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TRIBUTE TO A STAR

TRIBUTE TO A STAR

It was a Friday like any Friday. The weather did not give any suggestion that it was going to be a black day or that it was going to set in tears. The day before my boss had called to say she had just arrived from her well deserved rest abroad. She sounded refreshed and raring to go. We talked about the plans for the 10th anniversary of the NGO, Handicapped Education Foundation that we all called HANDEF.

I expressed anxiety over the tardiness of a sponsor we had been waiting to respond, and she kindly said I should not worry so much, that we should depend on the Almighty about how the anniversary would be celebrated. However, she might be paying a visit to the centre soon, in a week or thereabouts. Anyway I should let her have the sample letter I was planning for schools.

I promised to send her an update of activities since she had been away, to bring things up to the minute. A few more chit chat and the conversation ended with me in an upbeat mood which carried me into the next day Friday the 13th of September.

Report up to date, I called her and informed her that it was now in her email. The day ended peacefully enough and I went home. Then came the phone call. I was already half way to dream state when the call came and the caller in deep anxiety called to ask if the news was true. My boss had lost her best friend, confidant, role model and husband of more than three decades.

My heart hammered against my rib cage and I wondered if I was about to reach to the cold beyond to yank him back. I felt very sad. The phone calls kept flooding in thereafter so I abruptly switched off. Dr, Olusegun Agagu had passed on. The man who seemed indestructible from the numerous betrayals of close associates had been felled by the cold hands of death.

I wondered how my boss would be feeling and shuddered in real pain, at what I sensed would be the huge black hole she would be gazing at. My memory took leaps as I recollected the close bond that held them together. I remember these stories that had made me to respect him.

I remember his passion to showcase only the virtues and abundant resources of the state to anyone who cared to listen. A practical and pragmatic person, he was under no illusion about anything, but had a will to change things. Once when I took him up on the granite tiles that he had used for the government house, because I had like many other people assumed he imported those beautiful tiles, he had smiled and invited me to visit the state ministry of commerce so they could take me to the granite sites of the state so I could see things for myself. There was justified pride in his mien and voice as he said Ondo state had the best granite in the world. He could say that, for he was on familiar grounds.

I worked for his wife, but gradually learned the personality of Dr Agagu. He was always courteous, dignified with an unfailing smile each time I met him. I always felt there was a lot he kept under control behind those smiles.

My husband and I are like two peas in a pod as we go everywhere together, and I felt we were not strange as I saw the bond between Dr. and his wife. Over time, I had learned to see a lot of virtues in this dignified man. He was a rare breed who conducted his political affair with a deft brilliance that angered his enemies and left some of his aides frustrated because they could not match his moral ground.

I am sure Dr. Agagu was not exactly a perfect man, he was aware of his foibles. Some faux pas he committed, particularly his naïve acceptance that it was okay to surround himself with very ambitious men. This naivete cost him dear politically but I think he simply shrugged and moved on to the next step, next rung of his experiencing.

I understood his focused understanding of his people and what would seem best for them. His attitude was sometimes patriarchal, with a benevolence that tended to make me wish he would just for once look around him. I always felt he had no business being in Nigerian politics with its cut throat viciousness. He was like an eagle amongst hawks.

I have an understanding that long association begets familiarity and could bring about a transfer of virtues and behavioral change. For most of the time I knew the couple , they were a constant study for me.

Mrs. Olufunke Agagu created HANDEF and she carried the same attitude as her husband. I remember asking her the first day I met her if the NGO she formed was really sincere and if it will last the distance. Her answer was just as simple as herself. She gave me a smile, and said she hoped the NGO will outlive her existence.

Well it outlived their tenure in office and we were making plans to have a fairly grand 10th anniversary of the NGO come December 18th. Obviously that plan has bit dust now.

We are devastated by this loss of one we saw as a mentor, role model and Patriach. Dr. Olusegun Agagu infected us through his wife and our boss Mrs. Olufunke Agagu with his disciplined approach, compassion and generous spirit. It was thus not surprising to have an NGO headed by a personality like Mrs. Olufunke Agagu with a vision for a better world for persons with disabilities. A vision of constant distribution of wheel chairs in their hundreds, training and giving persons with disabilities dignity,, through vocational skills training, and avenues to succeed and be self reliant. Like two streams Dr. Olusegun Agagu and his wife flowed individually and jointly towards a common goal…..to serve humanity in gratitude to the Creator.

