After a car accident in his home country of Botswana, he sustained a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia. With limited movement and the full-time use of a powered wheelchair, some of Wilson’s greatest adventures were just about to begin.
A former teacher with a double major in Environmental Science and English, new challenges and determination were not new for Wilson, who also dabbled in coaching boxing on the side. When he sustained his injury, he was already a husband and a father to an eight month old baby.
“When I was first injured, I couldn’t even lift up my head,” he says, “I couldn’t hold my son. I thought I would never have more kids. But time is the greatest healer of all things, and I slowly began to learn and adapt. I needed a lot of help, but I learned to transfer by myself – my wife found me sitting in a chair once and was so surprised.”
Shortly after his injury, Wilson, along with his family, immigrated to Canada to start a new life. They settled in North Bay, where the adjustment came easily and proved to be quite accessible – winters aside.
“Life is much easier for me here. I did not struggle to adjust,” he shares, “In the winter, it can be difficult to get around in the snow and to book accessible transportation. It needs to be booked two days in advance and sometimes, it is already fully booked. Accessible taxis get expensive, so the winter is definitely more challenging.”
In his latest endeavour, Wilson is exploring his artistic side; he had always enjoyed drawing, but with his injury impacting the dexterity of his fingers, he was determined to find another way. He gave mouth painting a try and found great joy, relaxation, and hidden talent in capturing breathtaking scenes of nature. This new passion prompted him to start his own YouTube channel, sharing his unique talent with the world.
“I really enjoy it,” says Wilson, “But the main challenge with painting with your mouth is that it takes time and it’s hard on the neck. I also paint at night, so if I drop my brushes in the middle of the night, there is nothing I can do to pick them up. To paint a full picture, it takes me about seven hours total. But once I begin a new art piece, I keep going until I am done.”
He attributes this determination to a sense of impatience present in his spirit for as long as he can remember. An avid reader, Wilson would finish full-length novels in just days, ready for the next book on his list.
Since moving to Canada, Wilson’s family has grown, too. Now a father of three young children, he derives meaning, pride and happiness from being a parent.
“Having children makes me appreciate life more,” he says.
His advice to others? Embrace yourself and appreciate who you are, always. “Sometimes, we tend to shy away,” he says. “When I first came to Canada, I remember going to the mall. I was the only one who had a disability, but I focused on the positives and learned to celebrate it. If you want something in life, go for it. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it.”
Wilson is excited to turn his artwork into a business and hopes to reach a larger audience through his social media channels to demonstrate the power of will and the therapeutic effects of making art.
Fun fact: He only began mouth painting in October 2021, but is already captivating his audience with the memorable landscapes and scenes he has captured.