Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Coming across 15-year-old Kamdi Lee Okeke and his 13-year-old sister, Indrani, both secondary school students of Spring of Life International School, Enugu, was by chance.
A schoolmate of theirs, who lived in the same compound, had told her friend that her face shield was produced by two siblings in her school and, on inquiry, the reporter was led to meet the students.
The interaction revealed that the teenagers were thrown into confusion the day they were told that some health workers at the teaching hospital in Enugu where their mother worked as a doctor were infected with the coronavirus disease. Their apprehension was heightened when their mother confirmed to them that she and the infected health workers were actually working in the same department and that she was going to the state COVID-19 centre for tests as she prepared to go into self-isolation.
Days later, their father complained that he had symptoms of malaria, and both their parents went into isolation. After taking some medications, the man got better after some days. Their mother’s COVID-19 test also came out negative. It was a relief to the family.
But the siblings were still troubled that their mother had to return to the frontlines of the COVID-19 war with the possibility that their mother and other members of the family might still get infected with the dreaded disease.
In the midst of their worries, they had frequent discussions with their elder brother, 17-year-old Tony Kabilan Okeke, an undergraduate student in the United States, who was also locked down in the university hostel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The trio concluded that they had to get into the trenches to offer help to the first responders and health workers confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.
They then floated an organisation, which they called Youth Advocacy Against COVID-19 (YAAC), which became the umbrella of their action. They went into advocacy services, through the social media, especially in the area of sensitisation on containment of COVID-19 spread. They also took personal initiative into local technology and started the production and distribution of transparent plastic face shields to frontline health workers in different hospitals in Enugu State.
For the face shield project, Kamdi said: “We developed a cost-effective design for transparent face shields using Fusion 360 design software to create the visual representation of the face shield we wanted to make. Then, to keep our organisation out of project pinch and have a proper project plan over time, we developed Gantt Charts, our project management tool, which assisted us in the planning and scheduling aspects of the projects, indicating the status of, as well as who is responsible for each task in the project. We were thus able to effectively manage time and resources and maximise production. To fund the project, we emptied our piggy banks as we searched for, and procured the materials for production of face shields: transparent film, 1.75mm thick foam, elastic bands, gum, adhesive tape, stapler machine, pins and other miscellaneous materials. After purchasing the first stock of the raw materials we converted the family study into a makeshift workshop, and production started.
“The special face shield we produce is worn overhead with the transparent plastic panel, protectively projected downwards across and to protect the face region from the mouth up to the forehead above the eyes as a guard against possible coronavirus droplets directed at the user’s face region. It is advancement from the common face or nose mask to ensure a more effective protection against corona virus infection.”
On June 23, using their Youth Advocacy Against COVID -19 platform, the two siblings, Kamdi and Indrani, started the distribution of their locally fabricated face shields. They donated 150 units of face shields to Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu. On the occasion of the handover, Kamdi said: “The transparent plastic shield is our personal initiative with local technology to protect people’s lives, especially health workers at the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Our resolve to embark on this project was sparked up by the heat of the current disturbing spate of transmission of the coronavirus. The health workers and other people on the frontline are heroes of the moment; we shall continue to explore other ways of making our contributions felt in that direction.”
The chairman, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), ESUTH chapter, Dr. Joseph Enebe, who received the donation on behalf of the hospital, commended the rare initiative of the teenage students in community service and described it as a mark of brighter future for the society.
Dr. Enebe expressed the readiness of the medical community in the state to ensure unwavering commitment to the containment of the disease and acknowledged the motivating effort of Enugu State Government for the intensified fight against COVID-19 in the state.
Also, on July 8, they extended the initiative to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu, by donating 200 transparent face shields to the hospital to assist the frontline health workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamdi and Indrani were received on that occasion by the chief medical director of UNTH, Dr. Obinna Onodugo, who said that officials of the hospital had continued to put in their best to ensure safety of members of the society who depend on them. Dr. Onodugo commended the teenagers for their efforts and responsive initiative in community service even as teenagers and promised that the hospital would translate their philanthropic contributions to greater service delivery in the fight against the dreaded coronavirus pandemic in the country.
On August 5, the duo moved to the Enugu State Ministry of Health, where the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Emmanuel Obi, received their donation of 350 face shields, which they said were for the seven district hospitals located in Nsukka, Enugu Ezike, Isi Uzo, Agbani, Awgu, Udi, and Uwani Enugu for the safety of the frontline health workers.
Addressing the commissioner, they said the face shields should be distributed to the seven district hospitals for the safety of the frontline fighters, emphasising that the community spread of the virus has automatically increased the patient traffic in the district hospitals, exposing the health workers to greater danger of coronavirus infection.
The commissioner, who was with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, said while receiving the donation that the ministry and health officials in the state had been putting their best to ensure the safety of the people of Enugu State in this challenging period of COVID-19 pandemic. He commended the children for making proper use of the COVID-19-enforced out-of-school time to showcase their spectacularly responsive initiative and daunting efforts at the early stages of their life which holds a strong and good promise for their future. He said seeing children embarking on this level of selfless community service shows that there was hope for a better Nigeria. The commissioner assured that the protective equipment would be judiciously distributed to all the district hospitals in the state, adding that such would translate to enhancement of greater service delivery in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Furthermore, in preparation for the reopening of schools in Enugu State after the lockdown, Kamdi and Indrani extended the distribution of their locally fabricated face shields to the state school system through the Ministry of Education. While handing over 500 face shields to Enugu State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, Kamdi explained that the resumption of schools across Nigeria in the midst of a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic called for concerted efforts from all and sundry to keep the children as well as all those who work in the school system safe.
In his response, Prof. Eze described their effort as a rare occurrence considering their age, even as he commended them for their ingenuity, thoughtfulness and progressive initiative. He assured them that he would ensure that the materials were put to proper use.
The siblings also visited their school, the Spring of Life International School, Enugu, where they donated 110 units of the face shields to the authorities.
In separate responses, the director of Spring of Life International Schools, Mrs. Stella Adibe, and the principal, Mrs. Martha Okwudili, appreciated the independent initiative and kind gesture of the students in the production and donation of the protective equipment. They expressed their pride the two teenage siblings were worthy ambassadors of their school.
Meanwhile, Kamdi and Indrani have said that they would continue their effort in combating the spread of the virus through social media sensitisation on increased awareness using the instrumentality of YAAC.