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Raised: 11%
 

Target: £77,447.00
Raised so far: £8,172.00

Fully funded

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Project run by

Fair Life Africa Foundation, Lekki, Nigeriahttp://www.fairlifeafrica.org

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Protect and empower Nigerian street kids

Fair Life Africa provides a transit home, and offers a quarterly 12-week rehabilitation programme for 12 boys (5 to 17yrs) to receive respite from the streets of Lagos and care in a child-friendly environment. The children will receive counselling and vo

What is the problem the project is addressing?

Street children are a growing phenomenon is every city of the world, and family breakdown is the greatest factor. Oshodi is a popular spot where children spend their days working, being abused or exploited, unable or unwilling to return home due to poverty, abuse or family conflict. They are denied their rights as children to go to school and be cared for in a home. FLA offers children an alternative to Oshodi; we give care, restore hope and purpose and support families to overcome poverty

How will this project solve the problem?

Fair Life Africa provides short-term accommodation. Our caring and skilled staff will support and empower the children with life-skills and self-esteem. During their rehabilitation, we investigate their family background and facilitate contact and reconciliation between children and their families. We offer counselling and therapeutic support, vocational and educational sponsorship, medical aid and financial assistance to enable full social reintegration, and reduce the risk of family breakdown

What is the potential long-term impact of this project?

The project does not only deal with the effects but addresses the causes of the street child problem in Lagos. Solution is sought at the family level, which is the basic unit of society. For every successful reconciliation, we would have improved the life of a child, their family and their immediate community. We also improve the wider society by redeeming a child from the path of crime, drugs and poverty, and giving them a chance to become functional adults, who can lead the next generation.

Apr 10 2015

When Your Work Is Done

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Moving on is one of the hardest things for us to do, even if it is as a result of completion of an objective.  Through our Care Continuity Challenge Initiative, we worked with 21 children who resided at our Respite Home for a period of time.  Our ultimate goal was to see them off the streets, united with their families, and on a positive path of empowerment, whether through formal or vocational education.  Not every child completed our rehabilitation programme, and of those who did, not all stayed committed to their new life at home. 

However, there are those who did, and made all our efforts worthwhile.  Adam is one of those, whose resilience encourages us.  Unlike the others, his family never came to visit him while he was at the FLA Home.  They live in Ondo State, so distance and financial constraints were significant issues for them, though we offered to pay for their trip to Lagos.  It was a huge step of faith for all of us, when we reconciled 15 year old Adam, with his family in August 2013.  His desire was to be with his family and off the streets for good.

At 16 years, Adam finally completed his Primary schooling.  He had no ambitions for continue to Secondary School, and was quite discouraged because of his maturity.  He decided to study the Tailoring vocation, so his family sought a trainer for him, who we paid to teach Adam.  Adam is almost done with his training now and designs and sews beautifully.  He showed off and modelled his designs at our recent visit to celebrate Easter.

Peter is another child, who was part of the second set of children we accommodated at the FLA Home.  He was reconciled with his uncle in July 2013, and supported to re-sit his WAEC exams, which he passed the second time around.  He and his brother are now residing with his sister and her husband.   He is currently sitting his JAMB examinations, with hopes to take his study higher to University level.  Nishola, Ifeoma and Njideka visited him at home with provisions for the family just last week.

We are glad that things have turned out well for them, and for Mark, Andrew, Charles, Eddy and Tony, who we have kept communications with, and continue to support to varying extents.  In February, Mark and his family were invited to attend Pinefield School’s Valentine’s Party.  We were all surprised and delighted when the School Proprietress decided to adopt Mark’s four siblings, to sponsor their education!  It was quite a unique Valentine’s gift.

However, our focus is now very much on our new initiative, Disadvantage to Advantage, which evolved out of the lessons we learnt from the CCC Initiative.  We are very hopeful that things will continue to go well for our reconciled boys.  With this final report on the CCC Initiative, we would like to close this project, and appeal for your support as we embark on the D2A! Initiative.

So far, we have adopted 12 children into the new programme, and are happy to report that all but one have now found sponsors, who will be sponsoring their education going forward.  We also visited all of them at their various homes during Easter.  We are now seeking out referrals for new kids, who are bright, despite disadvantage, to support to achieve their potentials.  We are also seeking FLA Heroes, who will sponsor these brilliant, but otherwise less-fortunate, children.  Plans are underway for our Talent Search Week in August for the purpose of identifying gifted children to adopt into the programme.  We are very excited, and would greatly appreciate your support.

Jan 09 2015

Update on Tony

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Happy New Year dear friends!  We hope Christmas was fantastic :)  We had an awesome time as we caught up with our reconciled boys at their various homes, and also made special visits to children in the Ikota and Ajegunle communities of Lagos.

Last time, we reported on Tony, and we left it on a sad note, as we hadn't been able to reach Tony since Christmas 2013.

After that post, we were motivated to seek him out again, and we were successful!  We found out that his father had infact returned him to his grandfather's care as we had suspected.  However, the good news is that his mother, who still resides in Egypt, decided to take responsibility for him and enrolled him in a boarding school locally.

