Founder, Friends of the Deaf Int’l Foundation, Funmi Ogunro in this exciting interview with Sejoro Ekundayo told INN how she lost her deaf sister due to communication problems with medical experts and what she plans to do in the coming days for people living with disabilities in Nigeria. Funmi is a Phonics Teacher, Author, Event planner, Director of Phunmy Concepts and CEO Friends of the Deaf Int’l Foundation (FDF).
Can you tell us what inspired the birth of FDF?
It became imperative for me, with the inspiration of God, after I had lost my immediate younger sister as a result of communication gap at the hospital when she was diagnosed with typhoid and none of the health workers was able to communicate with her. Then, she was a final year student at University of Ilorin and it was 2 weeks to her wedding. She might not have died if there was no communication barrier. So, I decided to learn and to teach sign language free of charge and FDF was launched on my birthday in 2017.
What are the main objectives of FDF?
My vision for the Foundation is to Advocate and promote Inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWDs) through every platforms and with major focus on Education. PWDs are minority and have been marginalized for too long in time. But with our advocacy, we can help make life better for them by removing the barriers the society has placed before them. An Inclusive society is very possible and a right of all.
What will you have wished Deaf Association and the Association of PWDs in Lagos State did for your sister?
Life is for the living and even though my sister is gone, her legacy lives on. She was never lazy and was so full of aspirations but the lives we are able to touch through the foundation will keep her memory fresh in our hearts. I can only request for the supports of all the Associations of persons with Disabilities and also to stop seeing Disability Advocates who have no visible Disabilities as not part of the system.
I am proud to be part of the Deaf Community and we need each other, for the task ahead of us is enormous. Together we can remove stigmatization and every barrier against PWDs.
Do you have the support of your family and friends on FDF?
I appreciate the support I got from my family and particularly from the Deaf Community. Everyone who knew my late sister rose up to support me and they appreciate the works we are doing on FDF.
We learn that there is a programme you are organising this year, what’s your reason for organising such program?
The Inclusive Spelling Bee 2.0 is the second edition of what we started last year. As a Phonics Teacher, I wanted to organize a spelling bee for the schools I consult for, but as a Disability Advocate, I did not want to leave any child behind. So, together with my team we were able to work passionately, and brought to limelight the First ever Inclusive Spelling Bee coming up on March 14, 2019 at Teslim Balogun Stadium. This actually changed the narrative in the history of Spelling Bee worldwide. Children with Disabilities deserve to participate in a spelling bee and so, we celebrate their unique difference. So, this time around, we are looking at the theme, “Inclusive Education, rights for all”. This promises to be very impactful and highly competitive within each cluster and at the end of the day, everyone is a winner because there is no loser in an inclusive setting. All the children are the VIPs.
Are there plans put in place to include other Disabilities?
Yes, Inclusive Spelling Bee is leaving no child behind. All Disability Clusters are welcomed and we have prepared trophies for all winners from each cluster.
What would make this program stand out from the one you organised last year?
It is going to be bigger, more competitive and better than the first edition.
Do you have the support of the Ministry of Education and other relevant MDAs? Have you in anyway made contact with her about the program?
We have full support of the Ministry of Education and we have gotten an approval to host the event. The Chairman of the occasion is the Commissioner of Education in Lagos State, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo.
What are your expectations for this programme?
Our expectations for this program is to ensure every school put to use the Lagos State Inclusive Education Policy and by extension, all schools in Nigeria. Lagos State Government is doing tremendously well compared to other States in Nigeria, but we hope it gets better for the sake of that special needs child, for whose best we are putting up this event.
What’s your advice to the community of Deaf and Persons with Disabilities?
My advice to everyone with disability is to love and accept yourself, celebrate your unique difference and wow the world, because you are the best of your kind.
I know you are unstoppable and you can be anything you want to be, because I lived with a person with Disability for over 27years and I never have reason to doubt in her abilities. Don’t be limited by what you cannot do, but rather, focus on your strength. And I will be there as your cheerleader.