Fair Life Africa Foundation

FAIR LIFE AFRICA is a progressive, humanitarian organisation. It is committed to the mission of empowering people through practical social initiatives and programs. It stands for a fairer life for all people, by improving the life chances of the most disadvantaged. It serves people of all faiths, races, gender and any other orientation, without discrimination. It will promote the values of social inclusion and empowerment, by commissioning research and social awareness schemes that will inform social policies and attitudes.
Oct 9, 2014

Tony's Heartbreaking Tale

In the beginning....
In the beginning....

Fair Life Africa Foundation met Tony* (name has been changed) in March 2012 at Kuramo Beach during one of our outreaches.  At the time, he was only 11 years old.  While on the street, he begged for money and helped people carry their loads for tokens during the day, and would sleep on the sand by the beach at night.  Prior to his admission into the FLA Home, he fell ill to malaria, and though we couldn’t accommodate him at the time, we provided him with food and medicine, and took him into our care when the Home opened in April 2012.  Tony was one of the first three boys who we enrolled in our Pilot Programme.

According to him, his ran away from home because his Grandfather and Aunt frequently beat him for every mistake he made.  We later found out, through our interactions with him, that he showed signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), which his family would have mistook for stubbornness.  While in our care, he was also assessed by a Child Psychologist, who observed the same thing.  When Tony realized that his challenges stemmed from this behavioural disorder, he was a much happier boy, as he responded to our counselling and disciplines, and was motivated by rewards for good behaviour too.

Tony stayed at the FLA Home for a period of 13 weeks, which was the maximum time allotted for the Pilot Programme.  During this period, our Social Worker and Support Workers visited his former place of residence at his Great Grandmother’s house.  He and his siblings had been passed around from family member to family member since his parents separated at in 2007.  His mother had moved away to Egypt (and is now re-married), and his father was unable to care for his children on his own.  However, more than anything, Tony wanted to live with his father.

The few interactions we had with Tony’s father were encouraging, as he was appreciative of our involvement and support, and showed a willingness to learn and take responsibility for Tony.  He had no residence, as he lived at his place of work, and drove trucks morning and night.  His work was also in jeopardy as he had gotten into an accident with one of the trucks.  He was happy when we suggested that we could find and rent a place close to his garage where he and Tony could live.  Tony was also thrilled at the idea of going back to live with his father.

However, this placement was the biggest mistake we ever made!  We found out much too late that Tony’s father was an alcoholic and a negligent father.  After we reconciled Tony and his father, we also enrolled Tony in school.  He was a bright boy with potential, but he lacked the love and care of his parents.  We learnt from the school that Tony was often unkempt, dirty and confused.  On at least two occasions, the Principal felt it necessary to bathe him and brush his teeth, as he was not taking care of himself.  During our follow up visits, we would detect the smell of alcohol on his father’s breath in the early afternoon.  We counselled him repeatedly to think of his child and drop the habit, but he either denied it or made empty promises to change.

In the end, despite our efforts, Tony ran away again.  He was, however, quickly spotted by the authourities and taken into Government care.  When they learnt of our involvement with the family, they quickly handed him over to his father again, despite our recommendations for them to keep him and bring the father to account.  We had written to them prior of his absconding from home, seeking their participation.  However, the Lagos State Ministry had said he was outside their jurisdiction, because he lived on the outskirts of Lagos and Ogun State.  The Ogun State Ministry never responded to our letters calling their attention to Tony’s case.  However, as we had no power to remove him from his father’s care, we tried to manage the situation the best way we could.

Tony returned to his home in time to sit his Common Entrance Examinations into Secondary School, and passed, despite his challenges!  His older brother came to live with them, and we hoped that this would encourage Tony, as he had been pining for his other siblings to join him and his father.  However, things continued to spiral downhill.  Tony’s father used the arrival of his 15 year old son to become even more negligent by leaving the children unaccompanied for days at a time, with little provision for food!  The boys would fight and quarrel until their neighbours had to intervene.  They would often insult the neighbours or get into other mischief in the community as well!