Given his intelligence, he was allowed to enter at Junior Secondary School level 2, instead of starting at level one.  He is doing well at school, and spends the holidays at his grandfather's place at Ikotun.  His father visits him there and at school from time to time and things seem to be improving between everyone.

We are so glad we followed up and that he didn't return to the street.  We hope that the interest and love we showed their son encouraged them to make the extra effort needed to secure his future.  

Tony was very happy to see us, and gladly collected our gifts of rice and oil, as well as two T-shirts, one #FLAKids branded as well.  We will continue to visit him and see how we can encourage him with his studies.

We also visited two other boys who we reconciled in 2012 and two from 2013 set.  Car trouble over Christmas meant that we were unable to make some trips, but we will be catching up this January!  

Thanks for your support which has enabled us to do more.  We are encouraged!  We wish you an amazing 2015!

Oct 09 2014

Tony's Heartbreaking Tale

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Fair Life Africa Foundation met Tony* (name has been changed) in March 2012 at Kuramo Beach during one of our outreaches.  At the time, he was only 11 years old.  While on the street, he begged for money and helped people carry their loads for tokens during the day, and would sleep on the sand by the beach at night.  Prior to his admission into the FLA Home, he fell ill to malaria, and though we couldn’t accommodate him at the time, we provided him with food and medicine, and took him into our care when the Home opened in April 2012.  Tony was one of the first three boys who we enrolled in our Pilot Programme.

According to him, his ran away from home because his Grandfather and Aunt frequently beat him for every mistake he made.  We later found out, through our interactions with him, that he showed signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), which his family would have mistook for stubbornness.  While in our care, he was also assessed by a Child Psychologist, who observed the same thing.  When Tony realized that his challenges stemmed from this behavioural disorder, he was a much happier boy, as he responded to our counselling and disciplines, and was motivated by rewards for good behaviour too.

Tony stayed at the FLA Home for a period of 13 weeks, which was the maximum time allotted for the Pilot Programme.  During this period, our Social Worker and Support Workers visited his former place of residence at his Great Grandmother’s house.  He and his siblings had been passed around from family member to family member since his parents separated at in 2007.  His mother had moved away to Egypt (and is now re-married), and his father was unable to care for his children on his own.  However, more than anything, Tony wanted to live with his father.

The few interactions we had with Tony’s father were encouraging, as he was appreciative of our involvement and support, and showed a willingness to learn and take responsibility for Tony.  He had no residence, as he lived at his place of work, and drove trucks morning and night.  His work was also in jeopardy as he had gotten into an accident with one of the trucks.  He was happy when we suggested that we could find and rent a place close to his garage where he and Tony could live.  Tony was also thrilled at the idea of going back to live with his father.

However, this placement was the biggest mistake we ever made!  We found out much too late that Tony’s father was an alcoholic and a negligent father.  After we reconciled Tony and his father, we also enrolled Tony in school.  He was a bright boy with potential, but he lacked the love and care of his parents.  We learnt from the school that Tony was often unkempt, dirty and confused.  On at least two occasions, the Principal felt it necessary to bathe him and brush his teeth, as he was not taking care of himself.  During our follow up visits, we would detect the smell of alcohol on his father’s breath in the early afternoon.  We counselled him repeatedly to think of his child and drop the habit, but he either denied it or made empty promises to change.

In the end, despite our efforts, Tony ran away again.  He was, however, quickly spotted by the authourities and taken into Government care.  When they learnt of our involvement with the family, they quickly handed him over to his father again, despite our recommendations for them to keep him and bring the father to account.  We had written to them prior of his absconding from home, seeking their participation.  However, the Lagos State Ministry had said he was outside their jurisdiction, because he lived on the outskirts of Lagos and Ogun State.  The Ogun State Ministry never responded to our letters calling their attention to Tony’s case.  However, as we had no power to remove him from his father’s care, we tried to manage the situation the best way we could.

Tony returned to his home in time to sit his Common Entrance Examinations into Secondary School, and passed, despite his challenges!  His older brother came to live with them, and we hoped that this would encourage Tony, as he had been pining for his other siblings to join him and his father.  However, things continued to spiral downhill.  Tony’s father used the arrival of his 15 year old son to become even more negligent by leaving the children unaccompanied for days at a time, with little provision for food!  The boys would fight and quarrel until their neighbours had to intervene.  They would often insult the neighbours or get into other mischief in the community as well!

Eventually, Tony stopped paying any attention to school, and began seeking small jobs locally for money.  He later said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, but work in construction.  His father often complained about looking about the children by himself, and that their mother doesn’t help him financially, despite his requests.  Overtime, our calls and visits became less welcome.  Our last visit to see Tony was in December 2013.  When we got to the place we had rented for his family, we saw only his father and brother.  Tony, they said, was staying with his Grandfather.

We did see Tony at his Grandfather’s, where we also left the provisions we had brought for him and his family for Christmas.  He seemed happy and content.  We were not sure how long his stay would be, but we were sure that we had failed him.  We knew that his father didn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t and couldn’t look after him anymore, and it was so sad that after more than a year and a half, we were back to square one.

