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‘We cater for children of the mentally challenged’

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 By Victor Ogunyinka

know how far anyone would go to have a child even when they know that
the child comes with some ‘floodgate of disturbance’, but what I will
never understand is why anyone, after growing a passionate relationship
with an unborn child for nine months and in some cases, deliver through
pains, would decide to dump the baby by the roadside or in a public
toilet or in the dustbin!

Babies are a beauty to behold; they are the special ones that readily
understudy your actions and inactions and form a life and develop a
habit out of it.

But in recent times, their level of endangerment rose geometrically
and aroused the interest of governments, agencies and individuals to
protect ‘the heritage of the Lord’, as the bible describes them.

In a bid to protect children, many rehabilitation centres have been
built by both government and individuals to ensure that children that
have been victims of torture and rejection are protected and giving a
soothing life, away from home.

What is worrisome is how the health of these children is protected in the storm of killer diseases that prey more on children.

 A visit to a children home in Akure, the Ondo State capital,
presents a prototype of how the health of children is paramount and
protected in a place they have known for a lifetime as home in the hands
of those they have submitted to as parents and guardians.

Speaking to the Director, Child Development, Ministry of Women
Development, Ondo State, Mr Ogunleye Oluwaniyi, he explained that the
state-owned children home, established in 1991, was aimed at caring,
protecting and impacting the lives of abandoned children by attending to
their health issues and giving them quality education in order to
protect their self-esteem as they grow.

Mr Oluwaniyi, on how and where they get the children from, explained
that they are from trafficking. Some of them were abandoned; some were
stolen children; others are orphans or had lost their parents in the
process of child bearing. Also, some are from mentally challenged

While painting a picture of the age range of the wards, Mrs Eunice
Olotu, a social worker at the children home said that there is no age
barrier, as long as they are not adults and cannot take care of
themselves. “Presently, we have children from a day-old to about 15
years,” she said.

It should be noted that some of these children, no doubt, considering
how and where they come from need adequate health are provision to
survive and grow healthy.

Mrs Olotu said: “To meet the health demands of these children, we
have trained and qualified nurses that attend to any health developments
among them. We do our best to make sure the environment is tidy enough
for them to have good health. In a case where health issues arise; they
are well taken care of and when it becomes critical, they are
transferred to the general hospital. Also, whenever there is an
immunisation exercise in the country, those within the age range are
made to participate fully.”

The place of individuals and private organisations in sustaining
orphanages globally is well documented and has helped a long way in
easing the limitless task from government.

In the course of compiling this piece, one of the regular callers at
the children home, Prophetess Gbemisola Adesida, president of United
Ladies Club, expressed that she had formed a habit of visiting
regularly, noting that one of her most memorable moments in life was
having birthday celebration with the children.

“Children are very precious and you know this is beyond the sole
responsibility of the government; they also need the support of the
entire citizenry to give them the life they desire. Whenever the
children see people around them, it makes them happy because it sends a
message of care to them.

“I would say I am a friend of this children’s home; I celebrated my
last birthday in December with these children and it is one to remember
for me because they sang and danced for me. There has also been other
persons from my church that has been here at intervals and we don’t
intend to stop anytime soon,” she stated.

One of the children under the care of the Children Home, Esther
Afolabi (not real names), 15, having lived away from home for about six
years has found comfort in her makeshift home, stating “I learnt so much
from my guardians and I don’t feel inferior to my peers in school
because I can do even better than some of them.”

While encouraging philanthropists and other Nigerians to join the
bandwagon of free givers to orphanages, Prophetess Adesida stated that
one doesn’t have to be wealthy before giving.

Mr Oluwaniyi explained that the children home has enjoyed a lasting
partnership with law enforcement agencies and the state commissioner of
health, Dr Dayo Adeyanju, who have made it easier to locate endangered
children around the state and give them optimum health can attention.

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