MADAM SERWAH Quaynor, Founder of Autism Awareness Care and Training (AACT) at Kokomlemle, Accra, in the Greater Accra Region, had said she got the motivation to set up her autism centre from the condition of her son, Nortey Quaynor.
She said “Nortey was diagnosed with autism at age two, 33 years ago in the United States of America. At four years of age, my son was admitted to preschool and I volunteered [to work] in his school where I got a better understanding of autism.”
“Sometimes it takes what seems to be a misfortune to show us the real blessings in our lives. Having sojourned through the phases of denial to acceptance of my son’s autism and finally being able not only to smile at the progress he has made but also to reach out to others to encourage them too to be accept and seek help; and to reach out to the society at large is the nucleus of the story of AACT and Autism in Ghana,” she explained.
According to Madam Quaynor, when she returned to Ghana some (20) years ago, searching for autism services for her son proved rather difficult.
She said, “Nortey was 15 years old with raging hormones, many challenging behaviours, ranging from self-injurious behaviours, aggression, insomnia, to mention a few. Sleep at night was a luxury (I was lucky if I got two hours). What was I to do in a country where there were no services for children with autism?
“ I felt like an outcast, dejected, alone, and petrified! I needed to find support and fast and there was none. I found some solace in church and felt compelled to tell whoever would listen to me talk about my son and autism. Thus began autism awareness Care in Ghana.”
She explained that the centre is a local support and education Centre for Children with autism that was founded in 1998 in search of services to help her child and made a personal commitment to help other Ghanaian children with autism.
“Since creating the Centre, we have worked tirelessly to help parent of children with autism in Ghana to better understand the disability and to feel that there is a safe place to go for support and help. AACT focuses on training the child with autism to reach their God given potential. We do this by training them in academic skills, behaviour management, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, life skills training, art therapy, dram and movement therapy and social skills,” she explained.
The Founder also pointed out that the project had been partly funded over the years from her own resources and some benevolent friends and a few organizations like Reach For Change, and Sweb Foundation, which specifically funded scholarships for four children for three years.
“Also, A. B. Business Consultancy just funded our fun games, and Oak Financial Services is supporting one child this year. The Royal Bank has supported us in the past. A few individuals and our volunteers from abroad sometimes bring us in-kind support as in resources like speech therapy and occupation therapy supplies,” Mrs Quaynor said.
She opined that the centre had tried so much to get the Government, that is, Ministries of Education, Health and Gender and Social Protection, to work with them to develop policy frameworks for the benefit of the children.
“But we have been largely ignored. It appears they see these children as just disabled and unable to achieve much. We are, however, not discouraged, and will continue to find ways and means to engage them and have specific policies for their special needs.”
“We are in a rented premise, which is cost-prohibitive to us and we are looking for donors like you to support us move into a more appropriate and well resourced centre that we can call our own,” she said.
Madam Quaynor said she was in complete awe concerning how the journey had been sustainable even through many challenges.
She said, “I am proud the centre will be an understatement because so much awareness has been created. I cannot lie on my laurels and stop but absolutely must continue to do this work. I had to be innovative and creative in special education so the child with autism can stand tall, feel and find their way in the world of confusion.
She said her plans for the future is to have a centre of excellence built to teach, train, and give care to children with autism so they can have access to all that the rest of the society has access to.
“I will continue to be the voice of the voiceless and champion the awareness and acceptance campaign for all persons with autism in Ghana. Thankfully, because of the work I have done in Ghana, there are centres now being opened mostly in Accra (which is good),” she added.
MR PRINCE Oduro Williams, a social entrepreneur, Founder and Executive Director, African Rights Initiative International, Dwarf Island, in the Afram Plains North District, has said for the past 10years he has fully responded to the call of service to God and country.
He explained that with his experience, he had been able to save thousands of people who could not have survived the next minute, hour, day or week without my intervention.
“When I close my eyes, I reflect the warm embrace and broad smiles I receive from them when I am on the field. Just a life lost due to preventable cause is so huge a burden for me, left alone when thousands of innocent people; especially children and women die daily due to pregnancy, childbirth, malaria, malnutrition and snake bite,” he disclosed.
He said the project was established in 2008 to address the primary and critical health needs of millions of people in under-served communities in Ghana and Africa, focusing on strong local mobilization to ensure high level of sustainability.
He added that with over 1,000 volunteers raised globally, Doctors in the Gap, skilled physicians, anaesthetists, nurses, midwives, logisticians, lab technologists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, disease control experts, epidemiologists and other medical and non-medical professionals serve in harsh conditions to deliver life-saving medical care and relief to people living in some of the most remote, impoverished and forgotten villages in our world.
He said, “Doctors in the Gap use the integrated development solution to healthcare delivery. Our approach takes into account the social, cultural, economic, environmental and geographic realities that contribute to the state of wellbeing of the people.”
The Founder stated that the project is funded by individuals, corporate donations, partnerships, inter-agency collaboration and fundraising activities.
Mr Williams said the project gives him the kind of satisfaction that no money can buy.
“I remember travelling two-and-a-half hours on the Volta Lake with my emergency team to save a woman and her two twin daughters. The woman had given birth and bleeding profusely for hours. There was no chance of survival in the hands of traditional birth attendants. When our work was done, joy returned to the village.”
He disclosed that he had the plan to stay on the Dwarf Island for the next five years and work to build the healthcare system there, using integrated development solutions to healthcare delivery.
He again said the project had impacted the lives of the community, with over 300,000 people served since 2008; Primary Healthcare access for at least 50,000 patients annually.
“Over 200 communities taking their own initiatives, setting their own health goals to complement external efforts to achieve the expected results and several health facilities helped to continue quality healthcare delivery across the country,” he stated.