Reflecting back on our progress over the last few months, I thought of what the title of this report could be. I kept remembering all the small victories along the way, and how every day the dream seems like an impossibility, until one day, it happens!! The little pieces fit together and you see the full picture in retrospect. That’s when the title came to me. When I look back, what I see is a miracle, but on a day to day basis, it is a challenge that requires persistence.
We have been sending out monthly newsletters to our friends and supporters, to enable them to follow our progress. You can view all our newsletters since February 2011 on our new blog, which also details some of the significant activities and events at Fair Life Africa Foundation. We hope that it will be an interactive site, where our supporters can feel like they are part of the family, knowledgeable of our operations and contributing actively to our programmes and progress! Thank you for all that you have done. Your support has brought us so far and keeps us going. Please visit the blog at www.fairlifeafrica.wordpress.com and follow it too.
When we sent our last report from the field (three months ago), we had just concluded on our pilot programme of the CCC Respite Project. In the pilot, nine boys were resident at the Home for a twelve week programme, though they each spent variable amounts of time, with five of them staying with us for 13 weeks. Following this programme, we re-strategized based on our experiences and decided to run a longer programme, which would enable the children to attend school from the Respite Home, while we initiate reconciliation with their families. Here is a recap of the last three months…
August was a month of focused outreach, as we scanned the streets for boys in need, and invited them to our centre for care, food and assessment. As part of our strategy to keep the boys visiting, and to learn more about them, we organised Fun Time at the Home between 23rd and 31st August. The children were taught how to make shoes and other arts and crafts. We also had a movie day with popcorn, and games day with a trip to a fast food joint as a prize for the winning team. It was a wonderful success, and a brilliant time! Out of 30 boys that visited the Home in that period, we chose 12 to work with. These boys proved their commitment by visiting regularly, permitting us to visit their homes in order to learn more about them, and were also eager to go to school. They showed that they understood the programme and were interested in reconciliation.
In September, we met Yemi, a bright young lady with a passion for the underprivileged, who found a place for herself in the Home. She took the initiative to gather her friends together to come and tend to our garden, and made a wonderful day of it. She has since become a regular, mentoring the boys, supporting the team on visits and trips out, and even bringing provisions for the Home. She’s not been the only one. We have been amazed by the support different individuals and organisations have shown too. Tosin Jegede Foundation also visited the Home for the first time in September, and helped our boys with literacy, through their 1 Child 1 Book initiative. Through this visit, we gained a new friend and partner in the vision, Toju, who has become like a father to the boys, mentoring them, and helping us to raise more support to feed and look after them.
Fair Life Africa also followed up on the boys from the pilot programme in September, visiting them with gifts and provisions to mark two months back in their homes! We paid school fees, and gave support to families struggling to revive their businesses, so that the families can regain their livelihood, and sustain themselves ultimately. We also worked and continue to with other organisations (Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Juvenile Welfare Centre amongst several others) to assist some of the families with various challenges, and the children who have passed through our centre with additional support.
Of the twelve boys in the Home, six of them have been visited by their families so far, and some of them are regular visitors at the Home. In our blog, we told 'Peter's Story'. Peter (name changed for confidentiality) is an orphan who took to the streets when life got too hard at home. His sister, brother and uncles have been to visit and we are working on a resolution with them. We will also be writing the stories of the other boys in a way that protects their confidence, so that you can understand the complexity and diversity of the issues we are working with and know just where your donations are going. In addition to counselling and reconciliation support, the children need medical assistance and psychological intervention. Omasan, is a doctor who visits the Home to check on the children and offers his professional insights. We are looking for more supporters like him, who are trained in child psychology and can come regularly to assess the children's mental needs.
