything for himself. We treat him just like any other so-called able-bodied person. He doesn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him and that’s why he is out here doing his own thing, making his own money, doing what he has to do to be able to take better care of himself,” Munnings added.