We learnt a lot from this experience with Tony.  It is actually because of children like him that we have decided to start up a different initiative, Disadvantage to Advantage, which is not focused on street children, but disadvantaged children.  Rather than rescue children from the streets and return them to what might be an unwholesome environment, beyond our control, we are offering long term support to children who are disadvantaged, but brilliant, to achieve their potentials, by completing their course of study or training.  They may either reside at the FLA Home, or at their own homes.  In the case of Tony, he would have been able to reside in our Home, and be supported to complete his Primary, Secondary and University education. 

The key difference between the Disadvantage to Advantage Initiative and the Care Continuity Challenge Initiative is that the former is not terminal.  Children who are adopted into the programme will receive the support they need, until they become mature and independent, to stand unsupported.  Support is given on a case by case basis, knowing that each child is different, and needs different interventions to achieve!  We are hopeful that this new way of operating will enable more children to benefit from our initiatives in the long run.  Thank you for your support!

Jul 16 2014

Two Years and Counting...

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

More than two years ago, Charles was rescued from the streets of Lagos by Fair Life Africa Foundation.  We had spotted him at Kuramo Beach where he hung out with others like himself, who had ran away from home for various reasons.  He had ran away after succumbing to the influence of mischievious boys in his neighbourhood.  However, he realised his mistake too late, and for fear of being beaten by his father, he had remained on the street.

Charles was one of the older boys at the Home.  At the time, he was 16 years old.  He was not the best behaved, either, as he was quite troublesome and overly playful.  We were not sure whether he would see the programme through, as he appeared uncommitted.  Through counsel, discipline and empowerment, he was encouraged to change his ways.  By the end of his three month stay, Charles, like the rest of the children with him, was eager to return home to his family, who had been visiting the Home and were also excited about his return.

In July 2012, Charles went back home to live with his family in a small town in Lagos.  His family depended on his step-mother's business, which had been neglected for lack of funds after a period of illness.  Fair Life Africa gave the family a financial boost, so that the business could be restarted.  Two years on, the business is still going strong with the small investment we had made in 2012!

Charles also was keen to return to school.  At his age, he should have been at senior secondary level, but because he had dropped out of school at Junior level, without completing his final exams, he would have had to start again at the beginning if he went to public school!  However, private schools were happy to take him at JSS2, which was a year's advantage.  Fair Life Africa decided to make the additional investment of paying for his private school education, so that he can gain back years lost, and also be assured of a decent education.  

Last August, the family had to move from their long-term accommodatiom at the notice of the landlord, and were stuck financially.  In Nigeria, landlords demand a minimum of a year's rent upfront, and tenants also have to pay agency and agreement fees, which make relocation challenging for many.  Fair Life Africa assisted the family to make this move, by helping them to pay these fees so that they could find a new abode, near enough to Charles' school and his mother's business.

Now, July 2014, Charles has finally completed his Junior Secondary education, and done his Junior WAEC (West African Examinations Council) Exams, with the support of Fair Life Africa and our partners.  He is now awaiting his results and transfer into Senior Secondary School.

This month marks two years that Charles has been at home, and we are so proud of him.  He really has come a long way from the boy we first met at Kuramo Beach, and the one who resided in the Home.  Unlike some of the others we worked with, he has shown himself to be committed to rehabilitation, and ready to work for the life he deserves.  We keep hearing good reports from his family about how he is doing at home.  Thanks so much for enabling us to make this difference in his life.

Charles would very much like to continue his secondary education privately, because the public school system is quite problematic in Nigeria.  We are looking for a sponsor who will take on the noble duty of supporting Charles through his final three years of secondary school.  We would love to hear from you, if there's any way you can assist.  Thank you!

There are still other boys who are celebrating one year and two years at home this month!  We are using the rare opportunity of GlobalGiving Bonus Day to raise additional funding, so that we can encourage these children to stay #home4good!  Today, the 16th of July, from 9am (EST)/2pm (WAT), donations raised on our project page at www.goto.gg/9103 will be matched by 40%!  Please help us to maximise the opportunity by making your own contribution and encouraging your friends and family to support too.  Thanks and God bless you as you give.

May 12 2014

Gbenga's Easter Story

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Gbenga's name has been changed for confidentiality.

The atmosphere at Gbenga's house was different around Easter time last year. It was his second home visit, after a lengthy stay on the streets. Fair Life Africa Foundation took him home for a long week with his family, as we facilitated his reconciliation with his parents and siblings.

His stay at home was short and sweet, and all were hopeful for a strong reconciliation. His mother anticipated his final return home in July, after his completion of our academic year programme. She was pleased to learn that he was one of our best behaved boys at the FLA Home. Gbenga was also happy to be with his siblings again, and looked forward to returning home with Fair Life Africa's support.

However, a year down, the atmosphere at Gbenga's home was not so pleasant. The novelty of his return had wore off, and every family member had to come to grips with the reality that "we are all human and different and just need to get along!"

Every home has its challenges, and the saying that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true for all. The reality is that we all must truly desire peace, and be ready to make some sacrifices to get along with our loved ones, because it won't be happy times all the time.

Gbenga and his mother have their issues just like any other family. Our visit in April, just before Easter, to resolve a major conflict at home was not the first of its kind. It appeared that Gbenga was seeking to prove his maturity prematurely, while his mother had been holding on to some resentment over his past mistakes. It appeared that forgiveness and understanding had no place in their home. We were sad that they were throwing away the second chance they had been given by being disagreeable with each other.

