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- They may be disabled in a hostile world but they are beautiful in the eyes of YALI – YALI’s Leader
Recently, The Young African Leader’s Initiative (YALI) – Regional Leadership Center Cohort 4 embarked on a community project to train the care givers of disabled persons. The Betty Torrey Home (as founded by Elizabeth Torrey in 1977), which houses 30 children of ages 12 to 50 was the chosen home of disabled persons that benefited from this outreach.
In the words of the groups leader, ‘whose fault is it that a child is born with disability, down syndrome and autism? Is it Gods, the parents or who?’
That is how the program kicked off as guest speakers, team YALI and journalists gathered to have a quality time with the workers of this home for the disables.
The guest speakers include Mrs Tola Makinde, the CEO of Morainbow Down Syndrome Rehabilation Center, FESTAC; Chris Aknindele, UK board of Trustees of Down Syndrome Association;
an Occupational Therapist; Okobi Mary Jane, an intern nurse and Mr. Muyiwa Majekodunmi- the Vice President of the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
Different topics were discussed ranging from stress and empathy management, awareness creation, how to handle children with difficulties on walking, standing and effective toilet manners, personal hygiene tips and emotional intelligence tips for caregivers of children with disability.
Nobody defines the norm, says Tola Makinde of a child with Down syndrome. She shared her life experience with the caregivers stating that most times, ‘you get tired especially in Nigeria where most of the children are ostracized and called all manner of names. An era where parents send their kids to the village because they were born disabled‘.
She spoke on empathy, defining it as putting yourself in other people’s shoes and looking through their eyes. Emphasizing that there is something beautiful in the children’s mental, physical and intellect.
She encouraged care givers to give their best, to be open, very sensitive with dealing with them and never feel frustrated with their job. She also explained that God is the one can only reward them.
She urged them to recognize that their role can bring depression, self-pity and troubled mind. Pointing out ways the job can bring healing to their mind.
She advised they live well by eating healthy, going for routine checkup, working in love, taking a walk in the garden, being positive, strolling, appreciating themselves and their work, modelling good behavior, learning something new, believing in their self, forgetting the past, teaching regular , focusing on strengths and being confident patience.
Finally she applauded them , encouraged them to write down 10 strengths, acknowledge their mistake, set aside competition, eat healthy, spread love and be self-disciplined. Equally stating that The children can learn self-care and daily living skills.
Eyitayo, an occupational therapist, expansiated on the need to enable children with disability to experience independence. She taught the care givers on the need to be more loving, she taught care givers on how to carry disabled children: by straightening their back, with knee bent and moving closer to the person. She told them to lift from the side ensuring the child is wearing a belt. Then she encouraged signs and rails on the walls for easy access to toilet seats. And physical activity.
She encouraged care givers to engage the children with meaniful activity stating that practical skills like feeding, drinking, should be taught, rules and routine should be drawn for them to follow because expression id the key and repetition and follow up is necessary.
Then, Mrs. Christy took to the podium. She spoke about love.
That all the children want is love , attention and communication. Because most of them have been given up on by family and society.
According to her early intervention is good. She made references to the United States, where the government gives them every thing. And also sighted a good example of the United Kingdom having disables in the parliament.
Also speaking at the event, Okobi Mary Jane stated disabled children should not be seen as less and not be treated as such.
She stressed that modelling and hygiene is paramount. She stated that they are human beings, they should not be pitied rather be taught they can get sick and even die if proper hygiene is not put into consideration.
She encouraged them to wear footwear’s, sandals, slippers and shoes.
She elaborated on the need to be very observant, to watch out for smells and bad odour, to work on their self esteem, engage them with flash cards, pictures, songs, dance, encourage them, get them moving, active, happy and loved.
Then it was time for Mr Muyiwa to speak. He rounded up by sharing his life experience on the journey so far as a single parent raising up his 29 years old son with down syndrome. He stated that team work and focus is key. He encouraged them to be interactive, highly effective and have communication synergy in performing their duties.
Veronica Obi, a caregiver and mentor, who has been working since 1977 at the home, said her driving force has been the selfless passion she sees in the founder.
The founder left her country of comfort to be with these kids, ”if he can do it why not us” .
AT the end of the event, The coordinator Racheal Inegbedion and her team members (Salam Amdi, Lekan Ilori, Victor chukwu Okorie, Wonu Akintunde, Tejumola Olayiwola ) encouraged and thanked the guest speakers, caregivers, National Daily reporters and all present for such a wonderful opportunity to impact knowledge. Gifts, provisions and awards were given out to the home and everyone present. Group pictures were also taken.