Eventually, Tony stopped paying any attention to school, and began seeking small jobs locally for money.  He later said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, but work in construction.  His father often complained about looking about the children by himself, and that their mother doesn’t help him financially, despite his requests.  Overtime, our calls and visits became less welcome.  Our last visit to see Tony was in December 2013.  When we got to the place we had rented for his family, we saw only his father and brother.  Tony, they said, was staying with his Grandfather.

We did see Tony at his Grandfather’s, where we also left the provisions we had brought for him and his family for Christmas.  He seemed happy and content.  We were not sure how long his stay would be, but we were sure that we had failed him.  We knew that his father didn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t and couldn’t look after him anymore, and it was so sad that after more than a year and a half, we were back to square one.

We learnt a lot from this experience with Tony.  It is actually because of children like him that we have decided to start up a different initiative, Disadvantage to Advantage, which is not focused on street children, but disadvantaged children.  Rather than rescue children from the streets and return them to what might be an unwholesome environment, beyond our control, we are offering long term support to children who are disadvantaged, but brilliant, to achieve their potentials, by completing their course of study or training.  They may either reside at the FLA Home, or at their own homes.  In the case of Tony, he would have been able to reside in our Home, and be supported to complete his Primary, Secondary and University education. 

The key difference between the Disadvantage to Advantage Initiative and the Care Continuity Challenge Initiative is that the former is not terminal.  Children who are adopted into the programme will receive the support they need, until they become mature and independent, to stand unsupported.  Support is given on a case by case basis, knowing that each child is different, and needs different interventions to achieve!  We are hopeful that this new way of operating will enable more children to benefit from our initiatives in the long run.  Thank you for your support!

At the Beach with FLA
At the Beach with FLA
Back at home
Back at home

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Jul 16, 2014

Two Years and Counting...

#Home4Good
#Home4Good

More than two years ago, Charles was rescued from the streets of Lagos by Fair Life Africa Foundation.  We had spotted him at Kuramo Beach where he hung out with others like himself, who had ran away from home for various reasons.  He had ran away after succumbing to the influence of mischievious boys in his neighbourhood.  However, he realised his mistake too late, and for fear of being beaten by his father, he had remained on the street.

Charles was one of the older boys at the Home.  At the time, he was 16 years old.  He was not the best behaved, either, as he was quite troublesome and overly playful.  We were not sure whether he would see the programme through, as he appeared uncommitted.  Through counsel, discipline and empowerment, he was encouraged to change his ways.  By the end of his three month stay, Charles, like the rest of the children with him, was eager to return home to his family, who had been visiting the Home and were also excited about his return.

In July 2012, Charles went back home to live with his family in a small town in Lagos.  His family depended on his step-mother's business, which had been neglected for lack of funds after a period of illness.  Fair Life Africa gave the family a financial boost, so that the business could be restarted.  Two years on, the business is still going strong with the small investment we had made in 2012!

Charles also was keen to return to school.  At his age, he should have been at senior secondary level, but because he had dropped out of school at Junior level, without completing his final exams, he would have had to start again at the beginning if he went to public school!  However, private schools were happy to take him at JSS2, which was a year's advantage.  Fair Life Africa decided to make the additional investment of paying for his private school education, so that he can gain back years lost, and also be assured of a decent education.  

Last August, the family had to move from their long-term accommodatiom at the notice of the landlord, and were stuck financially.  In Nigeria, landlords demand a minimum of a year's rent upfront, and tenants also have to pay agency and agreement fees, which make relocation challenging for many.  Fair Life Africa assisted the family to make this move, by helping them to pay these fees so that they could find a new abode, near enough to Charles' school and his mother's business.

Now, July 2014, Charles has finally completed his Junior Secondary education, and done his Junior WAEC (West African Examinations Council) Exams, with the support of Fair Life Africa and our partners.  He is now awaiting his results and transfer into Senior Secondary School.

This month marks two years that Charles has been at home, and we are so proud of him.  He really has come a long way from the boy we first met at Kuramo Beach, and the one who resided in the Home.  Unlike some of the others we worked with, he has shown himself to be committed to rehabilitation, and ready to work for the life he deserves.  We keep hearing good reports from his family about how he is doing at home.  Thanks so much for enabling us to make this difference in his life.

