To many, Echendu Sharon Ifeoma is not a physically-challenged person despite her disability, having survived polio as a child. The coach, corporate trainer and strong-willed lady spoke with EMMANUEL MASHA on sundry issues confirming the popular notion that there is ability in disability. Excerpts:
As a person living with disability, some of the things you do come as a surprise. How do you cope?
At the moment, I partner with a lot of NGOs, I work with them. You never can tell what can happen tomorrow. You see people who are working in the right direction and something just happens. It’s not something one plans for. Just one incident and the doctors say you cannot walk again or that you have to limp.
These people need someone who has walked that road before to put them through. People living with disability need someone to let them know that their physical disability does not mean that is the end of the work; that there is life after the incident. I try to give hope to people and encourage them on how to live their lives.
How do you convince a physically-challenged person that has lost the will to move on?
What happened had happened. So, you have to begin to work on your mind. One of the projects I am working on now is to get children off the streets. I am working with human rights groups to remove children who had been put on the streets by their parents and guardians for money-making purposes. Some parents cannot fend for their children, and you see kids struggling to survive. These are some of the things that I am trying to shed light on. But for the physically challenged, I would advise them that they need to be on their feet and live their lives.
What do you really do for a living?
I work with a corporate trainer, an organisation in Port Harcourt. I am a trainer; so, I train people when it comes to leadership, personal effectiveness, work ethics, customer service, communications, anything that has to do with positive change in attitude for the betterment of the individual and for the organisation. I have been training people professionally for four years now.
I work for a company from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. But I also get people who consult with me to help manage businesses, to help them train and retrain their staff in different areas. The people I train are company staff and I also work on physical disability. I mentor people with physical disabilities.
How did you get into the field of training?
It was a conscious effort. I am a trained secretary. My first degree is in Secetarial Administration. I worked as a secretary for a year and between 2009 to 2010, I started developing interest in public speaking and training. I then consciously trained myself. When I travelled to the UK for further studies in 2011, I went through different trainings and then harnessed my skills; and then volunteered with different organisations where I had to mentor young people for training. When I came back to the country, I got a job where I work now as a training and development officer.
How had it been?
It’s been good. So far, so good! It has been very challenging, and very enlightening. It gives me an opportunity and a platform to meet a lot of people, because it is more about experience sharing. You are not training freshers. It is amazing, exchanging knowledge. You are training people who are already experienced, who are adults with different experience and professional exposure.
You have a fascinating job, which comes with its unique challenges. Where did you study?
My first degree is in Secretarial Admin From the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University, and then I travelled to Nottingham University where I studied International Relations and Media. I came back into the country and went back to the university for my Master’s in Office and Information Technology.
In you trainings in Nigeria and abroad, have you spotted any difference regarding the issue of confidence?
Anyone having low confidence or self esteem cuts across nation. I have come across a lot of people outside Nigeria that cannot express themselves for different reasons. In Nigeria, we have people who are very bold even in their ignorance state. They can tell you whatever they believe in even if they are ignorant.
Business capital remains a major issue for entreprenuers. What do you think government can do in this regard?
Everything depends on the environment. If you have an enabling environment, a lot of people don’t need the support of government to start off. A lot of people go to the bank for business loans, but if shop rents are cheap enough for somebody starting off, then it won’t be too difficult to start off the business. For example, you see somebody that wants to do the business of confectionary, but the cost of the shop could prove to be a problem. It is a societal problem. That is why you see a lot of food vendors hawking their wares on the streets.
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