BY ALEX DADAMU
THE feeling of rejection and sadness arrived too early for Henry Yates, on that dreadful morning back in 1996. It was the day when his parents tried to register him as a student, at Naha Primary School in Honiara.
For Henry, at that time, inside his very young heart, it was hurtful for him, when he learned from the Headmaster of the School, that they were unable to accept him because he had special needs.
“I recalled the Headmaster blatantly said at that time, that I would not have been able to cope with the normal students because I was incapable of speaking, reading, and writing. I would need to be given extra time and so much more effort, a luxury they don’t have,” Henry recollected.
“I don’t blame him for that feedback at all. Poor fellow, he never knew that I felt as normal as any child born to any parents. I think our schools back then could not cater for children with special needs like me,” Henry said.
Henry Yates was born with the inability to speak in 1990 on the 18th of February, at Kilufi Hospital, Malaita Province. Born in a family of three children, Henry is the eldest of his other two siblings.
In an interview with Sunday Isles Newspaper, Henry had only two words to sum up his life, “I’m Blessed,” the 30-year-old expressed.
A few weeks after he was denied admission to Naha School to do his pre-class education, Henry recalled that he was so happy to be accepted at Zion Christian Academy School.
Henry stated that “I was so happy because I felt like, now I have an opportunity to start a normal education just like everyone else. But another thought that came to my mind was – other students will surely laugh at me because of my disability,” he further added.
But that did not stop him at all from progressing.
“What I didn’t know was, God was already there making a way for me.”
He recalled on his first day at school how the students were so welcoming and friendly that Henry stated, ‘I honestly thought that this has to be from God. I learned a lot at school and as time passed, and the days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months into years. I was getting good grades in school, I impressed upon myself, God has indeed truly blessed me. I felt so grateful,” Henry expressed emotionally.
He recalled that his interest in photography started in 2018 when he began shooting photos using his Samsung s9+ smartphone.
“Later, I created my Facebook page and then bought an old Canon Camera from a friend, Danzo”. Henry recalled enthusiastically.
Henry proudly revealed that on Facebook, he was the man behind the Facebook photography page called, ‘King Photography’.
“I am currently the page administrator,” He said with a heartwarming smile.
“You can call me king coz the real King Jesus lives in me.”
He made that statement because he knew that in the whole country of Solomon Islands, he was the first disabled photographer in the entire country and he said that he wanted to showcase his talent to the whole world and make mention of the fact that people with special needs can also have talents, rare talents.
However, he recollected that at the initial stages, he never took photography seriously until he entered a photography competition organized by ‘Strongim Bisnis’ initiative.
He recalled “I saw a Photo Competition, an initiative by ‘Strongim Bisnis.’ I saw an opportunity and boldly enrolled myself in the competition.
“It was out from the experience of entering this competition that I found the courage to take bold steps towards realizing my dream and become a professional photographer,” the passionate youth revealed.
He expressed that “From that competition, I saw an opportunity to compete and convinced myself that it would be a real opportunity to sign up and take my chances. Unexpectedly as it turned out, I was one of the ten lucky winners and from more than 200 photography competitors that entered the competition. I came fifth (5th). To me, that was a phenomenal experience indeed.”
It was after this extraordinary successful event, that Henry felt inspired to strongly pursue his passion for photography, as a professional photographer.
He expressed appreciation for some of his mentors who had inspired and encouraged him constantly in his journey in photography and as a photographer, stating that they were the ones who kept him going.
“I would like to thank Chris Douglas, Seaton Lausaka, Tj Evans Doonz, Colin Leafasia, and Irene Drawman, Joey Milaura, Neil Nuia, and Danzo, they help shaped me in my career as a photographer. I also watch a lot of photography stuff on YouTube on a Channel called, Jordan Matters – He’s also a Pro Photographer,” Henry expressed.
He also revealed that he managed to work with local sensational music artist, Bibao on his recent video clip titled, ‘Mi no Saveh nao’, and that short stunt, plus Bibao’s video clip really helped boost up his photography page.
“Bibao, he is a nice guy, it was such a blessing to work with him,” Henry recalled.
In December last year, 2020, he received yet another boost to his career as a photographer. He was contracted by Cathliro Chocolate Company, a local Cocoa Company to do a photo-shoot at the Lagoon festival in Western Province.
“That was my first ever big photo engagement, I was contracted to do photo-shoot on their products which were on display at the festival – I feel very honored,” he stated.
Henry in the meantime expressed that if God can use someone like him, then God can use anyone to discover what their real potential is.
“It’s no matter what condition you’re are in, God has a plan for you. I thank God that though I am not able to speak, I can still laugh and try my best to have a normal conversation with anyone at all.
“My ears are open, as open as anybody’s ears can be. So you can talk to me the way you are talking to anyone else. Thank God – I can walk and play.
“Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” Henry quoted from the bible with a bright smile.