Hi Friends! I hope this email finds you well and in good spirits. I want to take a minute or two to write and update you on what has been going on with us at Fair Life Africa Foundation, for the last three months. As you know, we are just starting up our CCC (Care Continuity Challenge) Respite Project, to protect and empower Nigerian street kids. That has been going well, with challenges along the way. Things have been very hectic, but it has been a learning process for all of us involved in the project!
In February and March, our focus was really on getting the Home equipped and furnished to offer temporary accommodation to street boys in transit, as they are supported to return home ultimately. We were blessed to receive physical donations in the form on a used generator (much needed in Nigeria), a used car (essentially for our home tracing excursions), air conditioners and other useful appliances and equipment. We bought some beds and bedding, computers and other essentials for the Home and the office too. We also built our capacity with additional staff and volunteers, who helped us to set up and also to do outreaches to the street (Oshodi, Kuramo, Mushin and other notorious street locations where street children are found in Lagos).
In March, we also started receiving the children, once weekly, into the centre as visitors, and opened the Home and its facilities to those interested in taking up our offer of support. As we are providing accommodation, and cannot accommodate both boys and girls in the same facility (for a number of logistical reasons), we only received boys at this time. They would come in for a hot meal, a shower and relaxation, and also had access to our Reading Room (which is equipped with two computers and educational books and resources too) and Recreation Room (which holds games and toys for them to play with). You will not be surprised to learn that most of them just wanted to sleep… and that is what they did most of the time. These visiting times were also set up for us to do follow up assessments on the children, to ascertain their readiness for this new transition.
In April, we took a leap of faith, and received three of the boys we met (two from Oshodi and one form Kuramo Beach) into the Home. Over the weeks, we received additional boys who came for our Open Days (on Fridays; a continuation of the weekly visitations/assessments). In total, we have received nine boys from the streets this way. All the children have received comprehensive medical tests and relevant treatments, including de-worming. They are supported on a daily basis by a Social Worker and Support Workers, who counsel them and assist with their social and academic development, while at the Home. Tutors and Vocational Trainers, who offer their support freely, also attend the Home regularly to provide educational and vocational support for the children, which include Maths, English, IT, Tie and Dye and Civic Education.
Home tracing for their family members and/or guardians is a top priority, while the children are with us, as our aim is to reconcile them with their families, and not to retain them long-term. Most of the children’s parents were visited in the first week of their stay with us, and some were even contacted prior to their receipt into the Home. Families are also invited over to the Home on Thursdays to visit with their children, and also to meet with the Social Workers for further assessment and counseling, as the case may be. Many of the children’s families have taken up this offer, and some are regulars on Thursdays, which has been nice to see. We were especially impressed when a few of the parents, of their own volition, decided to bring clothes and food provisions for their children in the Home, despite the economic challenges they face.
As part of the rehabilitation process, we have exercised alternative disciplines for the children, without using corporal punishment as is commonly done in this part of the world. It hasn’t been easy, as the boys present with many challenging behaviours, and do not seem to appreciate the counseling provided. We also adopted a ‘Good Behaviour Chart’, which we are using as motivational tool, to encourage their good behaviour, where ever we see it. Some of the boys were more motivated by this reward system than the others, and so, by the time the chart was completed by one boy, there were just three other competitors in tow.
Today, we took the winner, Frank (his adopted nickname), and his chosen companion (and also coincidentally, the runner up!) on an outing to Blue Island in Lekki, Lagos. It is a nice, but small resort, with an outdoor pool. Frank wanted somewhere to swim, and also wanted to eat chicken from a nice fast food joint, and that was exactly what he got! When we came back with the pictures, the other boys were so jealous, and vowed that they will be well behaved from now on! Let’s hope it works :) The boys really like going on outings, and two were privileged to accompany me on the radio in April. They came as 'the Real Experts' on Fair Life Africa's Street Child Agenda programme on Radio Continental 102.3fm, to share their own insights into the phenomenon.
Well, this has been more than a minute. I should have warned you that I am likely to ramble… Well, I hope you’ve got the picture. The Home is operating now, and we are still scouting the streets for more children to support every week, and are also open to referrals. We have the capacity to receive and accommodate 12 at a time. There are a lot more older boys (13+) than small boys (<12) visible on the streets, and we have our hands full with the older ones, and are really looking out for the younger ones for now.
All the same, every child matters, and we very much need your help to change their lives. The children need clothes, books, food and volunteers or teachers to come and lend a helping hand too. The Home needs finances to help us keep up with the bills, such as paying and training our staff, running the generator (which has been horrendous, because of the power situation in Nigeria), cleaning and kitchen supplies and other things for the office. We hope that you will catch the vision and consider yourself a part of us too. We definitely see you as a part of our success, and will always be grateful for what you have done! Thank you so much!
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