The world at four-foot-five
Nothing stops Ben Woika. At four-foot-five he stands as if he is six feet tall and living life to the fullest.
Woika was born with achondroplasia dwarfism, the most common form of dwarfism that affects one in 15,000 to 40,000 births.
He is the oldest of five siblings and the only one with dwarfism.
“I still think of myself as the big brother even though I am the shortest,” he said. “Growing up, dwarfism was never really an issue with my family. It was always there but was never recognized because I could do whatever anyone in my family could,” said Woika.
Woika grew up in a loving and encouraging environment where his parents taught him from a young age to find ways to do things on his own.
“There is a couple ways you can handle a child with a physical abnormality, you can do everything for them, or you can empower them and have them do stuff on their own,” Woika said. “My parents opted for that second choice, and because of that it has helped me adapt to the world.”
To help him out on a daily basis Woika uses tools like pedal extensions for his car and stools to reach high shelves.
“I find ways to adapt because the world wasn’t really built for me,” he said.
Growing up Woika was never really bullied until he was in middle school.
“The teasing wasn’t really that bad, everybody realized that there was no reason to tease me because I was a cool kid,” he said. “Why treat me differently if I don’t feel different,” he said.
Ben Woika is a fifth year student at Penn State studying recreation, park and tourism management and hospitality. He is a manager at Insomnia Cookies and a sales representative for Comcast.
But for him it’s not always easy to find jobs. Many times he has been subjected to discrimination because of his appearance.
“I have been denied positions that I was well qualified for simply because of my stature,” he said.
Even though his condition can be a disadvantage at times, Woika sees it as an advantage.
“I get stared at a lot but being different and having dwarfism can be beneficial, because I am recognizable. I am that short guy and people remember me,” he said.
Woika doesn’t let his short arms and legs stop him. If there is something he wants to do he will find a way to do it.
He has done everything from playing ultimate frisbee to nursing wild animals back to health and his next project is jumping from a plane.
“If anyone ever tells me, you can’t do something because you are short, I take that directly to heart and I take that as a challenge. I will make it my goal for that day, or week, to do whatever it is that I am told I can’t do,” he said. “I can’t have someone tell me I can’t do something because it is up to me if I can do it.”
The way Woika hopes to be viewed by society is the way anyone with a physical abnormality would want to be viewed, and that is as a person.
“I might look different on the outside, but if anything I am just a person in a smaller package,” he said. “I think it is interesting that people who are similar point out their differences but those who are different point out their similarities.”
Woika doesn’t fail to emphasize to live life to the fullest. His positive outlook on life has made his life “spectacular.”
“ I feel like I’ve had so many unique and amazing experiences only because I’ve stopped and said, ‘I am going to enjoy my life today,’” he said. “I grab life by the horns and it’s a wild ride, but you only live once.”
Standing out in a sea of little people
Ben Woika's mother speaks about her unique experiences at Little People of America conventions.