Face painting at Fun Time
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!
Learning to make shoes
Back at home and learning a trade
Tending the garden with friends
Yemi teaches them to read
Kanyin and her generous friends!