In October, all our boys started schooling, and were placed in Primary or Secondary classes according to their level of understanding. We received support from two nearby private schools, which discounted their fees and promised to give additional support to them, to enable them to catch up with their peers. The boys have been excited about going to school, and our support workers and volunteers help them after school hours to study and do their homework too. We were recently thrilled to hear about how one of our boys, who couldn’t read or write, and could barely speak English, scored 30/30 in his class after less than a month in school!! He was determined to learn, and he proved everyone who said he couldn’t do it wrong. Three others are studying hard to do their West African Examinations Council (WAEC) exams next year, and we are hopeful that they will also amaze everyone and pass with flying colours.
It is not all work at the Home. Our children have a great time too! We took them out to Lekki Beach one Saturday in October, when we had to fumigate the Home, and we had a splendid time! They ate and danced, played football and other games too. Yemi, Toju, and a new friend, Ofure, joined us. We’ve also recommenced our monthly birthday parties (MBPs), and continue to receive many friendly guests. Tosin (of Tosin Jegede Foundation) came with Toju. Toju invited Keno and Michael, who both came with treats and rewards for the children too. Keno later came by to donate a hi-fi system to enable us to enjoy a better sound during our parties. Michael also decided to become a regular donor after seeing the reality of our work. Ayo (one of our support workers) invited his friends over in October to celebrate his birthday at the Home with the kids.
More recently, Kanyin, a new friend, came last Sunday with seven fabulous friends to spread love and cheer in the Home, as she celebrated turning 26! They brought lots of provisions for the Home; food, treats and even toiletries! Before they left, two of them also gave financial donations, being moved by what they saw at the Home. It was really very encouraging. Also our sponsors and friends, Raleke and Njideka came to announce their engagement, with invitation to attend their wedding in January, and also donated to the Home during their visit. We are truly happy for them and look forward to sharing in the celebrations!
With all these activities in the Home, we decided that we had better start blogging about it, so the blog was launched on September 30th. We made a point to celebrate with our friends too, and started by celebrating with our Patrons, Olorogun and Chief (Mrs) Emerhor, when they marked their 25th anniversary in September. Olorogun Emerhor is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Fair Life Africa. We also celebrated with our sponsor, Mr Uba, who gave his daughter Anne to be married in October. It is our small token of appreciation for those who give so much for us. As you share in our little victories, we also want to share in your joy. Please become our friend on Facebook and subscribe to our monthly newsletter too.
Right now, there are so many different things going on all at once. Christmas is around the corner and we are all excited! People are starting to recognise our work and are choosing to support the initiative, through regular donations, sometimes by celebrating their birthdays with us, or by random acts of kindness. Like Yemi, full of surprises, who came on Saturday to carry the children to Victoria Garden City (a wealthy district in Lagos), where they saw beautiful sights, and relaxed in a lovely park! Before their excursion, she'd taught them to read ‘Who Was Martin Luther King Jnr?’ in the morning, and helped them with their assignments too. She really is a shining example.
Even as all these activities are going on, the children need more mentors to come and help with their education, which is paramount. We need more people to take the initiative to come and teach them on a few subjects in addition to their schooling, because they really need to catch up on what they have missed. As much as we want them to have fun, they also need to get smart… Can you be a mentor to our children? Give us a call on +2348058711125 or drop in at the Home at 2 Gbara Close, off Maiyegun (Lekki) Beach Rd, Lekki, Lagos. We have a 'Donor Shopping List' on our blog, created by popular demand to represent our needs to those eager and ready to help. Please check out the list, and help us out with any of the things that you are able to. We encourage people to give regularly, and you can sign up for reminders via the blog too, or set up a direct debit with GlobalGiving on our behalf.
So, to answer the question...how do you make a miracle? You focus on the practical things, and start with what you have. Even if it just a fish and five loaves! As you begin to share, you will inspire others to do the same. Before long, you will see a community of givers, and end up with more than you started with! That is how one candle can light up a whole room. You can make the impossible happen, when you start by doing what’s possible! The little choices we made have been part of a big picture, and I can see that I have been and I am part of a miracle that has happened and is happening. Each child that is in our Home, and not on the street is living a miracle. I hope that you will be inspired to share the little in your hand too, and help God to make more miracles!
