Written with permission, by Ifeoma Keke and Ufuoma Emerhor
Hi, my name is James, I am 15 years old. I used to think I was born on Christmas Day, but I now know that I will be 16 on the 18th of September. I am from Ondo State in Nigeria. I learnt about Fair Life Africa Foundation through Sis. Nishola and Bro. Ayo, when they were at Oshodi looking for boys like me to help. I used to sleep under the bridge at Oshodi and worked as a bus conductor and carried load for people for money.
When I was much younger, my mother left me and my sister with my father. I found out that my mother remarried, but died later on during of childbirth. My father remarried when he could no longer manage taking care of us and working at the same time. We had to live with my step-mother because my father was transferred to Abuja by the organization he works for. He is a driver, while my step-mother is a petty trader.
I didn’t like living with my step-mother. She treated me well whenever my dad was around, but whenever he left the house or travelled, she would maltreat me. I tried complaining to my father but he never believed me, even though our neighbours also tried advising him to talk to her. In 2005, when I was eight years old, I choose to run away from home, as things were not getting better.
My father’s relatives looked for me, but whenever I went back home with them, I would end up going back to the street. They did not understand what I was going through or wanted, and sometimes, I do not even understand myself. I wanted to be with my father, to have a good relationship with him just like any other child, but the distance his work created between us made me feel alone. I saw him again for the first time since 2005, when he visited the Fair Life Africa Foundation Home in 2012.
I have been in several other Homes before, but ended up leaving for the street again. I am glad Fair Life Africa Foundation took me in. My stay in the Home has brought me so much happiness. When I started living here, I felt like my freedom had been taken from me once again, and I didn’t like being punished, whenever I go against rules of the Home. I usually protested and sometimes felt like going back to the street. But I’m happy I didn’t give up and decided to stay. I really want to change and make something of myself. Though I still have some challenges and bad attitudes, I am working on them with the help of the staff and mummy (Ms Ufuoma).
I am back to school and in JSS 1. Fair Life Africa enrolled me in a secondary school nearby. I’m supposed to be in JSS3, but could not pass the examination as it has been a long while since I stopped attending school. I have been studying hard to meet up with school work but it has been quite challenging. I’m not giving up, and will work harder to make sure I pass my second term exams.
My uncle has visited Fair Life Africa severally and whenever he comes around, he brings gifts for me and my friends, and encourages me to continue with the right path. The best news is that my father has also started visiting! He came all the way from Abuja to see me in Lekki, Lagos. He has visited twice and brought along some clothes and shoes for me.
Recently, I spent the weekend with my grandpa and uncle in Lagos. It was a very interesting weekend. At first, I was not excited about it, because I taught it was going to be boring, but it turned out well. I chatted with my grandpa and uncle, played with my little cousin, went out with my uncle on Saturday and also helped with the chores at home too. On Sunday I went out on bicycle ride with my uncle and six friends. It was so much fun and very competitive too. We had to return home early because we got news that Sis. Nishola and Bro. Ayo were around to pick me. I was quite sad to leave them.
I know I have hurt so many people by my attitude and wasted years on the street, but I want to make it right and be a pride to my family, Fair Life Africa, those who are sponsoring this programme and the whole society. Were it not for your care and generosity, I would not have left the street and would probably get into a lot of trouble. Please continue to help Fair Life Africa Foundation, and you will be helping boys like me to turn over a new leaf. Thank you for everything.