FAECARE: Hello, please tell us a little about yourself and background
Susan: My name is Ihuoma Susan Kelechi, I'm from Imo state to be precise. I was born in Kano, and did my primary school there, I attended Egbu girls secondary school, Owerri in Imo state, today I am a graduate of the University of Lagos. I am a polio survivor.
FAECARE: How and at what age were you diagnosed of polio?
Susan: I had polio as a result of an injection I was given at age 3. I have been affected by polio since then.
FAECARE: From your back ground we see that despite encountering polio at the early age of 3, you were still able to take your education up till the tertiary level. How have you coped with the obvious challenge?
Susan: Growing up with polio was not easy based on the fact that our environment is not physically challenge friendly. I experienced a lot of inaccessibility and stigmatization. After secondary school I moved back to Lagos for my tertiary institution but was at home for 7 years before gaining admission in 2003 to study computer science in Yaba College of Technology and continuing at university of Lagos in 2005. One thing I found in common for both institutions was that there was no form of accessibility for persons with disability to attend classes or laboratory sessions, this informed my decision to work on a project titled "level of accessibility of University of Lagos and College of Medicine Idi Araba to persons with disability. This was the first research of its kind in the institution and brought some awareness to the conditions students with disability face at these institutions.
FAECARE: So what did you do after you graduated and had to face one of the mountains that every young Nigerian faces "finding a job"?
Susan: After graduating, I was saddled with the responsibility of getting a job, I didn't get any for the first year after which my mum brought home a newspaper that had an advert for volunteer teachers. Even though it was a volunteer job, I saw it as an opportunity to make a relevant contribution and be a productive member of society. I applied, wrote the interview, passed and was given the job. I stay at Ojota in Lagos but had to cross the express road to board a bus to Maryland (Mende junior high school, Maryland) where I volunteer with Lagos Eko Secondary teachers volunteer scheme. This challenges I face deter me, rather I'm encouraged by the positive impact and the enthusiasm on the faces of my students, I feel fulfilled.
In 2012, a friend told me about another volunteer job with Lagos state health volunteer scheme, I gladly applied so as to maximize my time. I went through all the exams, interviews and training which I passed and was given the job; I had to climb two storey buildings and all. I am the only physically challenged person in that scheme. It is an opportunity to advocate polio and all other infant diseases which can be curbed through immunization of children at the appropriate time.
FAECARE: Your passion for success and hard work shows through the things you have been engaged in, even volunteering your time and skills. What other things have you achieved?
Susan: I am rounding up my postgraduate program in genetic counseling from the university of Lagos. I was privileged to attend a leadership program last year organized by Youngstars foundation, tagged young aspirant leadership fellowship(YALF). I am a YALF fellow and the first elected woman leader. I want to quickly reiterate that God was and is still my strength in all of these.
FAECARE: What are the causes you advocate for as regards disability and disability related issues in Nigeria?
Susan: I advocate for inclusivity for persons with disability in all aspects of life, exclusion is what expresses disability anywhere in the world.
FAECARE: What words do you have for anyone who in living with any form of disability out there?
Susan: Never give up as a person with disability, this is just the beginning, see you at the top