Akinloye Tofowomo a.k.a Akiin Shuga is the founder and president of the Shuga Limb Foundation. He suffered polio at the tender age of 5. Despite being physically challenged, he has surmounted all expectations. Akiin Shuga is the Managing Director of Shuga Entertainment Nig. Ltd, owner of the popular Shuga Band, an outstanding and innovative live band that provides entertainment to corporate bodies and private individuals from all spheres of influence. Knowing that no man should be limited by his circumstance, whether physically challenged or otherwise, his love for the under privileged and the physically challenged in the society propelled him into establishing the Akin Shuga Limb Foundation.
He shares the challenges faced by people living with disabilities in Nigeria with YNaija’s Impact365 and gives insight into what everything is NGO is doing to help the situation.
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Can you please tell us more about the Shuga Limb Foundation?
The Akin Shuga Limb Foundation (SLF) is an NGO that provides prostheses, calipers, wheelchairs and other assistive devices to people with limb-related challenges and physically challenged generally, with emphasis on people in the low-income group. SLF also empowers physically challenged persons through its Gifted and Talented project; and participates in community services for various homes and schools where People living with Disabilities (PLDs) reside.
Since its inception in 2009, the foundation has been going all out to put smiles on the faces of the physically challenged persons by providing not just assistive devices, but also making them realize that they can lead fulfilled lives.
What was the unique, unforgettable experience or occurrence that inspired you to set up the NGO?
My experience actually inspired it. I needed a walking aid and couldn’t get a very functional and sturdy one, I traveled to faraway India in 2008 and got a very affordable and functional walking aid in less than 24hours. That propelled me to believe with the right tools, we can replicate it for low-income PLDs in Nigeria
How has the journey been so far? Can you say you’re satisfied with the impact you’ve made?
Not yet, I wont say I’m satisfied. It’s a lifelong thing, one baby step at a time, I will be satisfied when at least 80% of PLDs in the low income group in Nigeria are taken care of.
How about funding? Is the Nigerian government (federal and state) of any help in this regard?
So far only the Lagos state government has shown significant enthusiasm through The Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) for PLDs in the state.
However, we are most willing to collaborate with the government and provide advisory and adequate support on implementing the policies and strategies that have been put in place to tackle the challenges faced by PLDs, making them an integral and relevant part of the society, hence restoring their confidence and making them self sufficient. As the saying goes “he who feels it, knows it.”
For now, our funding comes from the company’s income, as well as support from well meaning Nigerians, the Board members, organizations and colleagues who are interested in partnering with us year in year out.
Can you say there’s discrimination against people living with disabilities in Nigeria?
It’s more of a ‘pity party’, which limits PLD’s ability to bring out what they’re capable of. Imagine you telling a PLD lawyer ‘oh sorry’ with regular handouts, instead of giving him a brief or give him a job in a law firm for him to show his capabilities.
What is your most effective campaign so far?
Our most effective campaign so far has been the Gifted and Talented project we started last year.
The ‘Gifted and Talented’ Project is a Shuga Limb Foundation initiative aimed at empowering physically challenged persons that have unique gifts and talents in the society. Our objective for the project is to empower and promote sustainable livelihood opportunities and employment for the physically challenged people in our society.
To ensure a sustainable drive, we put in place periodic monitoring mechanism for the beneficiaries, with progress report as they go on. As they grow, they will employ others in their business, thereby reducing poverty levels and unemployment.
What has the biggest challenge been since the Shuga Limb Foundation started?
The big dream we had when we founded the Shuga Limb Foundation in 2009 was to start a Limb Centre. The biggest challenge has been the high cost of sourcing materials and fabrication of walking aids. We hope the government would someday give import waivers for importing materials used in assembling the walking aids, that way, we can provide more for less, at a highly subsidized rate. An electric wheel chair alone costs over N700, 000 to buy in Nigeria, prosthetic legs …don’t even go there…..outrageous!
What are your plans for 2017, campaign wise?
We are making gradual impact year in year out. Campaign wise, the Gifted and Talented Project will hold in May 2017. Call for interested applicants have been made, and collation of entries will follow immediately. We also plan to have physically challenged mentors who have excelled in their chosen careers and fields take the selected PLDs on. Last year we empowered 5 people, this year we hope to do more.
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