Every quarter, GlobalGiving presents us with a great opportunity for a timely reflection on our work. This is so necessary in this day and age, when everyone seems to be rushing ahead, often forgetting their original target and direction, and getting bogged down by the demands of living in a modern world. We find this timely reflection needful and empowering, as we are often encouraged by what we have been able to do in the months past, and are motivated to keep steering on the right course!
So as we reflect, we write to you about what has transpired over the last three months. This time last year, our report was quite mighty, as we had so much to say due to the amount of traffic we received at the Home over Christmas! Then, we had a house full of kids too, and people coming around almost daily to make their Christmas wonderful. This year, it was a more quite Christmas. With no children residing, our focus was outward to those reconciled and also to those yet to be rescued and rehabilitated from the life of a street child.
VISITS TO THE RECONCILED BOYS
We are continually following up on the children we have reconciled, through phone calls and visits. Sometimes, there is a need to visit all the children in a month for varied needs (often due to educational support, e.g. in September), and other months, like November and January, the visits are fewer because things are more settled, and visits are usually just to provide some added support (especially in cases of crisis). Our visits around November and January were mostly to assist the boys resitting their WAEC examinations with registration to schools as external candidates for 2014.
At Christmas time, we made a point of visiting all the past reconciled boys from 2012 and 2013, to wish them a MERRY CHRISTMAS with provisions of food and clothing. We made ten of these Special Christmas visits to various locations in Lagos State, Oyo State (Ibadan) and Ondo State! We couldn’t make it down to Anambra State, where one of our formerly reconciled boys now stays with his Aunty. All our visits were warmly received and appreciated, and we extend the greetings of the boys and their families to you all!
Apart from these visits, we needed to pay Mark and his family a special visit to assist them with a challenge to their business and home life. We had learnt from our communications with Mark’s father that their main business of selling drinks, which we had supported with a deep freezer and some provisions in October, was still struggling due to the infrequent and unstable supply of electricity in their locality. Steady power supply is still a challenge in Nigeria, but some areas have it much worse than others.
We discussed the possibility of getting them a small generator to help the situation, but concluded that it would also lead to dwindling funds for the family, as they would need to put profits into fuelling the generator constantly! Mark’s mother suggested that we help by getting them connected to power supply in their home, which had better power supply than at the shop. They had not been set up to receive power all this time, and it would only cost a little bit for us to help. They were keen to relocate the deep freezer to their home to keep their provisions cool for resale. We thought it was a great opportunity to help them at home and with their business, so easily agreed, and paid for their home to be connected to power, which they very much appreciated!
We also made a necessary visit to Andrew’s father’s place, after we had learnt from Andrew’s mother that he had been making no effort to support his children, despite his participation in our reconciliation sessions for Andrew (while he was still with us). We counselled him again on the importance of being a ‘present’ parent, and caring for his children, so that they don’t feel neglected and make uninformed choices (like running away), which will impact their lives forever. We were much encouraged by the outcome of this visit, as we soon learnt, from Andrew’s mother, that his father had come with provisions for the children! We also learnt that he gave them spending money for clothes at Christmas. We hope that he will keep up this supportive behaviour.
THE OUTREACH PROGRAMME
Our visits to the streets to locate new children in need of support started early in December. Ayo and Ifeoma (our Support Worker and Social Worker) lead this outreach and were occasionally accompanied by volunteers. We revisited the places that we’d visited before in 2012, when we last performed this exercise, such as Kuramo (which is now closed down, but the nearby Bar Beach has become the new ‘hotspot’ for runaway children), Mushin, Oshodi and some other local beaches. As usual, it took a while to break in and get the children to engage with us, but eventually, we began to get some positive responses from them.
There was a particular day that Ayo and Ifeoma were directed by one of the older boys to a new locality near Mushin, where a lot of the young ones now hangout. Their report of this finding was quite shocking to us, though we were quite familiar with the delinquencies street life affords the children. We learnt that in this particular place, “anything goes”, and even among the children who were drinking and getting high on drugs were representatives of the Government, in the form of police officers, among them…doing quite the same thing! It was a heart breaking revelation to see that those who should be controlling the spread of such vices were themselves entrenched in it.
As was our practice, we invited the children whom we had completed a ‘Child Data Form’ for, to visit our Centre for respite from the street and further assessments, and support towards reconciliation. One of the boys we saw at Oshodi was ‘Lemar’. We had seen Lemar last year while on outreach, but he had missed his chance to be among the children we took in by his indecision to leave the streets. He responded to our invitation to visit again, and invited his friends too. However, he still appears to be undecided about leaving the streets, as is the case with a number of his friends. This means that our outreach will need to be persistent and assertive to get through to them.
