ECHOES OF A SMILE

smileOn the last day of a 3-day event at Afara Leadership Centre, I with some of my friends visited Modupe Cole Memorial. They are Ilamosi, Emole, Uche, Michelle, Ebele, Benadette and Kosi. Modupe Cole Memorial is a place for people with disabilities (I had no idea!). We arrived at Modupe Cole in the afternoon, with some clothes and shoes to give to the residents. Like I said earlier, I didn’t know the school was a center for the mentally and physically challenged until I saw the residents. It was momentarily shocked. As we got registered, we told the person in charge that we were there to help them. So Ilamosi, Michelle and I swept a big room, like a reception. When we were done, we went into some rooms where the little children were. Not only were there little children, there was an old man also and some others I didn’t know whether to classify them as old or young.
As I was walking around, looking as though I was in another world, I felt a hand on my leg and I looked down to see a girl sitting on the floor with a coaster biscuit in her month. She was smiling widely and she bought out her hand to shake me. I stooped low and gave her a handshake, and then she removed the biscuit from her month and said “Egba mi o!” I sensed that was the only word in her vocabulary because she continued saying it. She was deformed. Her legs were folded beneath her but she was smiling. Her brother was lying on the bed, even more mangled than she and I shook him too. Her name is Taiwo and her brother Kehinde. I played with them for a while then I moved on to a huge tray full of plates of untouched food. A-disabled-child-and-his--007I took one plate and asked one of the staff who I could feed. I was directed to a man/boy, who couldn’t talk, had folded legs and hands and was continuously rocking himself. I approached him, greeted him, and told him my name is Ezinne and that it was time for lunch. Lunch was Beans and Rice. As I fed him, I told him about myself and my studies, my home, and school. He didn’t respond. But then, I saw his fingernails, they were beautiful. Then an attendant came over and lay him down and told me to keep him down while I fed him. He tried to get up but I told him to please lie down and he did. After feeding him, I gave him water and left.

I went back to Taiwo, who was now with Ebele, and she was trying to get Taiwo to eat her biscuits. Taiwo couldn’t chew, she could only swallow. It would take a while for her spittle to soften the biscuit before she could swallow, so we changed tactics. We dipped the biscuits inside water softening them before feeding her. It worked! Ilamosi and Michelle also came over to say Hello. Then we went over to join the other girls. They had made two new friends in the school; Seun and Kehinde. They were all smiles – Seun couldn’t walk and you had to strain to hear Kehinde- and they had the brightest smile I had ever seen in my life. Kehinde is very pretty. Then I went back to chat with Taiwo’s brother, Kehinde. He couldn’t talk and was just lying on the bed, staring at me.
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Then it was time to go. We went to the back yard and washed our hands. But when we were about to leave, we dropped in on the Kehinde to tell her goodbye, I met another Taiwo, Kehinde’s elder sister and another lady who was staying in the room with them. The lady who was sitting on the bed had deformed legs and hands but made the most beautiful beadworks ever. The beadworks were precise, beautifully done and awesome. Unfortunately I didn’t have any money with me so I couldn’t buy any. When we came out into the compound, almost all of them began saying their goodbyes. One of the residents came up and demanded a hug and it was difficult to refuse him. Then we left amidst more good byes.

My experience was awesome! I got to make new friends in Taiwo, the two Kehindes and Seun. Although each one of them had a disability, it was overshadowed by their cheerfulness and selflessness. They were the best!

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