However, around Easter time, something magical happened. Our visit, which seemed fruitless at the time, turned out to have sown some good seed in their hearts. We got a call from Gbenga's mother apologising for how they have been behaving, and informing us that they had both spoken and are working at being more understanding of each other.

Gbenga also got in touch to apologise for his behaviour and assure us that he is still committed to staying home, and wanted us to continue to support him and his family in this.

Our Easter celebration visit to Gbenga's home was our last visit of the season, as we had visited the other reconciled children earlier in the month. We were pleased to find the Easter spirit present at this visit. Gbenga and mother were much happier and considerate of each other. We are sure that their expectations of each other are more realistic, and that though more challenges will arise, they will choose forgiveness and understanding to rise above them.

Gbenga's story shows us that life is no fairy tale, and that happiness is a choice we all must make. If we are not ready to extend grace to others, so that we can live peacefully among them, we do ourselves a great injustice.

We are so glad for Gbenga and his mother, that they have learned this lesson. Unfortunately, we can never control the outcome in the lives of the children who we reconcile with their families. There are so many factors that may take them from the road of happiness to that of breakdown again. But we are always following up on them with phone calls and visits, to ensure that everyone is committed to the objectives of reconciliation, peace being paramount.

Fair Life Africa also lends support to reconciled families, by sponsoring children's education or vocational training, and helping where necessary with financial support for the family business or accommodation needs in times of crisis. Your support enables us to go the extra mile, so that our persistent support will result in more children leaving the streets and staying off the streets!

Thanks so much for your support. We hope that the Easter Spirit, of new hope and forgiveness, will abide with your family all year long!

 

Feb 10 2014

A Timely Reflection

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

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 PROJECT PAGE 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!

Nov 12 2013

The Reward of the Diligent

Mrs Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Hi there…  Greetings from Lagos, Nigeria, from all the FLA Team.  The last three months have swiftly passed us by, and we are happy to write to you once again.  In this quarter, we celebrated landmarks in our own development, as well as in the children's.  The joy of such milestones is the reward of the diligent and faithful.  Those who give up when the going gets tough do not share in the spoils of the victorious!  So we are hopeful that these milestones will serve as reminders, as we persist in doing good.

In August, the Team took a much needed break, though we continued to visit the boys we reconciled to their homes in July.  We also used this time to research schools for the boys continuing their education, and enrolled the three SS3 graduates to their various vocational courses.  August was also the month we assisted Charles (from the 2012 set) and his family to secure a new accommodation, as they received notice in June that they would need to find somewhere else, because the Landlord had need for the property.   We are pleased that they are now settled in their new place, which is still close enough to Charles school and his step-mother’s business, which was revived last year with our support.

In September, we enrolled three of the boys into schools in Ibadan and Ondo State, where they now stay with their families.  DOAM Foundation partnered with us to support the boys in Ibadan, and accompanied us on one of our trips as we located schools for them.  Ifeoma and Ayo, our Social Worker and Support Worker made two trips to see Adam in Ondo state, and had to stay overnight each time.  They helped the family resolve conflict with their neighbours, while also supporting Adam to enrol into a new school.  They later went to mark Adam’s two month’s stay at home with gifts and provisions for his family.  We also provided three of the children’s families (Peter, Andrew and Mark) in need of business support with some financial assistance to boost their small businesses, which we hope will enable them to become more financially stable.

Unfortunately, two of the boys that were reconciled home are no longer with their families, despite the support we offered.  A boy who was reconciled with his grandmother in August chose to run back days later, even though we have provided them with a new accommodation and some funds for his grandma to continue her small business.  The second boy who ran away did so after he sat entrance exams at his new school, and was discouraged about his results.  Pre-empting a negative response from his family, he ran away before anyone could suspect.  Fortunately for him, he was found by the Lagos State Ministry officials, and is now being looked after in their Correctional Facility.

We marked two months for all the boys still at home from September 26th to Oct 1st, as a way of encouraging them, and reassuring them of our commitment to their growth and stability.  We went with food provisions and gifts for each child, as well as a photo-album that captured their experiences while at the FLA Respite Home.  Of all the gifts we brought, the children all loved the photo-album the best!  Nishola, one of our Support Workers, wrote up an account of one of these visits we made on October 1st to Mark’s place.  Mark is one of the boys whose case studies we have not yet featured on our blog, but which we reported in our Brochure for our Official Launching in October.  His father was so appreciative of the support we gave his family that he wrote us an appreciation email, which we shared on the blog too.

Apart from these social care follow ups, we also planned and held our Official Launching Ceremony as a non-profit organisation in October.  We invited many friends, supporters and well wishes, and prepared a documentary, and an informative brochure to capture the intricate details of our very practical work.  The event was also to raise funding to enable us to repeat the Respite Programme with a new set of boys in 2014.  We did not take in a new set of children this September, as we have been inadequately funded to do so.  We also plan on using the opportunity to restrategise and develop the programme so that it is more effective the next time around.  Our Launch held successfully and was financially backed by Airtel Nigeria and Lafarge Cement WAPCO.  Standard Alliance Insurance and Standard Alliance Life Assurance also sponsored the programme generously, amongst others. 

