1 June 2012

Nigeria: Caring for the Physically-Challenged Community

A physically-challenged youth corps member in Oyo State recently constructed 140-capacity apiary for the physically-challenged members of the Iseyin community where he is serving. It was a day of joy as he uplifted the community despite his disability. Tunde Sanni writes

His sight evokes pity and sympathy. He could not walk straight as he bends backward and forward in the process of movement from one place to another. Though the pain of movement might no longer be there, he, however, has mixed feelings of his physical state. This is the case of AbdulRasak Bamikunle, a youth corps member in Oyo State who, despite his physical challenge has continued to show that there is ability in disability.

Rasak, a graduate of Pure and Applied Chemistry from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, was formerly posted to Kaduna for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme but had to seek redeployment due to the security challenges in some parts of the country, including Kaduna and on redeployment to Oyo State, was posted to Iseyin Local Government for his primary assignment.

Being a restless person, he saw an opportunity in bee keeping which is technically referred to as apiary. He later converted this to his Community Development Service (CDS) project which he decided to raise money for and make it a capital project which will be money spinner for the community after his service year.

He approached the leadership of the local government and sold the project idea to them. Convinced about the sincerity of the youth corps member and the genuineness of the project, the caretaker chairman of the council, Saheed Adejare Yusuf instantly doled money considered as the council widow's mite for the project and encouraged the physically-challenged corps member to approach other neighbouring councils for assistance.

In all, four councils were approached where he generated some amount of money with which he set to work on the project. Buoyed with the financial support from the councils, Rasak constructed 140 beehives for the members of the physically-challenged association in Iseyin Local Government Area. In addition, he developed a training manual documentary for youth empowerment to the council chairman.

All categories of people in Iseyin trooped out on the day the youth corps member formally handed over the project to the Iseyin local government and the physically-challenged community. It was a day emotion was high and praises were poured on the youth corps member who, despite his physical challenge was teaching his 'brethren' how to fish rather than giving them fish all the time.

The state coordinator of the NYSC, Alao Olanipekun in his message to the occasion poured encomiums on Rasak for the initiative which he said has made him a star in the area.

"This your action is a surprise to us in the NYSC because as we can all see, you are physically challenged and rather than hanging out either on major highways or in the garages to beg for alms took the challenge to go to school and now that you are having your NYSC, you were still able to do this, we are proud of you.

"I want to charge other corps members, especially the able bodied ones to emulate the gesture of our compatriot, Rasak Bamikunle and use their service year for the benefit of their various host communities. The era of youth corps members taking from their host communities without giving anything in return is over."

The council chief, Adejare Yusuf also commended the gesture of Rasak, which he said was historic in the council and vowed that the gains of the moment would not be allowed to sink with its euphoria. He pointed out that when the corps member approached him for the apiary idea, he immediately gave approval because he saw his passion.

"I was not even bothered about his disability because I know the proposal would create a sense of belonging to the community of the physically challenged in this area."

The Special Adviser of Physically-challenged persons in the state, Paul Adelabu, himself physically-challenged, stressed the need for the community to be empathetic towards the physically challenged, clarifying: "by showing empathy you are giving us a sense of directive and renewing our hope while your sympathy conveys another meaning; that of pity and banishment. The gesture of this youth corps member, Rasak Bamikunle is instructive and telling you not to look down on the physically-challenged."

He pleaded with the directorate of the NYSC in the state to consider Rasak for both the state and national awards.

In his remarks, an obviously excited Rasak stated that he hinted the idea out of concern and passion for people "of my kind which are the people either born with one deformity or the other or those who came about deformity through accident or sickness. He decried the neglect of the physically-challenged by the society and call for a change in attitude.

"It is regrettable that the society, even our immediate family often has a low esteem of us, as people deserving no much attention with the thought that what good thing can come out of our Nazareth."

According to him, his desire to give back to the society pushed him into the project, hinting that each time, he always marvelled at his luck in life and could no longer fold his hands and watch members of the physically challenged community going through deprivations, abandonment, neglect, poverty and begging.

He added, "the enormous development concern of government particularly on the provision of infrastructure like roads, hospitals, water, electricity, education and others makes it difficult for government at all levels to have a holistic development programme and policies for the physically challenged as it is done in advanced countries.

Rasak explained that he sought a means of gainful employment for the members of the physically challenged community in order to create a common wealth for them through a committee that will supervise the management of the proceed from the cooperative bee farm for the eventual training of members of the group. The training, according to him could be education so that they will not be a burden to the society at large.

He cited some successful physically challenged individuals, who includ Pastor Obadare, Ayodele Adekanmbi who is now a lawyer, pop musician, Steve Wonder and Adelabu who he said did not allow their physical deformity to weigh them down from harnessing their potentials which has seen them rise to the peak of their careers.

The youth corps member submitted that if a physically challenged is given an enabling environment to harness his potentials, he could excel more than the able-bodied in the same field.

"It is this enabling environment, the required opportunity for fourth that the physically challenged are deprived of by their immediate family, the society and the government and it is as part of efforts to arrest the trend that pushed me to come to their aid through this project. He later presented the farm to the physically challenged in the local council, "to engage their hands in a positive work and have an assured future through qualitative education so that they will not be perpetual dependants on the society.

Rasak later told THISDAY that he learnt about apiary during one of the long industrial actions of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

"I used to visit the farm in Ogbomoso to study nature and suddenly the urge for the study of bees came to me. I later used the internet as the legwork since with my state; I could hardly wok and as well used my two hands maximally. I continued with the research on the internet until it came to a time when I needed to exert physical efforts. I later recruited some people to assist me while I directed them on what to do. He confessed that he has a beekeeping farm, which he is nurturing. The Iseyin community, in appreciation of the farm, later raised a nine-member committee to monitor the project.

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