Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
It was a moment of joy for 30 physically challenged persons in Owerri, the Imo State capital, recently, as a two-week intensive skill acquisition programme came to an end. The training covered varied special skills on shoe making, confectionary, bead making, headgears, phone repairs, makeup, wig making and photography.
Sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in collaboration with the Impact Life Medical Foundation, the programme was aimed at making the special ones self-reliant in the society in the midst of growing unemployment in the country.
Aside the skills, the organisers also presented starter packs to the participants to enable them set up their own businesses after the programme, and also mobility aids like wheel chairs, crutches and canes to aid their movement.
State coordinator of the programme, Mrs Ogechi Okehielam, explained that the programme was geared towards meeting the global unemployment challenge especially as it concerns the physically challenged.
According to her, many disabled persons have suffered great neglect in the country today due to their deformity, thereby creating a wide gulf between them and their counterparts. It was this glaring disparity that made her enrol them for the empowerment programme free of charge.
She therefore, called on the federal government to support people with special needs and integrate them back into the society, this, she believed, would reduce the begging mentality in some of them who had lost hope.
Okehielam said: “The dire consequences of unemployment were on the increase and the near total neglect of the physically challenged persons across the states, employment generation had therefore become “a factor of paramount importance to every nation development agenda.”
She further advised the beneficiaries to make the best of the opportunity and exploit it for self-reliance and wealth creation.
She however, commended the NDDC for the laudable programme and urged them to continue with the project to enable more physically challenged persons benefit.
One of the beneficiaries, Mr Godspower Anyanwu who was trained on mobile phone repair expressed huge excitement as he commended the organisers, affirming that with what he has learnt, he could setup a business of his own.
Almost in tears of joy, Anyanwu said: “This is a wonderful day for me, I no longer feel like a disabled person, but a normal person who can compete with others. Before now, I saw myself as inferior to them but not anymore because what they can do, I can do it better.”
He also called on the NDDC to sustain the programme in order to give more physically challenged persons hope of a better future.
Another beneficiary, Tochukwu Nwokeukwu, who received training on shoe-making said he could establish a small scale business with the starter pack given to him.
A graduate of an unnamed tertiary institution, Nwokeukwu revealed that he gave up searching for job after his education, and expressed gratitude to the organisers for giving him hope to live again.
“It is not easy going through the four walls of school only to sit at home and be fed by those who look up to you to be their helper in future. I searched for job for several years without any success, some of them would not even look at your CV the moment they notice you are sitting on a wheel chair or being aided by another person to move, such is the condition of the physically challenged. But with the training today, I do not need to beg anybody for employment, rather I would look for those to employ. I have acquired better skills to train others in future,” Nwokeukwu said.
A visually impaired beneficiary, Mr Friday Chukwuneke, who trained on bead making, on his own part, advised other beneficiaries to seize the opportunity to become self-reliant.