I am looking for a job, I need to go and get a job. Really? Yes, I answered, I will have to dust my certificate. How much would you be asking for? May be something in the seven figures bracket, all things considered.
I could not believe that it is the end of another week! Today is Friday? I asked Mr A in disbelief when he reminded me that it is Friday so the Center will close at 2p.m. Hm.. I said, I’ll have to look for a job. How do you mean ma? Just what I said, may be dust my certificate and probably find a job in line with what I studied in school. And what happens to the Center? Nothing, the Center will still be there, I will still do what I do here. That is, you will still be working here? Sure, but this is no work? I enjoy what I do here, but what is my occupation? And besides I do not have that feeling of exhaustion a worker gets at end the of a day’s work that makes h/her wish everyday is Friday. He casts me this look of confusion and walks away.
Truth is that I have been trying to give a one word name to what I do so that when I fill one of those forms I that demands your occupation I will fill in the blank spaces correctly. May be you could be of help here. I will give you an idea of what my typical day is like in the CpCenter. Let’s take yesterday, Thursday the 26th of January for instance. I got to the Center about 9.15 a.m, that’s late, Center opens at 9a.m, but on time for prayers for 9.30. yes we usually pray for a few minutes and once in a while I lead the prayers, you don’t believe? That’s a fact oh! anyway, did not lead yesterday. After prayers, I looked at the children’s schedule of activities ( we had them drawn the previous day) We try some nursery rhymes with the children to get their attention. I demonstrate as we all “sing”, my head, shoulder knees and toes. They liked that, all show ecxitment, some like Amin and Pro actually raise their hands. May be I should put nursery school teacher in the blank space.???
We do on each child what the physiotherapist recommended, often the children do not like this, but we have to do them. Probably I put pseudo physiotherapist or what A in his book would call “bare foot therapist” on the blank space? Then we do these exercises, for at least one hour on each child, some get up to one and a half hours. It’s a kind of massage that addresses the internal muscles, so with regards to this, should I fill the space with”masseur”? Then we begin activities to encourage functional use of hands, some are making visible efforts, some we had to “help” . I think this is what the occupational therapist does, so should I fill the gap with”pseudo” or barefoot OT?. We were about to have snacks where we work on encouraging self feeding when mummy Testimony arrived with Testimony latched on her back. Testimony will be eight years next month, she lives with her parents and four siblings somewhere after Ikorodu. It took them about three hours, four change of buses, what oyibo will call four transfers to get to the Center, she has Cerebral Palsy. I leave the other staff to continue with the seven children in the Center on the effort to get them pick their snacks of biscuits from the plates to their mouths or assist them do that.
I welcome Testimony and her mum, offer them water. We exchange new year pleasantries. Has Testimony had breakfast? ( it was about 11.45a.m) Yes she took beverage. Has she had her medication? No. Why? We ran out of drugs yesterday, we’ll see the doctor tomorrow. I give a small talk about seizure medications and the need to always give them as prescribed and always try to get a refill before you run out….please fill the gap for me, thank you.
Mummy Testimony has been coming to the Center since about 9 months on the recommendation of her pediatrician, she lives very far away as such can not come to the Center daily. But she does come as often as she can, we look at Testii together and encourage her on what to do at home, we also teach her the exercises and she goes home and works with Testii. Yesterday she was quite pleased as she lets Testii show us new thing she can now do since their last visit. Little things, but huge to us and any parent with a child with Cp. They rested for a while then we start work or rather we start doing various things. (remember I am not working)
Shortly it was close to lunch time, I get out all the lunch boxes, thank goodness power was on, so to the kitchen to warm up the children’s foods in the microwave. She gives me a pack of noodles to please cook for Testti. I was going to make Ziim’s food anyway. I was going to make half ripped plantain with fish and ugu vegetable for Ziim, so I decided to add some for Testii instead of making the noodles. She goes, I do not think she will eat it. Why may I ask? She likes noodles so I give her that often, besides I have never made her this meal. Well, you do not always give them what they like, just like the typically developing child. I give a small lecture on the brain being a hungry organ that needs to be properly nourished with the proper food. Food ready, everybody on the table, oh should I fill in the space with “nutritionist” or “cook”?
We feed the children, helping some to self feed. Mummy Testii feeds her; I will try making Testii feed herself if you ask me. Ha, she cann’t do it. Have you tried, I see her put a toy in her abi? So why not food? We position Testii, show mummy Testii how to guide her, there was some effort. So can we consistently keep working on that at home? And please note, she ate all her meal!
Lunch over, usually take us about an hour and half. Everywhere messy, we clean up, wash up the dishes. So filling the blank space….cleaner.
Since the power holders gave some, the children watch tv, we put on a tape and they watch, making sure they are properly positioned, two hands stretched out on the table, some like Ziim and Princess with arm wraps. It is almost closing time, put children’s things together.We write the children’s diaries.
The door bell goes, that’s Pro’s sister, she waits at the reception. Pro your sister is here, you want to go home? He nods. Say yes, for like forever we work on yes, ok, wave bye bye, with his athetoid hand he struggled, but he did it, we applauded. We repeated the same for Amin, Ay and all the other children. I bade mummy Testii good bye. With the staff we looked at the book and see what we’ll do next day.
Then I turned to Mr Atan, I have to get a job. But ma is this not work? I do not know, but I do not feel like I have worked, why? Probably it is because you love what you are doing, me too, I love what we do here, though it may not look like we are working.
I remembered the words of that inspirational business speaker Harvey Mackay; “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. Could it be that I have found what I love to do, it does not matter what is in the blank space? May be, just may be. What about you? What are you doing? What do you fill in that space “occupation”? Is is work? Just wondering. Oh, and thank you for filling in the space for me.
Picture from school.discoveryeducation.com