AFRICA/NIGERIA - Guanellian missionaries' commitment towards the disabled: "To promote the dignity and integral development of the person"

Saturday, 14 September 2019 disabled   disabled   social services  

Owerri (Agenzia Fides) - "Being a person with disabilities in Africa, almost always, means meeting a future of marginalization and poverty: here adequate health facilities are lacking and often socio-cultural barriers transform disability into suffering and isolation". This is what Fr. Kelechi Maduforo, Superior of the Opera Don Guanella in Nigeria reports to Agenzia Fides. The congregation has been present and at the service of disabled people in Nigeria for thirty years: "Many children with 'special needs' - he reports - do not have access to education, because the facilities equipped to accommodate them are very few and often private, and more often than not they are also taken away from the same families, who do not know how to take care of them due to lack of economic resources".
In addition the African nation has no institutional provisions for social assistance and there is no political vision that leads to genuine integration into society: "Although laws have been approved in favor of the disabled, there are no funds for structural support that gives life to networks of public and private centers able to work in synergy on the front of care and integration", observes Father Kelechi. "Authorities tell us that we do an indispensable job; but then they hardly support us", he underlines. "In Nigeria - he continues - many people with disabilities are unable to attend schools: only between 5 and 10% enroll in regular courses. The result is that no more than 5% of disabled adults are able to read and write correctly".
To help these people and enable them to have a more serene life, the "Don Guanella Center Nnebukwu", in the diocese of Owerri, was opened in 1992. The Center’s priority and goal is care, education and rehabilitation of disabled or those with special needs, in situations such as epilepsy, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. "During these years - says the Guanellian priest - in the center hundreds of people with disabilities have been rehabilitated, some of whom have returned to their homes, their families". In addition to rehabilitation assistance, the center also runs a day school and a small farm, where cassava flour and palm oil are produced: "these activities serve as occupational therapy for our children with mental problems and as a means of livelihood for the center", he clarified. In this context, the Guanellians try to involve families by building networks, so that individual households help each other. (ES) (Agenzia Fides, 14/9/2019)