At HANDEF, we salute Dr. Olusegun Agagu, and send our thoughts to his wife our boss and hope that as the Eagle soars above, may his spirit find his path lit with the Divine Love and he soars to human kingdom of paradise.

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AUTISM… PART I

When it comes to the disability world, with respect to the Nigerian society, the word, “autism” is a relatively strange term. Strange indeed to parents, teachers and even professionals. Little wonder then, that in many parts of the world, people have not even heard about the term, nor understood its nature.
Normally, as children struggle through school, they encounter a lot of difficulties. These difficulties could naturally be inherent in the child or in the child’s environment. However, conditions like autism make a colossal contribution to a child’s inability to learn. Therefore, understanding autism is a n issue that gives great concern to everyone who comes in contact with children with this condition. At the moment, the awareness level is generally low among parents and teachers.
Knowledge about the nature of autism, its characteristics and identification strategies would go a long way in ensuring the recognition of its symptoms in children as early as possible.
Definition:
The word “autism” was coined from a Greek word “autos” which means “self” by a renowned psychiatrist Blueler, who observed in 1911 the behavioural traits tending withdrawal into self.
Autism is a biological disorder that occurs in an individual before birth and runs through life presenting different development difficulties at all age level.
Autism in a child results in delayed development and deviance from normal growth and development processes in three areas of behaviour. These are:
– Social relationship and interactions
– Language and communication
– Activities and interests.
Autism as a deficiency makes a child unable or unwilling to put together the primary building blocks of experience. It affects the senses, speech, actions and emotions. This autistic child does not move naturally from one sound to another, from one word to another and from one experience to another like other normal developing children.
According to APA, 1994 and WHO 1992, autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. It is located on the same continuum with mental retardation on one side, and specific development disorders, on the other side.
Researcher’s opinions are divided as to the causes of autism, while earlier researchers believed that autism was caused by poor parenting, recent researchers have proved that autism has clear biological origin caused by abnormal brain development, structure and/or neurochemistry. Autism can be best viewed as a behavioural syndrome, which may be produced by multiple biological causes often traceable to the brain functioning.
Autism causes the following difficulties in individuals:
– Poor reciprocal social interaction
– Restrictions in verbal and non-verbal reciprocal communication
– Restricted use of imagination
– Restricted interest
– Repetitive movements
– Extreme withdrawal from environmental stimulus
– Bizarre behaviour…
… To be continued. (Culled from “The Special Child” magazine)

ATTITUDE OF PEOPLE TO THE DISABLED

“Ooh! She is the god daughter of the oracle”, “Jeez! What a pity he’s a cripple”. These and many more similar expressions show either what people think about people living with disability, or what their attitudes are towards them. I’ve read lot of books and article that discussed the issue of disabilities. For instance, the book – Elements of Special Education by Peter A. Eyanro – says that generally, most people simply sympathize and pity the disabled. Others discriminate against them everywhere. Some people even treat them with contempt as if the disabled have some sorts of contagious diseases.
This was the case of one Mr. Emogbare who fell down and just could not walk again. What happened to him?
It was polio – myelitis that struck him down. When he eventually overcame the initial depression and shame he wanted to join his friends at play, the friends rejected him. They would not have him with them on the play ground. They just believed he did not belong to them anymore, because of his disability. He was treated by his friends as if he had a contagious disease.
Majority of people in the society do not appreciate the fate of the disabled people. This is because many people do not appreciate in themselves the gifts freely given to them by God. Such as the gifts of sight, limbs, speech, smell etc, and that is why most people therefore, margnalise the physically challenged people, despite efforts made to succeed in life, they are not in most cases rewarded with motivation or encouragement by the society.
Rather, in most cases, people merely pity and sympathize with them. However, not every disabled person wants to be pitied. They prefer empathy – the ability to share someone’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in their situation – rather than being pitied.
Not only that, some disabled people believe that everyone has problems and it is the way one handles them that make one overcome the problems or make the problem to overcome the person. Some of them also believe that in every disability, there is ability. As a result of this kind of philosophy, there are many disabled Nigerians today who have turned their disabilities to stars.
The force or factors that propelled them are courage, determination, hard work and positive self concept.
Where many have reclined and resigned into a life of beggary and hopelessness, some have become international figures. They have proved to all that truly, there is “ability in disability.”
Are you a person living with one form of disability or the other? Do you feel that it is the end of the world? Or perhaps you have a dream but do not know how to exploit the factors that will make you achieve those dreams? If you have these questions and many more related questions, please endeavor to always visit this blog for frequently updated motivational talks and experiences from people who have turned their disability into the envy of all.
…May you mount and soar like an Eagle

Imagine…our World

Welcome to our world. We would like to hope we will make friends here. We want to tell you about us, what we stand for, and what we hope for.