Charles would very much like to continue his secondary education privately, because the public school system is quite problematic in Nigeria.  We are looking for a sponsor who will take on the noble duty of supporting Charles through his final three years of secondary school.  We would love to hear from you, if there's any way you can assist.  Thank you!

There are still other boys who are celebrating one year and two years at home this month!  We are using the rare opportunity of GlobalGiving Bonus Day to raise additional funding, so that we can encourage these children to stay #home4good!  Today, the 16th of July, from 9am (EST)/2pm (WAT), donations raised on our project page at www.goto.gg/9103 will be matched by 40%!  Please help us to maximise the opportunity by making your own contribution and encouraging your friends and family to support too.  Thanks and God bless you as you give.

Back at School
Back at School

Links:

May 12, 2014

Gbenga's Easter Story

Home stays facilitate reconciliation
Home stays facilitate reconciliation

Gbenga's name has been changed for confidentiality.

The atmosphere at Gbenga's house was different around Easter time last year. It was his second home visit, after a lengthy stay on the streets. Fair Life Africa Foundation took him home for a long week with his family, as we facilitated his reconciliation with his parents and siblings.

His stay at home was short and sweet, and all were hopeful for a strong reconciliation. His mother anticipated his final return home in July, after his completion of our academic year programme. She was pleased to learn that he was one of our best behaved boys at the FLA Home. Gbenga was also happy to be with his siblings again, and looked forward to returning home with Fair Life Africa's support.

However, a year down, the atmosphere at Gbenga's home was not so pleasant. The novelty of his return had wore off, and every family member had to come to grips with the reality that "we are all human and different and just need to get along!"

Every home has its challenges, and the saying that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true for all. The reality is that we all must truly desire peace, and be ready to make some sacrifices to get along with our loved ones, because it won't be happy times all the time.

Gbenga and his mother have their issues just like any other family. Our visit in April, just before Easter, to resolve a major conflict at home was not the first of its kind. It appeared that Gbenga was seeking to prove his maturity prematurely, while his mother had been holding on to some resentment over his past mistakes. It appeared that forgiveness and understanding had no place in their home. We were sad that they were throwing away the second chance they had been given by being disagreeable with each other.

However, around Easter time, something magical happened. Our visit, which seemed fruitless at the time, turned out to have sown some good seed in their hearts. We got a call from Gbenga's mother apologising for how they have been behaving, and informing us that they had both spoken and are working at being more understanding of each other.

Gbenga also got in touch to apologise for his behaviour and assure us that he is still committed to staying home, and wanted us to continue to support him and his family in this.

Our Easter celebration visit to Gbenga's home was our last visit of the season, as we had visited the other reconciled children earlier in the month. We were pleased to find the Easter spirit present at this visit. Gbenga and mother were much happier and considerate of each other. We are sure that their expectations of each other are more realistic, and that though more challenges will arise, they will choose forgiveness and understanding to rise above them.

Gbenga's story shows us that life is no fairy tale, and that happiness is a choice we all must make. If we are not ready to extend grace to others, so that we can live peacefully among them, we do ourselves a great injustice.

We are so glad for Gbenga and his mother, that they have learned this lesson. Unfortunately, we can never control the outcome in the lives of the children who we reconcile with their families. There are so many factors that may take them from the road of happiness to that of breakdown again. But we are always following up on them with phone calls and visits, to ensure that everyone is committed to the objectives of reconciliation, peace being paramount.

Fair Life Africa also lends support to reconciled families, by sponsoring children's education or vocational training, and helping where necessary with financial support for the family business or accommodation needs in times of crisis. Your support enables us to go the extra mile, so that our persistent support will result in more children leaving the streets and staying off the streets!

Thanks so much for your support. We hope that the Easter Spirit, of new hope and forgiveness, will abide with your family all year long!

FLA visits at Easter with gifts for all the family
FLA visits at Easter with gifts for all the family

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