I’ll close this report with Nishola’s contribution, which is her reflection of our joint trip to visit Mark and his family.  We hope you are inspired by what you read.  Thanks for all your support…  Please keep it coming!  Have a wonderful November and happy Christmas celebrations too!

A Visit To The Kennedys On Independence. 

October 1st of every year is set aside to celebrate the independence of Nigeria.  On this day of 2013, I and the CEO of Fair Life Africa Foundation, Mrs. Ashogbon, decided to take a trip to see the Kennedys, to celebrate Mark Kennedy’s two months back home.  Though it was two days late, we felt the euphoria of independence would make it merrier, and what a memorable trip it turned out to be. 

We went straight to have a look at the Kennedy’s shop which Fair Life Africa Foundation just gave funds to be restored after months of it going under, and surprisingly, stocks were already gotten and displayed in the shop.  The new deep freezer that was gotten for the family too was in the shop, ready to be used for business.  

After we looked around, and took some pictures, the four of us then headed for the Kennedy’s home, not too far from their shop, to see Mark who had a day break from the computer college we enrolled him in after he got back home due to the independence celebration. 

As the car approached the house, it was evident that Mark and his four younger siblings were already awaiting our arrival.  Immediately they heard a car approaching, they all stepped out of the house to see who it was, and how joyful they got to see that we had finally arrived. 

We all sat down on the floor on the rug, in the sitting area of the incomplete building the family lives in, and talked about how life has been since Mark returned back home; his challenges, what has been difficult for him and the hurdles he has been able to cross with ease. 

Mrs. Ashogbon asked his parent that “what’s been good since Mark came back home to them” and his parents could not stop counting.  His mums said it’s been a great joy to have her son back home, according to her even though the period they had to search for him on the street was a very difficult one for the whole family, still she is grateful to God, because she knows everything in life happens for a reason. 

Apart from this, she said that she is really glad to have her son back, a better person than before he left home for the streets, and she prays that God continues to help him remain the better person that he has become through Fair Life Africa Foundation’s rehabilitation programme.  

She said that when she needs help, Mark does not wait for her to call twice, he shows her more respect, he is completely obedient and listens to corrections without grumbling.  He doesn’t make friends with anyone his parents do not approve of and he is highly considerate of his younger siblings, as they are of him. 

His dad too said if they were asked to continue, they could go on forever.  When they were asked what’s not too good since their son returned home, they thought deep and long but could not come up with a single response.  According to them, he’s been so good they pray every day that he remains the same and continues to become a better person as each day passes. 

Mr. Kennedy confesses that his major fear is his financial problems, because he knows that his incapability to fend for his family’s daily needs could tear it apart, but with the business support from Fair Life Africa Foundation, he is willing to work hard so that his family will not suffer anymore.   He hopefully wishes that Mark will do well in the next WAEC, GCE and NECO examination he is waiting to write, because to see his son further his education to the higher institution will complete his joy. 

Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy expressed great gratitude to the organization for everything they did and are still doing for their family.  They were very hospitable, and they gave us lots of soft drinks.  The Kennedys are people with great hope for the future and hopefully with the right support and help, they will have the better future they look forward to.  

Aug 13 2013

The Prodigal Son - A Story About Second Chances

Ufuoma E-Ashogbon

Many of us have heard the tale of the ‘Prodigal Son’ as recorded in Bible.  We all know the lesson well.  The bottom line is – the Father forgives and receives his child who returns home, even after all he had squandered away.

However, many wonder if this type of forgiveness is possible in real life.  Are real fathers able to forgive and embrace a child who may have stolen from them, lied about them, ruined their business and their name, and take that child back believing that he can, or even HAS, changed?  Is it really possible to get a second chance?

This is a story for those who believe in second chances.  This is a story for those who understand that forgiveness is not based on the measure of wrongs, but on the goodness of the heart that forgives.  That is why we can all forgive anyone, and we can all get a second chance.  However, this version of ‘The Prodigal Son’ has two parties who need to give and to receive forgiveness…

John is a 15 year old boy from Oyo state, Nigeria.  He is the only child of his parents, but has step-siblings.  John’s father married two wives, but his mother left their home when he was still quite young.  We met John at a Police Shelter, where he was being looked after as a lost child, after he had spent some time on the street working for a woman at Oshodi, in Lagos.  Fair Life Africa intervened by taking him along on a home tracing excursion.

On this trip, we located his father in Ibadan.  At that time (September 2012), neither of them was ready to be reconciled.  John’s father complained that this was not the first time that John had run away from home, and he couldn’t understand his behaviour.   John’s initial story was that he did not intentionally leave home, but had lost the money that he was given to go for an errand.  The truth was that he had lost the money for his return trip, but when someone offered him bus fare to go down to Lagos, he chose to follow the other child rather than to return home.  He said that he was afraid that he would be flogged by his father for returning so late, which was an expected outcome.

John became a resident at the Respite Home in September, with the expectation that in time, he would be ready to return home to his father.  He was enrolled into a primary school, despite his age, because his educational standard was low.  While at the Home, he also attended group and one to one counselling sessions with our social worker, which he participated well in and he has shown significant progress emotionally.

