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Intl. Day of People With Disabilities: KIR Foundation Empowers Physically Challenged Persons With Work Tools, Gifts

As the world marks this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on December 3, a non-governmental organization in Rivers State, Keeping It Real Foundation KIR, has organized a one-day workshop for physically challenged people who are small business owners.

The event which was held on Friday, at the NGO’s Inclusive Community Centre, Odili Road, Port Harcourt, featured presentation of work tools to over 15 business owners, talk on business ethics and digital marketing, dance, performance by a virtually impaired musicologist, Pious Sylva, training on how to use social media platforms to increase sells, an interactive session, among others.

To support their skills, KIR Foundation gifted a filing machine to a shoe maker, Mr. Pious Barikume, who has mobility challenge, a mannequin to Ruth Ogele, a seamstress, Precious Godfirst who is virtually impaired received a Gas Cylinder, Happiness Sunday a hair stylist, who is hearing impaired was given hair dryer, among several others.

The keynote speaker at the event was the founder of PADHer Initiative, Mrs. Ngozi Ukpai-Okoro, while some of the facilitators were, the founder of the Small Business Workshop, Mrs. Amarachi Stanley Duru, KIR Foundation Media Personality, Mr. Atat Charles, head of marketing, Sundry Markets Limited, owners of Market Square, Mr. Timothy Abati and others.

International Day of Persons with Disability is about understanding disability issues, mobilizing supports for the dignity and promoting the rights and well-being of persons who are physically challenged at every level of society and development.

It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, as promoted by the United Nations since 1992 and observed around the planet.

In her address, the Executive Director, Mrs. Bitebo Gogo, who spoke on the theme, “Leave No One Behind: The Disability Perspective On The SDGs”, charged the participants to be resourceful, productive, insisting that they can be and achieve what ever they set their minds on.

She explained in an exclusive interview with East West Reporters, that, “What’s happening here today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it falls on a Sunday, so we decided to mark it on a Friday, so that everybody have enough time to have that conversation.

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“This workshop is organized to empower persons living with disabilities with work tools and also to ensure that people living with disabilities understand their rights.

“We want them to understand that they are important in their environment, they should be able to communicate with people who are not living with disabilities in such a way that they are epiphytic to their challenges.”

Gogo charged those not living with disabilities not to, “look down on those who are physically challenged. This workshop is to encourage them to work, get better at what they do, be productive, be at their best, far better than those who feel they are normal while these ones according to them are not.

“The society should stop the discrimination against these ones but most importantly, we have gathered them here to encourage them not to let anybody to leave them behind, because no one can leave them behind except they want to be left behind, that is what we are doing here today.”

The KIR Foundation ED further advised the physically challenged to ensure that the skills they have acquired are turned into profitable businesses.

Also, one of the facilitators, Mrs. Amarachi Stanley Duru, explained that, “today is the day we remember people who are physically challenged, so we call it International Day of People living with disabilities, today is not actual day of celebration but it’s the period when we do that, and today’s event is about empowering people with disabilities, so basically what we’ve talked about today in my session is how to scale up businesses.

“These people have been taught, trained, equipped with skills, now, they are about to start their own businesses, how do they go about it, how do they ensure that the skills they have acquired can be turned into profitable businesses, that is what we are talking about today.

“The interesting thing is that Keeping It Real Foundation has done an amazing job; doing the work where you move people from the mindset of self-pity; I always need to be helped to where they can actively begin to do things for themselves.

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“You heard people talking about businesses they do, you also saw people who teach, who work just like everyone else, and in my opening statement, I mentioned that disability is in the mind, there are people who are physically able but they are still challenged because they feel they don’t have the capacity, so, there is no distinction between who is physically challenged and the person who is not, because the mindset remain if anybody else can, I can, right? So, Keeping It Real Foundation has been progressively working around changing the mindset.”

Recalling the 2022 celebration of the International Day of People with Disabilities, she said, “I remember when we had the session in 2022, we spoke about mindset, and this people have gone through a journey, they have graduands online who have gone through a period of training, acquired skills, it’s about mindset, if you have someone who is physically challenged who can do graphics design, who can do social media and digital marketing, there are people who have all their faculties and yet are not able to do these. So, to the participants my words are very simple, just go and act, take actions.”

The KIR Foundation Media Personality, Atat Charles, described the turnout as engaging. He said this was because, “it is not easy for these people to come out to participate, as we speak it is raining, we don’t have infrastructures that is enabling for them to come, most of them are on wheel chairs, there are people that are sight challenged, so they need guidance.

“How many Nigerians are even willing to guide these people? Because we now hear issues where you hear people say, oh! their private parts are missing, so there is that scare, there is also kidnapping, so the fact that they are able to come out with the challenges they have just to communicate, to convene and be part of the event, for me, it’s already enough.”

Atat added that, “almost every adult in Nigeria has a disability, disability is not only I am blind, I can’t see, some have retentive memory issue, some have internal disability that until you go to the hospital you will know, what I will say is, you never know what is going to happen, there are people here who were walking and then they had accident, there are people who had glaucoma, so never say never, we are not praying for bad, but you never know who next, so you need to learn to live with these people.”

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To the participants, he said, “They should go back and practice what they’ve learnt, they’ve learnt how to make profit with their business, speak for themselves, skills and mindset, mindset is important, so, they should go back with that mindset that people will see them and not their disability.”

Representative from one of her sponsors, applauded the NGO for always supporting those living with disabilities, and affirmed the continual support of Sundry Markets Limited to those physically challenged.

Mr. Timothy Abati, said, “we and Keeping It Real Foundation have a long relationship, that has span the years, we do support them in all way we can, and that is what we stand for as a business, supporting and giving back to society and these are part of the little things we give back as CSR initiative.

“We always ensure we support those that are in need, which is one of the reasons for supporting this people and this is what we’ve done for years, every year we do come, speak with them and encourage them to be the better version of themselves, so basically for us, it’s about just giving back to the society and encouraging them to do more, that’s just it.”

On behalf of the beneficiaries of the KIR Foundation empowerment, Mr. Pious Barikume appreciated the founder, facilitators and organizers of the workshop which he described as impressive.

In his words, “Keeping It Real Foundation is keeping it real, and I am impressed with what I see, I have known Bitebo Gogo for a while now, we’ve done some little things together like by way of working with persons with disabilities we have crossed paths severally and coming here again together, I was invited for this programme, they are really touching lives and I am impressed.”

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