For the second time, TheAfricanDream.net in its Heroes of COVID-19 series looked to Nigeria to celebrate individuals and organizations who are performing their duties or contributing their effort to preserve humanity while the world fights against the novel coronavirus. After careful consideration, we are shining some light on Mrs. Funmi Olagunju Gbadamosi.
And for this month of October in 2020, our hero of COVID-19 is Mrs. Gbadamosi, a Nigerian Disability Advocate.
“My late husband grew up in a dysfunctional home. When I met him he was alone with no one to care for him, his siblings didn't want to identify with him despite the fact that he had four of them” Funmi lamented.
“When he told them that a lady had agreed to marry him they thought he was joking. Thank God for these women who decided to care for him, especially Mrs. Oluwasanmi and Mrs Adewuyi. You know growing up in such a family definitely affected his future. His case was actually what birth WACWDI,” said Funmi to TheAfricanDream.net in an interview.
Funmi's late husband is a visually impaired Nigerian man whose life inspired her to found Women and Children with Disability Initiative (WACWDI), a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization set up to ensure that children with disabilities from dysfunctional or disadvantaged homes have access to quality education early in life.
WACWDI also supports women to acquire skills that will make them contribute to the growth of society while providing for themselves.
The other inspiration behind Fumni's founding of WACWDI
WACWDI was created over a decade ago in 2010 as a response to the need to protect women and children with disabilities from any form of abuse, empowers them, promotes and respects the standard set out by the 1989 convention on the rights of the child. Mrs. Funmi envisions a world where women and children with disabilities will attain full potential and contribute to societal growth.
Mrs. Gbadamosi told TheAfricanDream.net that inspiration comes from God. "Early in my marriage", she narrates that besides her husband, her nonprofit also started after: "I came across a blind girl who was being stigmatized by her own biological mother. She was introduced to me and my late husband by her father who cared so much about her, and before I knew it, I became fond of her. I made an arrangement with her Aunt to drop her off at our place every day and pick her up later in the day" Funmi said.
Funmi in middle (wearing glasses) with a child leaning on her / photo courtesy WACWDI
“I started teaching her mobility, making her do things by herself, helping her boost self-confidence, and to cut the long story short, one morning the Aunt came and when I asked after her niece, she told me the bad news and that left me devastated.“
The narration above was what drove Funmi to bring children who have been written off in life to her home and make them become who God has destined them to be. She added that being married to a blind person and witnessing how people with disabilities are stigmatized was enough motivation for her to begin her cause.
When the name of Mrs. Gbadamosi was recommended to TheAfricanDream.net to be considered as a hero of COVID-19, we started gathering information about this great woman. We discovered she is a retired trained Secretary who worked with the National Library of Nigeria. She did some online courses on care-giving to advance her knowledge about her passion for caring for people in general, advocating for the visually impaired, women, and the physically challenged.
US-based civil rights attorney endorses WACWDI
TheAfricanDream.net decided to celebrate Funmi as our October Hero of COVID-19 because we became fascinated by how she is taking care of blind children and people with other forms of disabilities during a pandemic. She admitted that Covid-19 has indeed made her already herculean task more difficult. One can imagine how hard it will be to advise blind children to adhere to precautions and protocols laid down by the World Health Organization against COVID-19.
It is already difficult to instruct children, in general, to wear their masks, observe social distancing, wash their hands with soap under running water among other things, now add being visually or physically challenged to the fraction and you will begin to appreciate how amazing a job Funmi is doing, especially in a continent that is only now beginning to accept the plight of the disabled.
Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII who is a professional history as an attorney with the Education Department of the United States and is also a non-profit leader and strategic partnership consultant first mentioned Funmi and her work to us here at TheAfricanDream.net in the US.
Ollie who also happens to be a nationally recognized speaker and advocate for the visually impaired in the US. As a leader of change within the civil rights arena for more than 20 years in the non-profit and governmental world, Ollie had a lot of praise and support for the work being done by Mrs. Gbadamosi, so it was only natural that we delve deeper into it.
Funmi said the pandemic has had a critical blow on the world's finance and WACWDI has really felt it as an NGO which heavily relies on donor agencies and support from benevolent individuals and organizations to pursue its agenda. Mrs. Gbadamosi said the most pressing demands are funding and accommodation. “You'd be amazed at how these children have come to realize and appreciate the effects of COVID-19 and are working on becoming adaptive to this 'new normal,'” she said.
These kids have had a lot taken away from their lives — but they too are fighting COVID-19
But it was also good to hear her say “I have never thought of giving up because I believe the God who called me to this assignment would always make provisions for us.” Said the woman who sometimes digs into her own pocket to finance this work. She told us another story about how on one “particular day when I woke up in the morning and realized there was nothing for the children to eat, I began to think of what I could sell in the house to buy food for my special children.”
“I eventually sold my gas cooker at a ridiculous price for those people that buy scraps, it's a day I will never forget. The following day, somebody blessed us with a new gas cooker. God indeed makes provision,” Funmi reiterated.”
“The Nigerian strong woman was full of praises for the children, as she painted a picture of how hard it is when a thing like the sense of touch has been taken away from the visually impaired owing to COVID-19 safety protocols, and yet “my babies are still adapting, still smiling, and still believing in life,” she says during the interview.
“What more can I ask for besides this,” Funmi said rhetorically. But oh well, on behalf of TheAfricanDream.net we will love to congratulate Mrs. Funmi Gbadamosi for being our October 2020 COVID-19 hero.
We also appeal to all that WACWDI still needs your support as an organization to build a permanent resident where the children can call their own. “The present place they are using is a rented apartment and is too small. We could do much more if we are not limited by space,” the advocate appealed.
You can follow the organization on Facebook: WOMEN AND CHILDREN WITH DISABILITY INITIATIVE, or visit their website at wacwdi.org for more information.