The Gazelle Studio: A Vocational training center for young adults living with Autism
When you walk into the Gazelle Studio, a skill acquisition centre located in Ikeja, Lagos; you are greeted by the faces of young girls who once had no communication skill or skills to earn a living for themselves.
The lives of these young girls have now been given a new meaning and redefined by new possibilities because of the Gazelle Studio project.The Gazelle Studio is a thriving initiative of Mrs. Dotun Akande, founder and Director of Patrick Speech and Language Centre. In 2015, Mrs Akande was chosen as the Vlisco brand ambassador amongst two other nominees; she was recognized for the contributions she has made to the growth of autism awareness and treatment in Nigeria.
As Vlisco Brand ambassador, she was invited by the leading African fabric brand to visit their factory in Helmond, Holland where she saw the beauty in fabric design and tailoring.
Knowing the creative ability of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), she was inspired to start a small sewing institute where young adults and children living with autism can sew simple things like the table cloths and chair covers as well as napkins.
In 2017, United States African Development Foundation (USADF) decided to partner with Pure Souls Learning Foundation to fund the Gazelle Studio project after seeing its unique plan to improve the standard of living of children and adolescents living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Lagos state by equipping them with skills to earn an income.
The Gazelle Studio’s first set of trainees were a group of young girls from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Lagos state.
The girls who at first found it difficult to express themselves were taught how to make chair covers, table covers and napkins for occasions and events have now acquired excellent communication skills which helps them relate with others better.
These young ladies who are now proficient in this skill also serve as trainers for the young adults living with autism who attend Patrick Speech and Language Centre.
The doors of the Gazelle Studio are currently open to those who want their wards with special needs to be given vocational training.
The studio also runs a rental service where it rents out its space for tailors to preforms their various sewing tasks.
In addition, affordable chairs and table covers of high quality are also sold and rented out by the studio.
The dream is for the Gazelle studio to grow into a bigger brand in Africa and the world at large; while it continues to give a better quality of life to adolescents living with Autism; who cannot go to the university to get formal higher education or get white collar jobs when they are older.