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One mother has built a better life for scores of kids with CP in Nigeria

When Nonyelum Nweke couldn’t find suitable care arrangements for her daughter with cerebral palsy, she knew she wasn't alone and decided to provide a solution.

The Live-In Project at the Cerebral Palsy Center was the result.

Where there is a need

Finding quality care is a challenge for most parents, however finding a daycare center for a child with cerebral palsy (CP) in Nigeria proved impossible for adoptive mother, Nonyelum Nweke.

“The regular daycare  center did not (most still do not) accept children with disabilities,” explains Nonyelum. “There was also a general lack of awareness of the condition of CP.”

Most people would have faltered at the lack of options available but not Nonyelum.

“I often say that if you cannot find what you need, you create it, so founding the CP Center was my attempt to create that which I needed but could not find,” she says.

The CP Center started as day respite with Nonyelum putting flyers in the hospitals where she knew parents of children with CP would go for therapy.

But building a reputation took time.

“Initially it was in trickles. Understandably, people were apprehensive. I was only a mum with neither training nor experience except what I read on the internet, but with the conviction that what I set out to do was not just needed but essential.”

Nonyelum also ran awareness education in collaboration with the paediatric and physiotherapy departments of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

“I started making TV and radio appearances talking about CP children and the challenges that families with children with CP face and possible solutions, more people got interested.”

Meeting a greater need

The need for a live-in facility became increasingly obvious to Nonyelum after a few years of operation.

With growing children, it was becoming difficult for a number of families to continue to travel to the center for respite care. Others simply lived too far away to access the service. There were also cases where parents couldn’t manage to care for their child with CP along with their other children, particularly single mothers who also needed to study or work.

In 2015, the live-in program at the CP Center commenced.

Along with children from the existing service, referrals came from the hospital as well as the Ministry of Youth and Social Development. There are now currently 12 children living in the facility.

These children benefit from regular quality therapies provided by an on-staff physiotherapist and occupational therapist. There is also a Consultant Psychiatrist who provides a weekly visit voluntarily. In addition, the Center has a good partnership with a local hospital to ensure the children’s health care and emergency needs are met.

The CP Center provides the children with quality nutrition and social engagement, two imperative life factors that most children with CP living in Africa go without.

Given the documented improvements in functional abilities and overall health of the children in her care, Nonyelum often wonders what their future would have been like if the CP Center didn’t exist.

Yet there is still more needed

While it may have taken some time for Nonyelum to get the community on board, now the demand for services like the CP Center is quite clear.

“I have at least a hundred families who have completed the waiting list form, hoping that I get a bigger space and take them in,” she says.

So that is exactly what she intends to do. While the CP Center runs solely on donations, Nonyelum has been saving what she can and has recently achieved the impressive task of purchasing an acre of land to construct a larger, purpose-built facility.

And this extraordinary woman doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We also intend to replicate this project in other states of the country as we are getting inquiries constantly from out of state. Already we are discussing with a group of parents in a nearby state where we have visited to sensitise families.”