I like to think of hope as the breath of life...Without it, the living, though they are alive, are as dead. It has been found that in the absence of hope, the sick do not recover. Where they see no hope, some people facing crisis may choose to take their own lives or make drastic decisions that compromise their safety. For example, vulnerable children choosing the street over their homes can be seen as people in hopeless circumstances, or a young girl making the compromise to sell her body for food.
Hope is the most important thing a person needs to survive. Hope is the cheapest, but the most valuable gift we can give, and all that is required is a little interest and expression of kindness to a needy soul. That is what we give to the children work with, and we are so glad that we are not doing it on our own. Thank you for all the support you have given, and continue to give. With your continued charity, the light of hope can keep shining even in the darkest places in the world…
I have started this report by talking about hope because sometimes the opportunities we give people by choosing to lend a hand can be underestimated. We don’t want you to underestimate the value of your contributions. With your help, over the last three months, Fair Life Africa Foundation has extended hope to nine boys whom we sheltered through our CCC Respite Project ‘to protect and empower Nigerian street kids’. Even though all their experiences were different, and they each handled the opportunity they were given differently, there is no doubt in my mind that each of their lives will never be the same, and for the better.
I would have loved to tell you about hundreds of children whom we have touched, but the truth about our work is that it is a qualitative investment; as we work with a set number of children at a time, to help them to be reconciled with family, and have hope for the future. I wish all their stories were success stories, but unfortunately, one of the boys
chose to opt out of the programme prematurely and returned to the streets again, despite the love and encouragement he was shown. But the thing about hope is that, even if it is just one life that will be saved, the value of the investment cannot be underestimated. And the success stories drive our hope that the world can be a better place if we will make the effort.
So, I want to tell you about two boys, in particular. Their names have been changed to maintain their confidentiality. Jason and Anthony are 13 years and 11 years old respectively. Jason used to live at home with six brothers and sisters, before he began to frequent the streets, and eventually ran away. His parents recount that he used to be well behaved when his father worked closer to home, but when he set up a business far from home that kept him away from home for days at a time, Jason began to spend more time away from home and with bad friends. His mother, who couldn’t handle the burden of the seven children (including a two year old), and her small business, also expended her energy trying to keep him in check. To add to their problems, Jason began to sell off the family possessions for a token of their worth, which would attract beatings from his father, that became very abusive and included him being tied down with a chain for days to prevent his running away.
There are so many issues, when you consider Jason’s case, but there is not time or space to go into all. He eventually ran away for fear of being beaten after selling off their family generator. However, when you see Jason, you will not believe that he could do anything bad at all. He is such a simple and lovable child, who responds to care and direction. He is also bright and artistic. However, he is easily influenced. Before Jason returned home, his family visited our Home - and his mother on several occasions - for counseling and reconciliation. He also got to spend a weekend with his family. In addition, to ensure that his father understood the seriousness of breaching Jason’s right to protection from abuse, a child protection meeting was held at the State Secretariat, and he was counselled and given an official warning not to abuse Jason or any of his other children.
Jason was supported home with provisions for himself and his family, and he has been regularly visited at home by his social worker. During her last visit, she recounted that he looked so happy and “did not look like a child who has ever lived on the street”. He is currently receiving holiday coaching, and is looking forward to resuming school in
September. His father is repentant about the way he abused Jason, and the parents are also being supported to
enable them to give better care to their children.
Anthony is a boy who displays the characteristics of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. However, he had been living with grandparents who did not understand his condition, but assumed that he was just a very naughty boy, and would beat him every single day. He eventually ran away to the streets. He was left in their care after his parents divorced, and his mother moved to another country. His father worked as a driver and was not stable enough to look after him and his siblings, who were moved about from one relative to another. While Anthony was with us, he showed that he was a bright and honest boy, and he also showed a strong desire to be reconciled with his father.
