From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt

A philanthropist, Oma Uche-Oji, has initiated a programme, Super Kids Festival (SKF), to give children with disabilities a sense of belonging in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Oma, who spoke at the event held in Port Harcourt on Friday, said she initiated the programme following her findings that kids with special needs were not properly recognised on Children’s Day.

She said it was unfortunate that autistic children, those with down syndrome and the disabled ones were not always integrated and celebrated alongside other normal children.

Oma said: “I noticed that it is hard to find a Children’s Day event that is all inclusive. They don’t pay attention to children with special needs, autistics children, down syndrome or those disabled in one form or the other.

“They don’t give children born with any disability a chance. I thought about it and I said we need to bring these children together and break the bias.

“Let the children born without any challanges know that the ones born with one challange or the other that there is nothing wrong with them, it is just one thing that happened before or after delivery. Let the children with special needs feel loved.”

She said the programme gave children with special needs a sense of togetherness and love adding that such children were found to be good in games, spelling bee competition arts and culture.

Describing the programme as a dream come true, Oma said she was determined to make it a yearly event.

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She said: “It can be actualised with the help of every parent. We must come together to give these children a voice, a face and a sense of belonging”.

She thanked her sponsors, especially, the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri and about 21 schools that participated in the event.

A Co-organiser of the programme, Deborah Okpozu, described the SKF as the first of its kind in Port Harcourt.

She said: “We decided to come together to celebrate children of different ages, tribes, schools with different social backgrounds. What makes this event different from every other children event is because we are breaking the bias which Is the reason for the event.

“The children with special needs may be physically disabled but there are a lot of potentials that they have. We are here, to make other children know that a child with special need is not less a child”.

One of the excited parents, Stella Benson, said the programme had given the children an opportunity to showcase their talents.

Benson said: “Above all it has given all the children the opportunity to interact and share with other children.

The children participated in spelling bee competition, sack race, essay competition, beauty pageantery, cultural dance, face painting and dancing.