John proved himself to be hardworking and generally well behaved.  He derives joy from impressing people around him and loves to be noticed and acknowledged.  He has improved considerably in hygiene, as he takes care of himself and his space well.  He also does chores assigned to him happily without grumbling and often offers a helping hand.  Academically, John was one of the top scorers in his class (3rd place), and showed that he had potential, but needs someone to encourage and guide him to apply himself.

Efforts to reconcile father and child commenced early, with regular phone calls and invitations to his family to visit the Home.  In terms of distance and finance, it was a challenge for them, but they were encouraged by our persistence and honoured our invitation to attend our Christmas Party.  After that, they visited again, and the process of reconciliation was well underway…  

Most of the boys were initially sceptical about the idea of returning home, but soon, it was the ‘in-thing’.  Once a child’s family visited the Home, they all wanted the same experience.  And so, John longed for his chance to go home and spend the weekend with his family, after Derek (another child we wrote about) enjoyed this opportunity.  Not long after, John also went home for the weekend, and then a few weeks later, he enjoyed a long Easter break with his family in Ibadan.

We are pleased to report that after ten months at our Home, the reconciliatory process with John and his family has been a successful one.   John’s father came twice in July to the Home, as the time for the return of his child drew near.  He came first to attend a final meeting and assessment session, where he and John were both counselled on how to approach their relationship moving forward.  The father was counselled to adopt alternatives methods of disciplining his child, which will not cause him to be afraid of him, but to draw near to him in times of trouble.  John was also reminded that running away would not solve his problem, and that his story could have ended very badly, like many of the cases of children who live on the streets and come to untimely death. 

On the 27th of July, John’s father was among the parents who attended our Leaving Party for the boys graduating from our programme.  We were not sure if he would come, given that he had already come just over a week before, and money and distance were obstacles for his family, but we were sure glad to see him!  The boys performed a drama for their families, which illustrated the lessons they had learnt from their time of ‘prodigal’ behaviour.  The CEO’s message also re-affirmed each parent's need to make the sacrifice and come.  She recounted how well the Father had celebrated the return of His child, and compelled all that indeed there is a reason for us to celebrate now.  Rather than focusing on what was lost (time, money, resources, friends etc), we should focus on what was gained and has been restored. Read The Leaving Party report.

Peter, Derek, James, Andrew and Mark's families were also around on the 27th to take their children Home, and shared their testimonies during the ceremony.  Simon and Thomas returned home the following week, as Simon's family was unable to make it down, and we needed to stabilise Thomas's living conditions before he returned home.  Peter's families also received aid from Fair Life Africa Foundation, which enabled his family to rent a new and better suited accommodation.

John and his father left the Respite Home after the ceremony for Ibadan, loaded up with gifts and provisions.  We are sure that we won’t find John on the street again.  We can testify that he has changed, and we believe also that his father has changed too.  Thank you for your support which enabled this miracle of reconciliation.  Read up on other inspiring stories of the FLA Kids at www.fairlifeafricablog.com.

May 16 2013

When You Believe

Ufuoma Emerhor

The last three months have been as eventful as the ones past, and even more so, as we move closer to the conclusion of our programme with the set of boys we took in last September.  We are reminded daily not to judge a book by its cover, as we are amazed everyday by the changes in the children.  It really is true that anything is possible 'when you believe'.  Our partnership becomes a success when they start to believe in themselves too. 

Most of our boys took the opportunity to go home for one weekend, to reconnect with their family, in preparation to their return home finally, after their programme with us.  Three boys, whose families have been hard to reach, were unable however.  We continue to make efforts to reconcile them, and have approached the appropriate government ministry in Lagos, to collaborate with on these interventions. 

For those boys who were fortunate to visit their families, all but one had the fortune of going home for Easter break.  One of them couldn’t because his grandmother, whom he would have stayed with is without a place of her own, and couldn’t accommodate him for such a long period.  The others were happy and eager to go home for Easter and stayed for over a week, getting re-acquainted with family life. 

The four boys who stayed back home still had a lovely Easter.  They were invited over to have Easter Sunday brunch at a friend of the organisation’s home and had a really good time there.  They were also treated to an evening outing to Silverbird galleria, where they enjoyed chicken and chips, and watched ‘Hansel and Gratel – the Witch Hunters’. 

In March, one of the boys earned a reward for being the best behaved boy, and got to take a friend of his (from among FLA Kids) out to The Palms Shopping Complex, with Toju, one of our staff.  They had a good time, doing some light shopping and playing games too.  They also enjoyed ice cream, before accompanying Toju to a party they were all invited too.  They enjoyed some barbecue chicken before returning to the Home. 

On two occasions, Fair Life Africa was invited to represent its views on the street child problem live on radio.  We were live on Unilag 103.1fm, with a father and his child, whom had been reconciled in 2012, and are happy at home now.   Mr Labisi reported that things have not been the same since his child was returned to him, and that his behaviour is much improved.  He’s been faithfully attending school, and doing well too.  He even showed off his bronze medal, which he won at the inter-house sports. 