Anthony’s father and his grandparents visited the home and were counselled about how to treat a child that behaves like Anthony. Anthony also showed some understanding about his behaviour, and made efforts to be better behaved. Unfortunately, his father’s work requires that he lives close to work, and so he used to sleep at work, and had no place to accommodate himself and his children. However, Fair Life Africa Foundation supported the family to rent an accommodation close to his work for 18 months, so that Anthony and his father can start a life together. They will soon be joined by his siblings too.
Anthony was delighted to be returned home, and even when he arrived and saw his father unwell, he still wanted to stay with him. It was particularly touching, considering that Anthony had become used to the comfort of our Respite Home. When his social worker visited, she marveled at how happy he was. She remarked that at his holiday coaching classes, his classmates “like him a lot” and said that he is doing very well in his academic work. He, too, is looking forward to resuming school in September.
Time will not permit me to talk about the other successful reconciliations made, but I hope you can see that each case is different. We are very hopeful that Anthony and Jason will never go back to the streets again, and that they will grow up to be visionary leaders in Nigeria. Having been touched by love and hope, we know that they will have much love and hope to give to other less privileged people. Thank you for being a part of it! God bless you.
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!
Here goes our first report from Lagos, Nigeria on our project to 'protect and empower Nigerian street kids'. I hope it finds you well and hearty, and I also hope that you will be encouraged by it. Before I say anything, I would just like to say a BIG thank you for your amazing support. It is really amazing because it is uncommon. Your generousity continues to impact lives even after your donation is spent, because we are encouraged beyond measure!
Since we posted our project on GlobalGiving UK in November last year, we have been able to raise £2236 online towards our work. We still need to raise a lot more to enable us to deliver effective interventions into the lives of vulnerable street children in Nigeria. We also have support from friends in Nigeria, who have been giving in cash and kind what they can, and we have made some progress over the months. We have touched the lives of three families and hundreds of children.
The long awaited opening of our CCC Respite Home is drawing nearer, and we are looking to receive children into the home, located at Lekki, by the end of March. Right now, we are doing the hard work of setting up, administration, building our staff capacity and resources. Peace and Ayo, were passionate volunteers for the cause, and are now full-time staff, who are helping to prepare the home for our first batch of boys. Ayo, a support worker, visits Kuramo Beach regularly to observe the boys on the streets and spot new arrivals, whom Fair Life Africa can assist towards reconciliation.
While we are setting up, we have maximised opportunities to collaborate with others to support and create awareness on the needs of street children everywhere. Our most recent collaboration was the Valentine's Day visit we planned to the Juvenile Welfare Centre, a police-run facility for lost and runaway children in Lagos. We partnered with three other organisations to make the day beautiful for the children there. One of the activities we did on the day was card-making, which was a lot of fun for all of us. I enjoyed making cards with seven year old Amdia, a new arrival at the centre, who had been abandoned at a nearby police station by an 'aunty'. At Christmas time, we held a New Year’s Eve Party at the Correctional Centre for Boys, in Oregun, and catered to 110 children. The facility is run by the Lagos State Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Development, towards rehabilitation and reconciliation.
Tom, a 16 year old former street boy, whom we reconciled with his family in October last year, celebrated his birthday in January. Fair Life Africa took him on an outing with three of his friends to mark the day. He has been well behaved at home, and is settling back into school well too. His family was visited over Christmas and given food and clothing provisions, as well as sanitary gift bags from Fair Life Africa to promote their hygiene. We have also been able to intervene positively in the lives of two vulnerable mothers, Martha and Folake, whose children were at risk of becoming street children. We supported both families with suitable housing, and also continue to monitor the situation, alongside other organisations to meet their diverse needs.
Well, I’ll leave it there for now and report back soon. We wish to pass on the blessings we have received from our beneficiaries, who are constantly praying over us when we visit: ‘whatever you seek, you will find, and you will lack nothing good’ – paraphrase of Mrs Smith (Tom’s grandma), who speaks Yoruba.
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