Lekan Tejuosho is the founder of Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to motivate and provide succour for people living with disabilities. In this interview by SEGUN ADEBAYO, Tejuosho speaks about the challenges of the organization, among other issues.
You are the founder of the Tejuoso Muscular Dysthrophy Foundation (DTMDF), a foundation that has been in the forefront of advocating for people living with different disabilities. What informed your decision to float this organisation?
My interest actually stemmed from a personal experience. Having muscular dystrophy in Nigeria must be tough, especially for people without a strong support system. I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2007 when it was still pretty strange in Nigeria. I thought of creating a platform that would cater to people going through the same thing but may not be lucky enough to have the kind of support I had in family and friends.
In Nigeria, people living with disabilities don’t seem to be getting enough support and attention from government save for the intervention of a few private organisations. Does it bother you that despite the efforts over the years, the story remains the same?
It is really disheartening that we have found ourselves in this situation. However, the story is beginning to change. Laws to address disability issues are already being put in place. This year, as you may know, a commission has been established to cater to the needs of people of the disability community. These are baby steps, yes, but they are steps in the right direction.
In a country where people with disabilities also battle stigmatisation, what has your foundation been doing to give hope to people like these?
We have organised quite a number of sensitisation programmes to educate the populace about the harm that stigmatisation does. We’ve also gone on different media talk shows on radio and on television to ensure that no one is left behind. In all this, we at DTMDF are encouraged when we see the smiles and hopes on the faces of people that we touch in our little way.
We have heard about different organisations like yours in the past, but it seems the challenges are similar with many of them struggling to cope with the torrents of demands from people with disabilities. How have you been able to raise funds?
At the moment, it has been mostly through family and friends. Like I said, we embarked on this mainly to touch lives as quickly as possible and most grants or funds from several bodies don’t often come out as quickly as they’re needed. Sometimes, the follow-ups they require are very discouraging; so far, we’ve kept it within the family. However, to mark our forthcoming third anniversary, we’ve made T-Shirts available to be sold with the intention of using the proceeds to help people living with muscular dystrophy with some of their most pressing needs. The response has been encouraging too.
You were diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy in 2007. How did it feel living with the mindset that you would not be able to do what you would have loved to do because of your disability?
At first, it was really disturbing, but with time, I’ve adjusted to it because of the support system I have been blessed with. There’s hardly anything I’d like to do that I’m not currently doing in one form or the other and I think that’s what often makes the difference.
Despite your condition, you studied sociology in Nigeria and proceeded to the UK for your Master’s in Global Management. How were you able to pull through?
My condition had not become as pronounced when I had my BSc here and so I didn’t really feel some of the limitations I would have encountered if I were just schooling now; but for my master’s, I had a very seamless experience. In saner climes, accessibility is something they don’t joke with. This made my education there very easy for me.
How has life been for you leading an organisation like this and what would you think has helped you to stay afloat despite the many challenges you would have been confronted with?
Leading an organisation like this has been quite a potpourri of events and feelings. Having to meet different people with different backgrounds and approaches to things has taught me a lot about people and how to manage situations. The DTMDF has stayed afloat despite the challenges we’ve been confronted with because of the commitment of our team members to touching lives.
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