Every human being longs to feel it is has a friend somewhere and can chat with that friend. The human spirit naturally wishes for company. You know a need to hear his own voice bounce back to him from a corresponding voice. There is the understanding that the first cry of a child at birth was a call for attention. You probably don’t really remember that. But you know it is true, Imagine therefore the response to that first cry becoming a shudder of horror and the imminent rejection of love when a tiny hand is stretched.

Life itself promised nothing much at the first cry of a new born but a promise to present challenges. Man faces those challenges and struggles to identify his first name according to the level of those challenges. In the corner of our world, it might be slightly different so imagine this:

The cry of the newborn, the excitement of the mother as she suckles him, the heat of the room, the crowded relatives as they wonder if to kill the tethered goat and send emissaries to uncles and aunties. Then the naming ceremony, asking for the name of the child from the oracle. The long evenings when the mother rocks the child or straps him to her back as she manages her small farm to support her husband. The child has a temperature and is given some herbal drink. But the temperature persists. Since the birth of the child, they have not returned to the clinic or the mission house. There is anxiety but there is also no money.

Awareness of the importance of immunizations walks on crutches in my corner and now you know, the child becomes either visually impaired of physically challenged. In my corner of the world, he is in deep trouble. There is shame to overcome (as if it is his fault for becoming handicapped), there is confusion from his closest and loved, that is his family. His mother simply withers from within as she imagines a door to hope, peace and prosperity has been slammed shut. Fear and shame become twin brothers that walk in the family and slowly but surely anger at the gods and government.

Welcome to the world of the handicapped in our corner of the universe and the Human family.

Our story is not about gloom and doom. We would share with you stories of courage, enterprise, resilience and hope. We intend to share with you the vision of light in darkened room that made one woman determined to open the doors of life wider and brighter.

We would share the lives of the challenged members of our society. We will share our dreams, we would invite you into our world.

We would continue this conversation with you often and look to you for replies.

Welcome to our world. We would like to hope we will make friends here. We want to tell you about us, what we stand for, and what we hope for.

Every human being longs to feel it is has a friend somewhere and can chat with that friend. The human spirit naturally wishes for company. You know a need to hear his own voice bounce back to him from a corresponding voice. There is the understanding that the first cry of a child at birth was a call for attention. You probably don’t really remember that. But you know it is true, Imagine therefore the response to that first cry becoming a shudder of horror and the imminent rejection of love when a tiny hand is stretched.

Life itself promised nothing much at the first cry of a new born but a promise to present challenges. Man faces those challenges and struggles to identify his first name according to the level of those challenges. In the corner of our world, it might be slightly different so imagine this:

The cry of the newborn, the excitement of the mother as she suckles him, the heat of the room, the crowded relatives as they wonder if to kill the tethered goat and send emissaries to uncles and aunties. Then the naming ceremony, asking for the name of the child from the oracle. The long evenings when the mother rocks the child or straps him to her back as she manages her small farm to support her husband. The child has a temperature and is given some herbal drink. But the temperature persists. Since the birth of the child, they have not returned to the clinic or the mission house. There is anxiety but there is also no money.

Awareness of the importance of immunizations walks on crutches in my corner and now you know, the child becomes either visually impaired of physically challenged. In my corner of the world, he is in deep trouble. There is shame to overcome (as if it is his fault for becoming handicapped), there is confusion from his closest and loved, that is his family. His mother simply withers from within as she imagines a door to hope, peace and prosperity has been slammed shut. Fear and shame become twin brothers that walk in the family and slowly but surely anger at the gods and government.

Welcome to the world of the handicapped in our corner of the universe and the Human family.

Our story is not about gloom and doom. We would share with you stories of courage, enterprise, resilience and hope. We intend to share with you the vision of light in darkened room that made one woman determined to open the doors of life wider and brighter.

We would share the lives of the challenged members of our society. We will share our dreams, we would invite you into our world.

We would continue this conversation with you often and look to you for replies.