HIV, Malaria: Why society must not forget Down Syndrome, Disable Community

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    By Ediale Kingsley

    The Initiative for National Growth (ING) in partnership with the Down Syndrome Foundation, on the 28th of April, had a training program for professionals who teach or give care needs to persons leaving with Down syndrome and disabilities. ING, a social initiative group that emerged from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI RLC West Africa), decided to have their second community development project in this fashion. Hosting experts and professionals as they focus on giving these special persons in our environment the needed attention and help they deserve.

    The Project Coordinator, Miss Rachael Inegbedion (Co-Founder, @Arpg Tech) and her Team members; Creative Director, Salam Amdi (Founder, SharkBite Foods @sharkbitefoods_), Miss Wonuola Akintunde (an Auditor) and Tejumola Olayiwola (social media manager) were all on ground to do practical and theoretical justice to the day’s objective.

    The project, born out of a desire to empower caregivers of children living with disabilities to effectively train and help them integrate better with the society through professional soft skills knowledge acquisition, also had other guests from private and government agencies.  Kaosor Omotayo Muhammad, a Conflict Expert/public Analyst took the audience through the ‘General Hygiene practices for the Home and School/ Vocational Skills for people with disabilities’ topic.  While Titilope Olowo, a Behavioral Therapist, handled the ‘Why proper Behavioral Therapy is beneficial to children living with Down Syndrome’ session.

    It was an eye-opener for many of the parents and caregivers who attended the event. The parents had questions and the experts were there to provide solutions to issues they have had to deal without proper knowledge.

    Also, after the order of Omotayo and Titilope, Mr. Oseni Ibrahim, a Medical volunteer (Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria), talked about the Importance of Malaria Testing for the individual with disabilities. And this followed with immediate testing procedures for everyone present.  This holistic program, on one hand, had kids screaming as the testing needles pierced through their body parts. And on the other hand, in the refreshment corner, a lot of kids happily consumed the candies and drinks available.

    Adewale Ogunnaike was a representative from Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LASACA), and he also brought his testing kits along as he did justice to the topic ‘Why People with Disability are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS’.

    Adewale said, “One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities”. And based on such stats, he warned that we must not overlook the sexuality and sex needs of people living with disabilities. An attempt to overlook such would mean more harm to the society at large. In his words, ‘Just because they are disabled doesn’t mean they are not sexually active’.

    Also speaking was, Mrs. Shukroh Famuyiwa, an Occupational Therapist who talked about  ‘The Importance of Occupational Therapy in the development of a child with DownSyndrome’.

    Other facilitators on the day were;  Memory Expert, Mr. Seun Bilesanmi.  A Peace Ambassador, Salam Amdi. Music Artiste,  Tosin Oyebolu. And the Medical team,  Feyisola Osifala, and Williams.

    Mr. Muyiwa Majekodunmi, Vice President of the down syndrome Foundation Nigeria, appreciates the enthusiasm and passion showed by the ING persons, he believes having a child with Down syndrome has enabled him to answer the call to helping persons with disabilities. “It is a ministry, for some parents it could be very challenging and a burden, but God knows why he has given you that child, so you must stand up and do the job of parenting”.  Muyiwa, speaking with our journalist (Ediale Kingsley) paused to point at his son, who is singing happily with a group of guitarists at the event, “that’s my son, he has down syndrome, he’s 30 years old, while offering the fatherly responsibility and care could be an actual burden, it pays to see it as a calling’.

    Speaking with the Down syndrome foundation president, Mrs. Rose Mordi, she revealed what it has been managing the outfit for close to 20 years now. She said it’s been tough, rewarding, and particularly appreciated those that have given the needed support. On the role of the Government to the foundation or persons living with disabilities she said, “At the state level, Lagos State has actually done more by implementing the Disability Act” but sadly had nothing to say about the Federal Government.

    Rachael Inegbedion of ING said the motivation to do this started from messages her team got from The Mandela Washington Fellowship.  And since experiencing such inspirational program, herself and team haven’t looked back. They have decided to cause a developmental change in their society.

    The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.