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Managing life with a disabled child offers countless joys to many parents and families but can also bring challenges, confusion and sometimes even a sense of helplessness.

'Enterprising Nigerian-born lawyer, June Douglas, founder of the Pamela Douglas Foundation Worldwide, shares how she created a movement born out of her own family’s experience and which now supports service providers and families, helping disabled people to feel included and engaged within their communities.'

ReConnect Africa: Can you tell us about Pamela and when and how you discovered that she had special needs?

June Douglas: Pamela became ill at the pre-school age of 4. One day she simply flopped and had a fit. Several drugs were tried and found ineffective, causing further complications. She was later diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome – a childhood form of epilepsy which is difficult to control. This came with speech and mobility problems. That is how we discovered she had special needs to get on in life.

ReConnect Africa: What inspired you to set up the Pamela Douglas Foundation Worldwide?

June Douglas: I gained a lot of experience from looking after Pamela, especially as I had struggled for a long time to be able to get her through the system in order to access services.

With that experience, and with my skills as a Humanistic Counsellor and Lawyer, I thought no other parent should go through the same difficulty. That was why I decided to set up this Foundation to support other families

ReConnect Africa: What do you believe are the key issues that disabled people and their families have to face on a daily basis?

June Douglas: The greatest problem is that of poverty, as members of the family often sacrifice a working life to care for the disabled relative. Quite often, members of the family have to struggle to be able to put the disabled person through the social system and 24-hour care is very stressful. There is also a social stigma that has to be faced as the general public often lacks awareness of the nature of the conditions that affect the disabled.

ReConnect Africa: What kind of services do you provide through the Foundation?

June Douglas: We provide advice, counselling, create awareness, and influence governmental policies and mentoring for disabled people and their families.

ReConnect Africa: How do you reach out to service providers and families who could benefit from your experiences and the work of the Foundation?

June Douglas: I am Chair of the Board of Trustees of a large organisation for disabled children and young persons. I have chaired several governmental Committees on disability which had exposed me to parents and families of those with disability. Hence I can be easily contacted when parents have problems.

ReConnect Africa: As part of your mission statement, you say ‘It’s okay to be different’. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about having a disabled family member?

June Douglas: The greatest misconception is that disabled people are not useful in any way; but these people have their talents and, when given the opportunity, they excel.

ReConnect Africa: What impact do you believe the Foundation has had so far and what are your hopes for its future?

June Douglas: Since the inception of the Foundation, several organisations have joined the conversation. They have followed our footsteps by creating organisations for the disabled.

Most importantly parents have benefitted from the advice and counselling we have given. The families are appreciative of this support.

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