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Daylight came to mentally challenged children in Imo

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•We sustain the centre through agriculture—Catholic priest

The hopes of survival of scores of mentally challenged children and abandoned old people have been raised.

What seems like a moment of joy, was captured by South-East Voice, at Don Guanella Centre, Nnebukwu belonging to the Catholic Church, in the oil communities of Oguta Local Government of Imo State, during the commissioning of solar power in the centre.

*Centre, Mrs Ama Eluwa, Permanent Secretary, Imo State Ministry of Gender and Social Development, commissioning the solar power project.

The solar power was sponsored by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Total Upstream Nigeria Limited and others as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR.

This as the Priest in charge of Don Guanella Centre, Rev. Father Jude Anamelechi, told South-East Voice that they had sustained the centre through agricultural means.

“The installation of the multi-million naira solar power will be a big relief to the centre in the area of power supply.

“It has greatly improved the lives of our children here in the centre especially in aiding in the management of health crises at night.

“The project has reduced the cost of powering the centre and eliminated pollution caused by the use of diesel generators,” Anamelechi said.

The priest, however,  noted that there was need for another solar power to power the borehole, pointing out that “with the type of children we have, water is very important for their hygiene.”

He also said that the centre had been in existence for 26 years. “Don Guanella Centre belongs to the congregation founded by Saint Luigi Guanella, an Italian priest. We rehabilitate mentally and physically challenged children.

“These are children who deserve to live and enjoy life like others but are facing serious health challenges like epilepsy, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism.

“We have special school and we carry out physiotherapy, occupational therapy and others here.

“In our Guanella tradition, we strongly believe that disability is never inability, therefore we help our children to discover the hidden capacities in them.

“Ours is to reawaken in them and in the society the consciousness that every human being, even those less gifted by nature, has something to offer the society.”

The Catholic priest further told South-East Voice that the centre has rehabilitated more than 100 persons with special needs, while a good number of them have been in the centre owing to the nature and demands of their disability.

“With the recent admission, we have 40 children (six-day care and 34 boarders) and some others are in their families because of the limited financial resources of the centre to provide their ever increasing needs, which include feeding, clothing, medical, speech therapist, physiotherapist among others.”

On how the centre takes care of the aged people, he said: “We run old people’s Apostolic which takes care of 30 helpless and abandoned old people in the vicinity.

“Our priests and the seminarians usually visit them in their homes on weekly basis, offering spiritual and material support (food items clothing etc)   which go a long way to alleviate their sufferings. This is in line with the famous dictum of our founder, St Luigi Guanella: “give bread and the Lord” to our brother and sisters in need.”

*Some of the mentally challenged children during their cultural rendition

Reverend Father Anamelechi said among other things that “the centre is also a formation centre for young men aspiring to the Catholic priesthood. Interestingly, these seminarians form the core of the teaching guardians and care givers to mentally and physically challenged.”

However, it was at this point that the Catholic priest in charge of the Don Guanella Centre, Anamelechi, explained to South-East Voice how they were able to survive through agricultural means while waiting for public support.

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“We participate in the self-sustaining projects of the centre such as bakery, fishery, piggery, poultry, cassava cultivation and oil mill. These projects help in no small way in the sustenance of the centre, but unfortunately, we are now witnessing very low production.

“Due to economic meltdown in our society, increase in the number of the needy and low subvention from our mother House in Italy.”

The Don Guanella Centre, according to the is said to the priest, is facing a lot of challenges including “lack of structure to accommodate more mentally challenged children, renovation of dilapidated structure for the special school, renovation of dilapidated poultry farm, upgrading of bakery and equipping our physiotherapy.”

Also, the centre needs public support in the area of renovation of dormitories for children with special needs and the infirmary, construction of multi-purpose hall.”

Speaking to South-East Voice, the Managing Director, Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Nicholas Terraz, represented by the head of Corporate Affairs, Abiodun Afolabi, said: ”We are contributing to the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

“Number three and seven, which talk about ensuring good health and well-being as well as provision of cleaner, affordable, reliable, sustainable and mordern energy.

Afolabi added: “Two months ago, we embarked on the construction of this solar solution project in fulfilment of these goals and today, we are happy to hand over a project capable of generating  246MWH of electricity annually through the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

“Each of the five buildings in the Centre is provided with solar power and run independently. With the completion of this project, the institution will depend less on diesel generators for its electrical needs, thus reducing environmental pollution as well as operational cost and this will leave more funds available to meet the other needs of the residents.”

In her speech,  representative of the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, Mrs Ama Eluwa, Permanent Secretary in the Imo State Ministry of Gender and Social Development said: “Indeed children are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the strength of a nation. They are the pride of the people. It is on this continent that children suffer immensely from abuse and neglect. Care and concern for all children is the hallmark of a civilised nation.

“In my capacity as the Permanent Secretary of Gender and Social Development, this is one of the institutions under our supervision. Our joy knows no bound as we see light not just for one hour a day but for 24 hours a day. This will help in taking care of our children.”

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