Wednesday, 2 December 2009

My visit to Down Syndrome Association of Nigeria (part 1)

At the beginning of October I spent 10 days in Lagos, Nigeria as the guest of the their  Down Syndrome Association during their Awareness Week.  The President of the Association had originally approached me to speak at a seminar as she was aware that I was an advocate for Down Syndrome and had 20 years experience that could be drawn on to assist them.

They were not in a position to fully fund my trip, nor could my own organisation Down's Heart Group as their charity registration only allows work in the UK, but I was so keen to offer what help I could, that I took on the job of raising the necessary funds myself.  With the help of  some fantastic support from Down's Heart Group members, friends on Facebook and Stepping Stones Nigeria, I was able to raise the money for my travel, visa and vaccinations and I suggested that I lengthen the trip to enable the Association to make as much use of me as possible.  So it was that I found myself at London Heathrow on a late night Friday flight to Lagos for my first ever visit to Africa.

I managed a few hours sleep before our early morning arrival and needn't have worried about arriving ahead of schedule as the slow progress through passport control and luggage reclaim soon sorted that out, but eventually, melting in the heat, I made my way into the arrivals area wondering how easily I would find the DSAN representatives that were going to be meeting me.  My concern melted away, when just the other side of the arrivals hall, I was met with a sea of DSAN printed t-shirts and green baseball caps, all on bodies jumping up and down and waving excitedly at me. It might have been 5am, but they'd come out in force to welcome me.

After a journey in the Association minibus, in which I was very thankful for the aircon, I got my first sight of their resource centre and finally got to meet Rose Mordi, the Association President and Founder.  There were some hurried introductions before I was whisked away to the guest house where I was staying, where I had just enough time to quickly open my suitcase, change my trousers and don the polo-shirt they had given me before we headed off to the start of the Awareness Walk through the streets of Lagos.

It was hot, although I was the only one who seemed bothered by it!  Everyone had a great time and there was lots of interest from motorists and passers-by.

Afterwards we all gathered together for photos and to talk to the press.  Everyone was laughing at how hot and red in the face I was.

More in part 2 to follow soon

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