How I rehabilitated “mentally challenged” family of five in Cross River –ex-NYSC member  

How I rehabilitated “mentally challenged” family of five in Cross River –ex-NYSC member




•The family before and after with Miss Oberiko (middle)

The news about the amazing rehabilitation of a “mentally challenged” family of five, a man, his wife and three little children, in Cross River State has suffused the media, social and traditional, space in the past couple of months, but not so much has been said about the one person who made it happen.

Miss Progress Oberiko, sent to Bekwarra local government area of the state in the Batch B Stream One, from November 2017 to October 2018, for her National Youth Service Corps, turned to be more than just another corps member, but also a blessing to the family and the community she served. Oberiko brought to the attention of the world the situation when she posted a photo of the family and some comments on her social media handles in October 2018. This had triggered actions from the Federal Government to take up the rehabilitation of the family at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Calabar. She pointed out that besides the hospital’s care they were not getting attention from anywhere else to help them sustain their recovery.

The ex-corps member, who calls them “one big family”, said she was moved when she saw the family always wandering around and she felt the need to do something about it, even at some risk to herself.

Oberiko, who emerged the best corps member in the state for her set, having several projects to her name, is a Higher National Diploma (HND) graduate Of Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe, Oghara, where she studied Business Administration. She was posted to Bekwarra local government area for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). She is also from Delta State.

Speaking on the journey to get the family rehabilitated, when she visited Calabar again after her service on an invitation for party organized to celebrate the family at the hospital, she said, “I first came across this wonderful family when I was deployed to Bekwarra LGA in Cross River State for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in January 2018. It was on my way to CDS meeting when I first noticed them, it was appalling and happened to be the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my entire life; Man, Wife and three children insane. I was compassionate for the family and including the innocent beautiful children. I took interest in them and began a personal follow up on their case. I always saw them move together in a solemn uniform manner. All of them wearing ragged clothes, unkempt twisted dreadlocks, sun scorched skin and dirty footwears. They have a tent like hut where they call their ‘Eden’. The hut was made with four woods and a polythene roof cover; there they slept on the bare floor. It took me close to nine months to strategically studied them.

“They were not aggressive. They just went about their business. It caught my attention why a whole family could be afflicted with such situation. So out of curiosity I took up on their case. So I started asking questions I stated meeting people and something drew me to his particular community, the place where they stayed. One of my NYSC projects was done in his community where I distributed 100 pairs of sandals and 100 pairs of socks in St. Augustine Primary School in Ukpa Community where he stays. It was from that outreach I saw the man and his family.

“I have actually been trying to get snapshots of them, but most times I get threatened by onlookers and bike men and so on that if the man sees me, he might get aggressive, and that they will destroy my phone and so on. So I tried to be careful. Before I got that particular picture (The picture that was trending on the internet), it was after over seven months I have been following them. I was on a bike that day going for that outreach to distribute the sandals and socks so I saw them and it was on that bike I brought out my phone and started snapping before they got close. They did not notice I was snapping. So I quickly snapped and passed, some of the pictures were blurry, only that one came out okay for me to depict the article, I wanted to write about and the story I wanted to tell. So it was when I got home, I now developed the article and posted it on my Facebook page. It went viral.

“People were calling from the whole world. They wanted to be on the case, and how they can be of help to the people. They wanted to send money and all that. But because I had studied the family and asked questions, I did not think it was the right thing for me to collect money from people because I knew the family was not the kind of people that wanted help and they felt they were okay and don’t need any support. So if you go to give them money or foodstuff, they will tell you they don’t need it. So for that reason I did not receive any money or material support on their behalf because it would be like I am trying to take advantage of their situation.

“People who wanted to see them came and one of them was an NGO from Port Harcourt. They came and saw the man for themselves and he was cooking with his family in a place he called ‘Eden’. They were having a conversation and at a point he told the man that the conversation was over and he did not want to talk again. They brought noodles, bags of rice, money to them but they didn’t take. The villagers came and packed them because they would not touch them.

“When I came to Calabar and I saw the Medical Director of the Federal-Neuropsychiatric Hospital. I contacted him and he said the Federal Ministry of Health has actually contacted him to send a team to the village so they can contact me and we can go together, so when I called him, he said the following week they would send their team, so I went back to Ogoja and that we week they came and together we went and contacted some notable persons in the village which gave us permission to carry the family.”

Oberiko, said she felt very fulfilled seeing the level the family has achieved, although a lot still needs to be done for a proper rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

“I feel very fulfilled. Anybody that starts a project, whether it is lucrative or not, you want to see it prosper. You want to see the end of it. And I anything I start I try to ensure there is a long-term progress. So I am happy that this little thing I was able to do took them this far .

She called for support for the family who were at the time of writing this report, were still the hospital in Calabar.

“The man has skills, he can do things, the woman can trade, and the children are teachable so why are they are they not been taken care of? Well, by the grace of God the family is currently receiving close attention and medical care from the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Calabar. Their dreadlocks have been neatly cut; they’re well fed, sleep comfortably and are well taken care of by the doctors, nurses and social workers.

After my Passing Out Parade, I visited the family at the hospital and was grateful. The man, who before the rescue only communicated to men, now speaks to women too. I sat and had a conversation with him and he responded cheerfully. The woman who only communicates to women now also communicates with the male nurses too. The kids are currently with their parents in the hospital and are undergoing personal educational training from the educational personnel in the hospital and will be registered in school for proper training.

“But they cannot remain in the hospital. Their recovery has to take another step. So this means that their rehabilitation process has to be fostered by support from charity organisations, individuals and benevolent indigenes so they can get to reintegrate them into the society, by giving them a home because they cannot continue staying in the hospital, giving them a good place, an apartment and also getting the children enrolled and scholarship for them, as much as can be done, because they have not actually gone to school before. So having that opportunity to go to school will change their lives,” the young Deltan said.

Speaking on the wide impact her effort made, she said, “I made little or no effort to invite the media and attract their attention. I simply posted on my social media handles; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp about a fascinating family of five whom I titled “ONE BIG FAMILY” and it got the attention of the world. I have had interviews with several media houses and was also was invited by the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria to their conference in Lagos and received an award for humanitarian services.

On her experience with the NYSC, she said, “Personally, NYSC helped me discovered that part of me that I never knew existed. It brought out the part of me I had never explored. There are some personalities I was able to gain access to during my NYSC projects whom ordinarily I wouldn’t have been able to meet. Apart from the fact that NYSC exposes us to opportunities and challenges which in turn increases our problem-solving abilities, it enhanced my relationship, some of which will last a lifetime. Through NYSC, I was able to impart the lives of the indigene of my immediate society in a way they will not forget in a hurry

How I rehabilitated “mentally challenged” family of five in Cross River –ex-NYSC member   How I rehabilitated “mentally challenged” family of five in Cross River –ex-NYSC member


Reviewed by Linda Ochagla on Saturday, January 12, 2019 Rating: 5

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