‘Joshua’ and ‘Kevin’ are two examples of children who have taken to the streets, and do not see their need for rescue. Joshua’s case is particularly heart-breaking because his situation was brought about by an opportunistic family member who deceived his parents to permit Joshua to come down to Lagos and work as his apprentice. However, he was abusive to Joshua, neglecting even his basic need for food. When Joshua came to the Centre, it was just his second day on the streets! However, when advised to make a trip back home to his family, with our support, his response was that he was not yet ready!
During his assessment, Kevin had said that he lived with his mother at Oshodi. This was concerning to us, as it would mean that he wasn’t really in the same situation as the others, and by letting him come to the Centre with the others, he would eventually end up breaking away from home altogether. We quickly decided that we needed to verify his story, and also consult with his mother to learn whether or not she knew that her child was spending his days as a ‘street child’. Ifeoma decided to accompany him back to Oshodi to see his mother one day, but by the time they got there, he became anxious and was reluctant for her to accompany him home. So we were unable to meet his mother (or verify his account), and unfortunately, we haven’t seen Kevin since that day…
For them, and a lot of the other children, visiting our Centre is nice because they get to use the showers, wash their clothes, get a nap, have two nutritious meals, play with their friends away from the heat of the sun, and use our recreational facilities (including access to the computer). They are also supported with literacy and numeracy classes, facilitated by Ayo. We also have new tutors coming in to teach them computer skills and arts and crafts on Fridays. We are happy when the children come, no matter the reason, because every visit is an opportunity to break new ground in their lives, as we often counsel them, and are able to learn more about them in order to assist.
Apart from the Open Days (Wednesdays, Fridays and Last Saturday of the Month), particular boys are invited back on Tuesdays or Thursdays for special counselling sessions and a chance to go on a home trace. They often honour their invitations for counselling, and enjoy an extra day at the Centre. However, none have been ready for a home tracing exercise so far. Despite the challenges, we are hopeful that we will have positive stories of reconciliation to recount in our next report. Getting the child to agree to a home tracing is one thing, but the greater challenge of reconciliation still awaits us, when families are contacted and bridges need to be mended!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM EACH MONTH
The major highlight from November was the FLA Mentoring and Befriending Consultation we held at the Home to include the contributions of eager friends who have longed to volunteer their time and skills in helping the children. It was really a long time overdue, and we were pleased with the response we received from our supporters who took the time to participate. One of our Corporate partners, LAFARGE, sent a number of their representatives from their ‘Friends of the Community’ (FOC) initiative, as they were eager to lend their support in a practical way.
Our major highlight from December (apart from the joyous celebration of Christmas) was the news we received from the Lagos State Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Development (MYSSD). We had begun our registration with them in 2012, but the process had been a slow one. We eventually got our probationary approval in March 2013. On December 6th, we got our official letter stating that we are FULLY approved by them now! It may not seem so exciting to you, but for us, it is quite an achievement, as we have since learnt that Fair Life Africa Foundation is the first NGO to be FULLY approved by the Ministry in Lagos!
In January, Fair Life Africa marked its THIRD year of operation as a humanitarian organisation! We splurged a little this year and got a small celebration cake, which we cut and shared with the children who attended the Home on Friday the 10th! We also received support in physical and cash donations from friends and well-wishers to mark the day. Rume Kragha, who also celebrated his birthday earlier in the month, came around with his friends and many gifts to share! We are so glad to have marked another year, and as we reflect back, we know that we would not be here without the amazing support from our friends. THANK YOU so much for your support, which has brought us this far!
We hope that you have been well informed and inspired by this reflective report. We know that it is important to you that your funds are well used, and we would like to assure you that they are! Please continue to support our work so that we will be able to take in more boys in September 2014, and provide assertive outreach to those we are meeting now. Please WATCH our new video – ‘Memory Lane (Life as we never knew it could be…)’ to learn about the kind of support the children receive while resident at the CCC Respite Home. We welcome your donations, and invite you to consider making a recurring donation to us each month! A generous sponsor is matching the recurring donations we receive via our project page, which is a great incentive!
However, before you hasten to give right away… You should know that in just a few days, on February 12th, GlobalGiving.org is giving you a rare opportunity to multiply your impact. They promise to match by 30% (up to $1000 per donation) every donation received on our site on that day from 9am (EDT)/3pm (WAT)/2pm (GMT)! Please visit our OFFICIAL BLOG to know more about this opportunity, and get ready to make your contribution go further. God bless you all as you give. Here’s wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day too. Until next time, have a good one!