BY EBUN SESSOU
At first, making a story out of the world of disabled persons seemed so boring but at the end, it was indeed interesting.
Ordinarily, no one would ever thought of making a story out of these particular people except there was a special interest or instruction. Dis-abled people are the least of every reporter’s priority.
But even as the society seems to have written them off, they believe that there is something they can still give to humanity.
A visit to Lagos Cheshire Home in Mushin area of Lagos State was an experience of a lifetime. The children (physically challenged) were seen having a nice time with one another.
Speaking with them, one of them, Ramota Akingbade, 24, a resident in the Home told Saturday Vanguard that although she has been on the wheelchair for a longtime ,she has not allowed her condition to discourage her from achieving her target in life. “I used to tell other children that their condition is not permanent and so, they should do something reasonable with their lives. I have been able to learn some vocational skills including bead making and hair dressing. I spent two years in learning hairdressing as well as bead making. I want to become a lawyer because I want to fight the cause of people especially the physically challenged. I hate cheating and so, I try my best to ensure that the Home is peaceful. I would like to be a lawyer because of the experience I had sometime last year.
There was a female lawyer on wheelchair who was maltreated by a teacher. I felt so bad about it. She came to my school and she was asking us questions when the teacher said, “shut up” because she was talking to me. Immediately, tears became to roll out of my eyes. I felt humiliated that a fellow person like me could be treated that way. I felt it wasn’t humane for anyone to treat his or her fellow person like that. Therefore, I want to become a lawyer in order to fight the cause of the less privilege in the society. Nigerians should not be wicked to their fellow human beings especially people on wheelchairs.
Asked if she would want to get married, she said, “if I see any young man who loves and cares for me, I will marry him. I want to have my own children and I believe my children will not be handicapped. I want a man who would take me the way I am. Someone who will help me. I want to marry an Engineer. I want to have two children because the economic situation of the country is not pleasant that anybody would think of giving birth to many children. I don’t want many children because they will be disturbing me”.
Asked how long she has been in the condition she said, “I have been on this wheelchair for a long time. I wasn’t born this way. I had polio and that was the end. Since, then, my parents brought me to the Home of the handicapped and I have been living here all alone. I missed my siblings and I wish to see them. The last time I saw my parents was when the management organised a meeting sometime this year.
“Sometimes, I think about my home and and my younger ones. I have two brothers and two sisters. I used to think of how to give back to my society. If the government and management of Cheshire Home can help me, I would want to own one of the biggest bead- making shops in Lagos.
“I have been coping very well in the Home. They give us food, clothes, water and everything. I am fine here. The management also take us on trips to see some exciting places in town with our friends. And in theHome, everybody gets along easily because of the intimacy and love we share. I love to live here because the people are friendly. We talk with each other and share experiences together”.
For Moses Osayawe, an 18 year old , living in the Home is the best thing that has ever happened to him. “Since my arrival to the Home, I have been privileged to know that my condition is not permanent. My life has changed for better. The environment here is conducive because nobody fights, cheats or beats another. Although, I wasn’t happy the first time my mummy brought me to the Home, I am happy now. I feel more relaxed to belong to a family that cares.”
Asked what brought him to the Home, he said, “I was involved in a motor accident when I was young. My mummy told me that we were both in the bus but I was the only one who was affected. I also had polio, so she brought me to Cheshire Home. I have been able to achieve some vocational skills including bead and show making. Right now, I am in Eric Moore Junior Grammar School, in JSS 1. In the school, my friends help me by pushing me to wherever I want to do.”
Lawal is a charming and down to earth 16 year- old boy whose ambition in life is to become a teacher. According to him, “I want to become a teacher and I believe teachers should be honoured in the society because they teach people the right way to go. I want to teach people who are physically challenged like myself.
“Right now, I have been learning some vocational skills. I started learning how to make beads since last year. I love the way we interact and settle our differences ourselves.”
Popularly called Pastor Kehinde Olayeni, Adedayo is 23 years old. She is one of the non-resident in members of the Home. She told Saturday Vanguard that her ambition in life is to become a pastor in her church, Mountain of Fire and Miracles. “I want to become a pastor to save the lives of people who are perishing.”
But currently, Pastor Kenny is learning beads- making in the home. “I have been learning bead making and I thank God that the environment is friendly. I don’t have problem with my friends in the Home and that is why we are able to relate very well. The environment is good and the management is good also. But, I still love to go and meet my parents and twin sister Taiwo, who cooks for me. She is not physically challenged.”
Olumide Adegbenro, 36 years, is one of the Trainers at Cheshire home. He trains the service users in shoe making. Narrating his story, he said, “My problem started when I was three years and four months old. My mother told me that she was trying to wake me up one morning to prepare for school and as I was trying to stand up, I fell down and couldn’t walk again. My parents tried their best to restore me back to my normal position but could not. In the process, I lost my father in 1995. And since, there was no way forward. I was sent to Atunda-Olu School for Physically challenged children where I finished my primary school. I went to Eko Boys High School for my Senior Secondary School. Unfortunately, my poor mother who was into petty trades could not cope with the situation and sending me to higher institution became worrisome. Then, I decided to go for apprenticeship on shoe -making for three years and in 2004, I became a cobbler. My family didn’t believe I was going to succeed in life but when they witnessed my graduation ceremony, they were happy.”
Asked if he has been able to raise family of his own, he said, “I have a wife who is also physically challenged”