Funmilayo, the Lonely girl
I walked in and there she was playing by herself, I called her and she just greeted and continued playing while Yaqub got me introduced to her and all others in their office. I could not stop at anything, but to get her attention. She looked at me and smiled and continued playing alone. She is already used to that, nobody gets close to her because of her skin condition. I called her by name and held her close to me, oh my you needed to see tears well up in our eyes, I cannot explain that moment, all I can say is that she felt accepted and as little as she is, couldn’t hide her expression. Her name is Funmilayo.
I first received a Facebook inbox message about Funmilayo in June 2015 from a young man Adedeji Yaqub Arisekola Kesoislata of Chamagne Foundation in Ogba Lagos about Funmilayo and her Skin condition. His first message read …
Please, I have a child I will like you to see, I think she has Vitiligo and the father is using her to beg for money.
At first I was angry, my thought instantly was, what a man? Then I gave it a thought, considered what could be happening to father and daughter that led to begging for alms. I responded that the child’s condition needs to be diagnosed first so we can be sure of what she is living with and that I would love to meet with her. He asked if he can forward her pics to me, oh sure I told him.
He forwarded this picture of her.
Oh, I cried silently in my room looking at these pics, I was not crying because of her skin condition, but the kind of discrimination, stigma, segregation, she must be experiencing at such age and being exposed more as the fathers takes her out to beg for money.
I was out of the country at the time and promised to visit as soon as I am back, but I got back and forgot till he sent me a reminder on the 27th of August.
Preparing to meet Funmilayo, I am not a dermatologist and cannot diagnose her condition if they had not done that. What I decided to give first while I hope to learn more about her when I get to meet her.
In preparation, I decided to make her some 100% natural body butter (the images are not great, but please get the message) to be using while we try to find out how best we can help her.
In the body butter are
- Unrefined Shea butter
- Cold Pressed virgin coconut oil
- Cold pressed wildcrafted African neem oil and
Discussing with Yaqub and others in the office to understand better as the father got hard hearing and cannot really speak English, she cried again when they mentioned that she does not go to school because they would not admit her in School due to her condition. The tears broke my heart, she is 6+ and really understands that other children runs from her and adults as well.
I presented to her the body butter I made for her and advised her to try and use it as it will help her while we try to get further help for her. I had to tell her all that because she seemed keenly interested in everything I was saying.
What surprised everyone around was how clearly she communicates even when she has never been to school nor play with anyone. Apparently they have been speaking only Yoruba language to her anytime they are in that office more reason they were all amazed at her communicating in English clearly. Such an intelligent Funmilayo, oh we really need to help this little girl to atleast get admitted to School before anyother thing.
Before you know it, we were having fun, taking selfies and she makes faces. She said, ‘give your phone, let me camera you’ …it was just so funny. I doubt if anyone has ever allowed her to do that, she was just so excited, laughing, screaming and asking me all sorts of question. I felt so happy being able to put a little smile on her face. Some of the pics she took of us
While in there, other kids before me were running away from her. I do not blame children when they do this because they are just being kids. I only blame parents who will not educate their children about such things, but will rather warn them to stay away. I don’t know exactly what this condition is yet till I am able to meet with the Dermatologist they have been going to, to ascertain the actual condition and way forward.
The father claimed that his wife, Funmilayo’s mother walked away from him and the daughter when the skin condition became very obvious at the age of two. He said he does not have a job as he has spent all he had on the child’s medication and from going from one hospital to another. Truly, he has taken her to quite a number of hospitals as he had all of the documents with him.
Sadly, when I advised that he should feed the child much more of fruits and vegetables, he confessed that they barely have food or money to buy anything let alone buying fruits and vegetables. I asked her what she wants me to get for her and she screamed milk. Said her been promising to get her milk, I felt really bad. The girl is not being taken care of.
Funmilayo deserves to be taken proper care of as a child. Funmilayo deserves to be in School. Would you like to help with Funmilayo’s welfare? Please contact us and we promise that we will connect you with her father or stand in for her. We want to get Funmilayo to School and make her a comfortable child.
And this again awakens my passion for ‘Outer Shell Africa’
Over the years, working on Vitiligo cause, I have received and continued to receive enquiries about other skin conditions. This is because there seems to be no other Skin related/focused support group or organisation in my Nigeria and most of sub-Saharan Africa, this has really been of great concern to me personally. I had started an initiative then I called ‘Walk for Skin Health’ under Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation – VITSAF, but didn’t get to ‘Walk’ or carry out any activity for once due to financial constraint. Today I am taking it up as a unique initiative under our new social enterprise ‘Outer Shell Africa’ I hope to be able to do that and not add more burden to the heavily burdened VITSAF.
Wouldn’t you join us to journey with this great initiative. Please reach out to us with your skincare products you want to donate, partner with us for a ‘Walk for Skin Health’ in any part of Nigeria. Please bring on any suggestion you may have as regards this initiative. Funmilayo’s story is just one I have been able to document, many are dying in silence and living miserably. We all have Right to Great health, Social, mental and physical well-being.
I posted this on my blog October 11, 2015 http://ogomaduewesi.com/funmilayo-the-lonely-child/ (unfortunately down now) and on my facebook page https://web.facebook.com/ogo.maduewesi/activity/10205948420044257.