Fair Life Africa was later invited by Radio Continental 102.3fm on the International Day for Street Children to discuss the phenomenon.  We attended with two of the FLA Kids at the Home presently.  They were asked some tough questions about street life and shared their views candidly.  You can listen to the recording on our blog via this LINK. 

Apart from one, the boys all came back to the Home and have resumed school, after the Easter break.  Three of them have started their Senior Secondary Examinations.  They have been studying very hard, and continue to receive tutelage from tutors in various subjects, as they prepare for each exam.  The other boys continue to receive educational support from our support staff and dedicated volunteer, Yemi Adedeji, also. 

One of the boys, however did not return to continue his schooling.  While he was still home for the holidays, his grandmother called to inform us that he had not returned home from playing with the neighbours.  We hoped to hear good news of his return the next day, but it appeared that he’d chosen the way of the street again, which is sad news to us. 

We continue to follow up and support the families we have reconciled.  We have been round to pay school fees for the two boys attending private schools.  Eddy, a boy from the pilot programme, who ran from the domestic violence at home, is happy now because his mother now has a haven away from the abuse.  He was staying with his grandfather, while he learnt the mechanic trade.  Fair Life Africa helped his family to rent a simple accommodation, near enough to his sisters’ schools, and his mother’s job, to enable them to have a fresh start. 

On this positive note, we conclude our report from the field.  We hope to write to you soon with more testimonies from the children about their good behaviour in the home, success in academics and happy reconciliations.  We will leave you with a link to James’ Story, which we posted on our blog.  We hope that as you read their stories, you will be encouraged to inspire hope through giving…  Every little helps.  Thank you for being a supportive friend.

 

Feb 14 2013

It Takes A Community

Ufuoma Emerhor

There's so much to say about the last three months. To guard against losing you in all the details, I'll give a brief recap, update and highlights to guide you through the developments. I’ll also link you to posts in our blog, The Rising Star, which will tell you more about what you are interested in. Simply click the links, thanks and enjoying catching up!

RECAP

We started with a new group of boys in September, after we spent July and August scouting the streets for boys in need of rehabilitation and reconciliation. All the boys we took in were interested in going to school, and we enrolled them all in two private schools in October; one for Primary and one for Secondary. We also got in touch with all their families before they became resident at the Home, and began to entertain visits from the children's families towards their reconciliation.

In October, we shared Peter’s Story. He is one of the boys in the Home, who is an orphan. We also told you about our friends Yemi Adedeji and Kanyin Belo, who took the initiative to visit the Home with their friends, and also mark their birthdays with us. They started an unstoppable trend, so that every month since, we’ve had at least two friends come and mark their birthdays with the children.

UPDATE

One significant update is that Barthol, a 15 year old boy we took in in September, has decided to return home. He ran away from the centre on the 30th of December, to the shock of everyone, during a Church service at the local Church, which all the boys attend. We kept in contact with his family, and learnt that he went back home that same day. We paid him a visit in January, and saw that he was well and healthy, and also content! He had not been good academically, though he had insisted that he wanted to go to school. Now he is working under a meat seller as his apprentice, and says that’s what he wants to do. We wrote about this in FLA January Newsletter 2013.

In December, we wrote about Derek, another orphan at the Home, who used to work at Oshodi in Lagos, a popular district. He was the first child to win our good behaviour competition, and was taken out to Silverbird Galleria to watch a movie, and enjoy a lovely day out with two of his friends at the Home. He was also the first child to spend a weekend with his family, as part of our reconciliation process. It was a pleasant weekend, and he was really excited to go, and happy to return to the Home too.

Unfortunately, Derek is currently in hospital, after undergoing an operation and receiving treatment for appendicitis at the General Hospital. He was taken in by ambulance after some complaints, treatments and tests, which revealed that his situation was chronic and urgent. Permission was taken from his grandparents for the operation to be carried out, and it was successfully done on the 9th of February. He misses the Home, and asks to come back every day, but he is not yet strong enough. We look forward to his return.

In January, we wrote about Phillip, the second child to win our good behaviour competition. Phillip chose to go to GET Arena to enjoy go-karting and arcade games with his friend, John, which is what he did. He has been one of the most inspiring boys in the Home, as he is showing a lot of maturity and leadership amongst the boys. He is also doing well at school. You should read up on the boy they used to call ‘Ghetto Child’, while on the streets.

Andrew, 15 years, is the next child in line for a reward for good behaviour. He is a peaceable, hardworking young boy, who is often quiet, but cheerful in the Home. He almost got overlooked for good behaviour, because he doesn’t try to do things to be seen. However, during a meeting, when the other boys were being chastised, his goodness was found out and exposed. He says that he would like to a new pair of trainers for his reward, and wants to make a trip to Shoprite Complex this Saturday.

Two of our boys are looking forward to going home for the weekend this coming weekend. They are Luke and Mark, and we have not yet written up their case studies, but will soon do so on the blog. Peter, Mark and Andrew are preparing for their West African Examination Council exams, and the practicals are starting in March. They are receiving support from our friend and volunteer, Yemi Adedeji, and our new support worker, Emeke Ndego, so that they will catch up with their mates who had been consistent in school.

