Beacon of the day | Man, who started walking at age 15, hopes to dance again

Anthony Burchell, who said he was unable to walk for the first 15 years of his life, now travels to various towns dancing to eke out a living.

He originally is from Stepney district in Saint Ann, but his medical condition resulted in him spending very little time there.

He disclosed that he was born with a bone condition, which, among other things, results in his hands and feet being unusually slender.

“I used to have to walk on my hands,” he added.

Burchell, better known as ‘Screechie’, spent his first few years at Bustamante Hospital for Children. He later spent 18 years at Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, formerly known as Mona Rehab in St. Andrew.

While at the centre, Burchell attended the nearby Hope Valley Experimental School, which caters to both physically challenged and able-bodied children.

He also attended Mona High School and later Papine High.

His biggest miracle yet, he told The Beacon, is being able to walk.

Burchell attributed that feat to the care he received at the rehabilitation centre founded by the late orthopaedic surgeon Sir John Golding.

“I did surgeries on my feet to start to walk. There is a doctor name Professor Golding. Before he died, he fix my foot,” Burchell added.

He explained that, when he left the rehabilitation centre at 20 years old, he went to live with his mother in Montego Bay, St. James.

While in that parish, Burchell, at different points, worked at a supermarket and a store. He also started to dance in the streets, hoping to save enough funds to build a house for himself.

“I asked my mother if I could make a room near to her and she said yes, but I didn’t have the money. So, I started to go on the street and dance to make a money,” he recalled.

Burchell said he also received monetary assistance from Government.

But he claimed that he was swindled of his cash in his household.

“None of them don’t take care of me,” he further said in relation to his relatives, adding that he never had a relationship with his father. He is the first of four children for his mother.

Burchell ended up fleeing his mother’s home after living there for some 10 years. He started to rent rooms at relatively low costs.

“From there, everything start getting harder on me,” he told The Beacon while recounting occasions on which he either was robbed or beaten in the streets of St. James and Kingston.

Burchell relocated from St. James to reside with a friend at Stony Hill, St. Andrew.

The friend eventually went to live at Biggs Road in Ewarton, St. Catherine. Burchell joined her. “She let me stay in her house for one year,” he said.

Burchell subsequently transformed a section of the friend’s cellar, turning it into a makeshift room, but he was forced to relocate due to flooding.

Another person at Biggs Road rented Burchell a room for $10,000 per month – a cost he is not always able to pay on time.

He no longer seeks permanent employment, considering that past employers complained especially about his pace.

“Everytime I get work, they always put me down. They said my hands not good to do many things that they want me to do,” Burchell said. He also claimed that he appeared in two plays, but was not properly compensated.

In light of that challenge, Burchell, now 40 years old, tries to cover his expenses by dancing and begging in the streets of Kingston, Mandeville, May Pen, Ocho Rios, and Linstead.

When he dances, kind-hearted people sometimes acknowledge his effort by throwing money into his bucket, which he keeps close while moving to the latest hits blaring from his boombox.

“Sometimes I don’t get any money; I just put down my boombox and start to beg,” Burchell said.

He explained that his earning potential suffered a major blow in recent times, initially due to national restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Burchell, who suffered an injury in the hip area two years ago, fell and injured his right knee last month while walking to a taxi stand. He was going out to dance.

He ended up at Linstead Public Hospital, and was transferred to Spanish Town Hospital.

Burchell was hospitalized for two days, and is now recuperating at his Ewarton home.

His bills, however, are piling up.

“My rent is going to be due on the 15th of this month (March 2021), and I don’t have anybody to pay it, so I have to just see what I can do by now and next week,” he said.

Amid the challenges, Burchell is optimistic that he will resume dancing soon to improve his situation.

He encouraged other people – especially those who are differently abled, to never lose hope.

“Don’t give up,” he said emphatically.

Persons wishing to assist Burchell can contact The Beacon for the relevant information.


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