You've Got a Friend

Carol Schaal | January 17, 2017

Olivia Godby ’16 once spent four hours pretending to be a cat, meowing as people walked by. Not your typical high school student’s summer activity, but Godby was a counselor at a camp for those with developmental disabilities and that playful diversion was all one camper wanted to do. “It was so fun,” she confesses.

Volunteering at the camp and with Special Olympics, says Godby, made her passionate about supporting those who might be unable to speak on their own behalf. “It makes me sad that people aren’t able to see what they offer,” she says. “To advocate for them is my responsibility and my joy.”

That advocacy took an international turn during her freshman year at Notre Dame, when Godby read an article that detailed serious abuse of those with mental disabilities in Ghana, West Africa. “I thought, ‘I have to go and see for myself,’” says the energetic woman whose words trip over themselves as she talks. So instead of heading home to Sacramento, California, at the end of her freshman year in 2013, Godby used a grant from the University’s Kellogg Institute to spend seven weeks as part of an Inclusion Ghana team, researching the obstacles to health care for people with intellectual disabilities.

Among her interviews with health care professionals, guardians of those with intellectual disabilities and those with disabilities, one story of heartbreaking irony stunnned her. A woman named Patience said her 22-year-old son, Richard, disabled by cerebral palsy, had not seen a doctor in more than 10 years because he was unable to walk to the nearby health clinic, where his care would have been funded by the Ghanaian government.

Volunteering at the camp and with Special Olympics, says Godby, made her passionate about supporting those who might be unable to speak on their own behalf. “It makes me sad that people aren’t able to see what they offer,” she says. “To advocate for them is my responsibility and my joy.”

That advocacy took an international turn during her freshman year at Notre Dame, when Godby read an article that detailed serious abuse of those with mental disabilities in Ghana, West Africa. “I thought, ‘I have to go and see for myself,’” says the energetic woman whose words trip over themselves as she talks. So instead of heading home to Sacramento, California, at the end of her freshman year in 2013, Godby used a grant from the University’s Kellogg Institute to spend seven weeks as part of an Inclusion Ghana team, researching the obstacles to health care for people with intellectual disabilities.

Among her interviews with health care professionals, guardians of those with intellectual disabilities and those with disabilities, one story of heartbreaking irony stunnned her. A woman named Patience said her 22-year-old son, Richard, disabled by cerebral palsy, had not seen a doctor in more than 10 years because he was unable to walk to the nearby health clinic, where his care would have been funded by the Ghanaian government.

Read more here.

 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: ND Magazine