Obituary: Ojara Ikeagwu
- 17 December 2010
- From the section UK
In the five years before her death, social worker Ojara Ikeagwu helped hundreds of adults with learning difficulties in London and hundreds more children in her homeland to get free schooling.
The mother-of-three from Luton drew wide admiration for her dedication and is remembered as fondly in her Nigerian hometown as in the council offices of Hounslow, west London.
On 7 July 2005, she caught a train to King's Cross station, and took her usual route to work on the Piccadilly Line.
But in the explosion that followed, the 56-year-old lost her arms and legs and was declared dead by paramedics at the scene.
Mrs Ikeagwu was born and raised in Nigeria.
Her high school education was interrupted by the three-year Biafran war. In 1969, just before war was over, she married Dr Okorafor Ikeagwu and they went on to have three children.
The young family moved to England in 1976, settling in Luton, and Mrs Ikeagwu was keen to further her education.
Over the next two decades, she studied social work, returned to Nigeria for a spell and opened her own hair salon which she ran for nine years.
By 2000, she had achieved a masters degree in social work from Kingston University.
The following year she joined Hounslow social services and was based in the community, working with adults with learning difficulties at the Berkeley Centre in Heston.
At the inquest into her death, her husband said in a statement that Ojara had brought up their three children virtually single-handedly, as he often worked in hospitals outside Luton and was out of the country for six years.
Her efforts were rewarded by the academic progress of their children - now a pharmacist, a lawyer and a paediatrician, he said.
After her death, her university department at Kingston set up the Ojara Ikeagwu memorial prize, awarded annually to the best social work student.
Hounslow Council set out a garden in honour of services to the borough.
And her good work was also remembered further afield.
In 2003, she made education free for 500 pupils at her village school in Nigeria, giving them all free books, pens, pencils, rulers and school uniforms.
The school programme continues to be funded by her husband.
A week before her death, Mrs Ikeagwu started providing twice-monthly protein meals for the school pupils.
In return for her commitment to her home town, the village posthumously made her a chief and named the primary school after her.
In his statement, Dr Ikeagwu said: "Ojara was an extrovert and she got on well with everyone she came across.
"Her death dealt a big blow to her family that has been difficult to recover from. She now has two grandchildren that she will never see.
"The people she was helping and the people she could have helped are all suffering since her death."
Shortly after her death, Judy Smart, head of care management at the Berkeley Centre, said: "Ojara had her own inimitable style of work with service users, parents and carers, and was highly committed to the learning disability service."