Four other boys are receiving one-to-one educational support from our support workers, to help them to get up to speed academically. They scored poorly, compared to their mates, in the first term examinations, and we want to give them extra support, particularly with English and Maths. However, at a recent review, we decided that, for at least two of them, we should focus our efforts on getting them trained with vocations they can do, because they do not have a good attitude to their academics and are not likely to pass. We will continue to explore options with them, in partnership with them to equip them for the future.

All but two of the boys, Matthew and Simon, have been visited by their families. Matthew’s case is actually quite concerning and was reported to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation early in January. Simon’s case was reported in February, after efforts to get his family to visit in January were unfruitful. It is very important that families visit their children and are counseled before the children return home finally. Through their visits, and the children’s stays at home (for weekends, then a few days as needed), we will be able to determine the stability of the child’s return home, and also put in the necessary support for the family to move on.

Apart from Derek’s health condition, two of our boys are also receiving treatment at the Home, following medical tests, which revealed concerning ailments. Apart from these, the boys are generally well. They eat and sleep well, and are engaged throughout the day. They are also counseled once fortnightly (one-to-one), and every three weeks in their groups. We would like them to have more free time however, because a lot of their time is being used to supplement their learning from school. They often go on outings or receive visitors over the weekend, so they do not have as much free time as they’d like, but we’re working on a creating more allowances on their schedule.

HIGHLIGHTS

Joseph Yobo, Captain of the Nigeria Super Eagles, paid a visit to FLA Home on the 29th of December 2012 with lots and lots of provisions for the Home. He was welcomed with his crew, and spent some time talking to the boys, inspiring them to grasp the opportunity available to them at the Home. He promised to return to see them all, and encourage them with more support.

Joseph Hudson, CEO of Lafarge (WAPCO) Nigeria, paid a visit with his three sons on the 18th of December 2012. They brought a signed rugby ball, and played rugby in the nearby field with the boys. They also brought new and used clothing and a massive Christmas hamper for the Home. Lafarge (Friends of the Community), visited earlier in October, and came back in January. They were part of our last Monthly Birthday Party and presented gifts and a financial donation to the Home. They promised to return to offer more hands on assistance, and Mr Hudson promises his continued support too.

We had our First Annual Christmas Party on the 23rd of December, and it was a huge success. Most of the children’s families were in attendance, including the boys we reconciled from the pilot programme. Several corporate sponsors and many of our friends also showed up to make the day memorable. Before, after and during, the Home was blessed with abundant food and alternative donations from friends and well-wishers. The boys were reminded every day that it was indeed the season to be jolly, as people came almost daily to share provisions with them and spend some time inspiring them. To learn about the party, please read our Christmas Party Report. You can read up on Joseph Yobo’s visit, Joseph Hudson’s visit and the other activities that went on over Christmas in our FLA December Newsletter 2012 too!

Thanks to Toyin Eribake, who came to celebrate his birthday at the Home in January, we now have DSTV at the Home!!! Well, he came with Eng. Ola Adetula, who later came back in January to mark his birthday at the Home, and the DSTV was his gift! It was an awesome surprise. Toyin later wrote about his visit and shared it with his friends, several of whom have become financial sponsors of the Home. Eng. Adetula and his wife, Bisoye, also outdid themselves, by showing unusual kindness to our boys. Last weekend, they took six of them into their home, and treated them like family members. Nishola Akinyera, our support worker, who accompanied the boys wrote about the visit on the blog.

Time will not permit to go into all the things that have been happening, but here are some other posts on the blog you really should check out if you have the time and interest:

'Celebrating Children's Day 2012' - FLA's Participation to train on Children's Rights

'November's MBP - Wish You Were Here' - Monthly Birthday Party report for November.

'Getting It Right' - Training Day organised by Christianah Fate Foundation in February

Our featured post at the moment is 'Valentine Love Sessions With JRhythm', a sensational Valentine's Day event that will also raise funds for CCC Initiative. If you are in Lagos, you really should come and be a part of it. It's holding at 6pm on the 14th of February at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island.

You might also be interested in reading FLA November Newsletter 2012. We have also updated our Frequently Asked Questions, Donor Shopping List and Meet The Team pages on the blog.

So, I hope that reading all this, you are reassured that you are supporting a worthy initiative. Thank you for all that you have done. We try our best to keep you informed through our monthly newsletters and the blog. You can subscribe for the E-Newsletter here. We are still developing, not only in our interventions, but in our communication to you. Your financial support is very encouraging to us, and helps us to know that we are not alone in this initiative.

One thing that never changes, even with the advancement of technology, is the fact that it takes a community to raise up a child. We are pleased with the growing support in our immediate community here in Lagos, and touched by the contributions we receive via GlobalGiving UK, and now US too. The world is more and more a global community, and we all need to put our hands together to secure tomorrow's hope - the children of today. Please consider being a regular donor, and enable us to make greater impact in the lives of these children and their families.

Nov 14 2012

How To Make A Miracle

Ufuoma Emerhor

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!

 

Aug 17 2012

The Thing About Hope...

Ufuoma Emerhor

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.

May 21 2012

The Hardest Part is Starting...

Ufuoma Emerhor

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!

Feb 21 2012

Touching lives with your help

Ufuoma Emerhor

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.