On December 3rd 2014 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Keeping it Real (KIR) Foundation in collaboration with the Niger Delta Coalition of Persons with Disabilities observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2014. As an Online United Nations Volunteer who covers UN Observance, I was live at the Atrium to witness proceedings at this inspiring event that gave everyone something to reflect on as our perceptions of disability were challenged and stretched beyond limit.
It's All About Ability
In her welcome address Mrs Bitebo Gogo, the founder of Keeping It Real (KIR) Foundation, challenged people with disabilities to look beyond their current disabilities because, despite their disabilities they still have potentials that if harnessed, could make them exceptional people. Mrs Bitebo Gogo through KIR Foundation is leading advocacy for people with disabilities in a region of the world where persons with disabilities are totally forgotten, ignored, marginalized and face the most extreme forms of discrimination. She also noted that beyond speaking for persons with disabilities, KIR foundation hopes to create a platform for persons with disabilities to express themselves and be their own voice by becoming self-advocates. She practically demonstrated this, in every detail, in the way this event was executed.
The event started with the Nigerian National Anthem played by Mr Kalu, a visually impaired keyboardist, and all through the event, which was beautifully anchored by Mmanti Umoh, persons with disabilities glowed on stage with their exceptional ability.
Technology and Disability
The 2014 theme for IDPWD was Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology, and all facilitators at the event remarked on how technology has assisted them to effectively deal with the various challenges of living with disabilities. KIR Foundation also encouraged scientists and inventors to become more focused on disability issues by providing innovative, more affordable and easily accessible technological solutions that will enable persons with disabilities to integrate better into the society.
Africa's First Blind Photographer
The highpoint of the event was the presentation of awards to persons, with or without disabilities, who have forged the cause of advocacy for persons with disabilities in Nigeria. One awardee to note, who also facilitated at the event, is Miss Taiwo Lawal. Born blind in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood, Miss Taiwo is an accessory designer, crafts instructor, and photographer whose passion for life erases the word 'Impossible' from the dictionary.
Doing a demonstration on stage, Miss Taiwo took snapshots that revealed to everyone how active the mind's eye can be. Her beautiful snapshots, which she has never seen, have been featured on several platforms including the Nigerian Photography Expo and Conference 2013, and she was listed at that Expo as one of the photographers to look out for.
The absence of an organized non-profit sector in Nigeria makes it difficult for NGOs like KIR Foundation to carry out their work effectively, but when people like Mrs Bitebo Gogo strive beyond all odds to do something to touch the lives of those in need, I think they deserve recognition.
It was no co-incidence that this event happened a day after #GivingTuesday, a day set aside for the world to give back. Mrs Bitebo once told me about a project she carried out in Lagos, Nigeria, where boys from a home for boys who used to live on the streets became volunteers at the Anglo-Saxon Center for the Blind and the Red Cross Orphanage in Yaba, Lagos. The boys were not only excited, but felt a keen sense of responsibility and self worth because, for once they were given an opportunity to give back and become contributing members of the society, and it got the street children surprised at the fact that they also had something to give back.
Most times, when we think of charity our minds go to Forbes Billionaires, but the fact is we all have something to give back out of the abundant blessings that enrich our lives every day. The fact that you are alive right now, you have the unique blessing of this moment, reading this article is enough reason. What will you give today? Your touch, smile, time, tweet, kind word, helping hand, experience, expertise, books, clutter, other resources, or money?
Do not just give at Christmas or #GivingTuesday. Opportunities to give abound every day, and if you have a giving heart, with a click you can give to a cause or start a cause for the good of others. Start clicking!
For more about Mrs Bitebo Gogo and KIR Foundation, visit kirfoundation.org
(Images Credit: Keeping It Real Foundation)