Backtalk with Boris Kodjoe & Nicole Ari Parker

Actors share how their daughter's spina bifida changed their lives

Black Enterprise: What gave you the courage to start a foundation?
Boris:
It was our way of learning how to cope. You’re sort of stuck and you don’t know what the future will hold and you have to transition into a whole new level of responsibility. Then you realize that you are not the only one. There are a lot of people that struggle with the same situation, but have fewer resources, less help, and less education.
Nicole: I thought it was the right thing to do. Doctors say folic acid prevents spina bifida, but what about the people who already have it? So we’re trying to figure out how to improve daily functions that we all take for granted and ease the burden on families. There’s a surgery called the Xiao procedure [developed by a Chinese urologist, Dr. Chuan-Guo Xiao] that reroutes nerves from the legs to the bladder, and they then “teach” the bladder to empty itself over time. When I learned about the surgery, I wanted to step up to the plate and try to raise money.

How can Sophie’s Voice help families?
Boris:
This is not a temporary effort. The surgical trial is our first goal, but we have goals after that. There are people who can’t afford to keep buying diapers, catheters, wheelchairs, and braces until after their kids are grown. [The average cost of raising a child with spina bifida is 13 times higher than that of raising a normal child.]
Nicole: We have to figure out how to serve families. We are not experts, but we are in it with them. Sophie’s Voice is currently planning a private introductory fundraiser in New York City this month. More long-range plans include opening a chapter in Ghana, where they’re still learning how to best care for those with spina bifida.

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