Bethesda home for the blind is a voluntary and non-profitable organization established to give attention to physically challenged persons who are visually impaired and helpless. The home is uniquely run and managed by MRS CHIOMA OHAKWE. A humble and God fearing woman. VOC News Reporter JERRY ENGOBO TIETIE had an encounter with her and she spoke extensively on sundry issues. EXCERPTS:
I am Mrs. Chioma Bernard Ohakwe. I hail from Enugu state of Nigeria. I got married in 1994 to a God fearing man Mr. Bernard Ohakwe who has greatly inspired and motivated me tremendously to shoulder the burden of managing Bethesda home for the blind. We have a family of four, a boy, and three beautiful girls.
The vision of the establishment of Bethesda home for the blind commenced operation in January 2005. And the home was registered with the corporate affairs commission on May 4th 2006. Prior to this development, the home emerged informally in the late 1990’s when a few people brought their blind relatives to join my siblings who were also physically challenged. By 2001, we had set in place a home to take care of and address the needs of the blind.
The vision and the objectives of the home is to create a home that would serve as a center of excellence in caring for the visually impaired, to enable them feel like other members of the society and be self-reliant. To promote the welfare of the blind in Nigeria. To carry out activities aimed at improving, sustaining, and bettering the standard of living of the blind in our society.
To specifically educate and care for the blind in a very decent and conducive home. To give a stress-free life to the blind by carrying out research involving in-depth study of the basic physiological needs of the blind and study of the mental status of the blind person etc.
I got the motivation to do this assignment on earth from the onset when I was a teenager. I had two siblings in our family that were visually impaired. It was highly pathetic to experience such challenges, so I was deeply moved as a result of my siblings. I thank God for his grace on my life. Today, I am really excited in doing this assignment on earth by affecting lives of the blind positively which I must say is a great experience.
The home is run by the executive management comprising of the Chief Executive Officer –CEO, executive director, program director, secretary and other nominated officers. The home also has a board of trustee, responsible for the formulation of policies and programs in line with the objectives of the home ensuring that approved policies are diligently implemented, deciding on how the fund shall be expended in line with its objectives. In addition to these, we have eight teachers and skilled instructors in our employment who train students in our home.
Every blind person who agrees to stay at the home is eligible to be admitted irrespective of the person’s place of origin, religion or cultural background. The prospective student must be willing to abide by the rules and regulations governing the home.
Facilities at the home
Presently, the home is located at No 31 Agege Motor Road,Mosholashi Bus stop Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria. Electric generating set water pumping machine, water storage tanks etc.The home has a band set which is used to provide recreation and training for the students.
Welfare of students
The home recognizes that one of the ways of ensuring the health and happiness of the students is to feed them well. Consequently, the students are properly fed and provided regularly with food supplement. The home employed experienced cooks and steward prepare meals and serve students. On health care of the students, the home has a residence nurse that regularly checks the student’s health. The home is registered with a hospital with experienced medical personnel. There is a practice in the home for students to engage in regular physical exercises to keep them fit both physically and mentally.
The home engages the service of psychologist counselors and religious group to talk to the students. This enables them to be motivated and optimistic.
Training and skills development at the home
The home believes that students can be made self-reliant irrespective of the loss of their sights. Consequently, they are made to undergo training and skills acquisition programs in the following areas: learning to read and write, proficiency in the use of computers and musical instruments, skills acquisition in drama and professional acting, skills acquisition in weaving cane chairs, bags and shoes, skills acquisition in making of slippers and sandals etc.
Funding of the home
The home is presently funded through contributions from members of the executive council and trustees, gifts and donations from good spirited members of the public, including food items and clothes, income from sales of works of arts and craft of the students.
Achievements recorded so far
So far, the home has facilitated eye surgery for three students at el-shaddai specialist eye hospital, Aba, Abia state. Two of the students who underwent the operations have regained their sights and have left the home. The students as a group currently have in their market recorded music cassette titled “it is not permanent”. The home has also produced a two part film titled “tomorrow lives” which features the students alongside some prominent actors and actresses in Nigeria movie industry like: Justus Esiri, Emeka Okafor, and others. The music CD and movies are currently being sold in the market and can be obtained from the home on request. In the education sector, some of the students are presently in the universities undergoing various courses. The home has graduated 115 students since its inception. We are also having our graduation ceremony on November 4th at the National Theatre,Lagos.
The major challenged faced by the home is in the area of funding. Funds contributed by the promoters and trustees as well as donations and gifts from well meaningful Nigerians, though highly appreciated, is hardly inadequate.
Another problem is the constant harassment and often arrests and detention of the students by law enforcement agents, when the students were involve in the outdoor performance and marketing of their music and films, such performance and marketing are often regarded as nuisance by the enforcement agents. People belong to a special group that needs sympathetic consideration.
The home is faced with accommodation problem; the present location cannot accommodate the numbers of students. We need a permanent site of our own. Welfare and payment of staff salaries have been challenging.
Future projection for improved service delivery
The home has the following strategies and plans to improve its service delivery and enhance the standard care to the visually impaired student, to enable it attain its vision in the nearest future; acquisition of a larger accommodation to enable the increasing number of blind seeking to be admitted in the home to be accommodated. Introduction of formal education programs in collaboration with other organizations, to take care of young students quest for knowledge, funding of eye surgery for three students who are waiting to undergo the procedure, acquisition of braille packing machine for teaching student on how to read and write, acquisition of a bus for the home, purchase of brail books, purchase of clothing for students, funding of a gospel band and the production of more music albums.
Allegations of non-governmental organizations diversion of funds generated
It is true that nonprofit organizations are diverting funds generated for personal use. God will judge those that are engaged in such shameful activities.
The burden of running the home is becoming very great to the visioners. Therefore, the home uses this medium “VOC News’ to appeal to all good meaningful Nigerians to come to its aid. Members of the public, corporate and government organizations and institutions, civil societies and others can help the home one way or the other by providing donations, gifts as well as sponsoring the funding of the items needed to improve service to current and prospective students. We assure that any resources received will be transparently and efficiently utilized for the purpose of promoting the objectives for which the home was established. I want to use this medium to say that our account details are as follow: Account name: Bethesda home for the blind, account number: 2007438167 bank name: first bank plc. We are expecting your kind donations for this divinely driven, inspired and motivated vision.
Thank you very much madam
Thank you my brother. God will continue to bless every one of you in “Voice of Change Network International”.