We finally have our first vehicle. We have waited forever for this day it seems. It has been so exciting and such a relief. Already so many more things are able to be done with access to a vehicle.
We acquired a Nissan Terrano off a British couple who needed to leave the country to their next post. It was previously a diplomatic vehicle and the couple helped process all the necessary paperwork to change it over to a ‘civilian’ vehicle. I traveled up to Abuja and with the support of one of our volunteer staff, Gideon, followed the process for changing ownership of the vehicle. We also did a few little things here and there like, getting our logo put on the door panels and window. Val and I, with a driver, drove the vehicle down from Abuja to the village. it was so exciting to reach the gate and honk the horn. The gates flew open with the kids and all the staff and neighbors over to see it!! There was lots of sitting in it and driving it around the compound. Later that eve Amos seat-belted all the kids and took them out for a drive to the junction. They came back with stories of everyone in towns amazement and excitement for our vehicle.
So already we have been able to take the children to the hospital and lab which is about a hour drive away. We have had them all checked and tested and I am happy to report we have three very healthy children!! We have been able to go to Umuahia to the bank and market, as well as many more little trips!
We say the biggest THANK YOU we can muster to those of you who helped contribute specifically toward the quick purchase of this vehicle!!
I apologize for the long delay in posting. Things have been very busy here with lots of traveling back and forth in the country, events and meetings, poor network, and lack of ability to be on the internet.
We are all doing very well! The children are great and growing. We as of a month ago we started drawing height measurements on the wall and it seems every few weeks they are passing them. They are also putting on weight… might have to start a regular DPA (Daily Physical Activity) session just to make sure they don’t put on too much. :)
There was information a while back that we were preparing for the arrival of four more children from two different cases. I want to update you that it is unlikely we will be receiving those children, do to different circumstances in both their cases. While our program is here to provide security, safety and opportunities for a future for children, we are NOT here to fight for custody of children from the situations they are in. We are working with different groups of people that are all leaders in some respect, to help us on behalf of receiving case information to work through. At this point in time, we do not and will not engage in action that actively fights cases to bring the children to us. We are here as an option for the children who meet our criteria and there must be a WILLING representative, be it a relative, community leader or government worker, who WILLINGLY releases and signs over the child to us.
I want to just let you all as followers of The Wanted Children Foundation know this information, so that you understand how our process works, and why it may seem to you that we have “few” children or not many children coming in all the time. We wait for Gods timing and pray and work very hard on each case and application that is brought before us, and there is a process to be followed to ensure the safety and security of the child in question, our current children in the home, and us as staff and a Foundation.
Take a moment to Google the story of ‘the boy and the starfish” to see how we view our work and our children. We are not basing our success on quantity but on quality; not how many we have and can get, but on how we can make a difference in the ones we have.
Well this has been an exhausting process for sure. After two months of paperwork, meetings, traveling back and forth between the village and capital…I am happy to announce that TWCFN has had a small number (out of the requested amount) of expat quota positions granted. Namely one position which is mine! So after months of tireless work, the first phase was accomplished this week. The second phase was taking those approved papers from Ministry of Interior, over to Immigration and having the new visas processed to allow stay in the country. So again, by the grace of God I am happy to announce, that in a matter of one day with massive support from our Immigration man, I have had my STR working visa approved! All of this removes one major stress of never knowing when I might have to leave. YAY!
While spending time in Abuja working on our papers, I had some interesting meetings and conversations with some individuals regarding OVC’s in FCT. Some time ago TWCF was asked multiple times to move and open our children’s homes in FCT as there was a great need in the middle-belt and more northern regions. Due to the religious conflicts going on it was something that was a possibility at the time. Although we listened with sad hearts to the types of situations that children were facing. Throughout the years we have been continued to be asked and encouraged to re-visit the idea of opening a home in the FCT area so as to meet the high need of placements for OVC. We previously were aware that due to religious conflict, there were many children left without parents, as well as children that were still being killed in villages due to traditional believes and juju magic. In the last few weeks I have been re-informed that these issues are still very much present. As a matter of fact, some of my friends up here are shocked that the practices still occur, especially in FCT, which is the state area that houses the capital of the country. The fact that is there are villages on the outskirts of the capital city that still practice the killing of twins, facial scarring and genital mutilation, sacrifices, black magic, ect. Aside from that, there are still many children that somehow migrate more towards Abuja, having survived journeying from the north were religious battles and slaughtering are still occurring. As I heard a story from a friend’s friend who is a lawyer (who was looking into a case that led her to one of these villages), I was reminded that these are all the same things that were going on a few years ago. I decided that while I was waiting on paperwork, I would start looking into these matters. With Kayode’s help we started contacting someone people in government and eventually had a meeting with the Assistant Director of Child Welfare for FCT. This man is also the one in charge of orphanages, setting them up/monitoring them/closing them down. This man confirmed that the issues I mentioned are still very much present, and the numbers of children that they are dealing with on an ongoing basis are too many to keep up with. Aside from that it would seem that there are many orphanages and motherless babies homes in FCT that get shut down due to improper paperwork, wrong motives, ect. This leads to the few proper homes being filled to over capacity. While we were in this man’s office, four children were brought in by the police having been found on the street, three separate cases. He said the day before a baby was found near a garbage pile, and over the last week four other babies were found. I discussed with the man about the protocol and procedure for setting up and running an orphanage home in FCT, and shared with him our program and how we run. After reviewing our papers, he was very excited for what we do and hoped that we will consider opening a home in FCT. He said there would be no shortage of children to place. I asked “if we open a home tomorrow, how many children could we have”, to which he stated, “you better give us a number of how many you want because we will keep giving them to you, do you want 10, 20, 30, 60, how many?”
Hmmm, need I say more…
As I have been in the village often when there is need for paperwork in Abuja to get done and moved about, our staff Peter has been working tirelessly at making sure things get done. Also a close friend of ours, Kayode, has supported this work as well as helping when I am in Abuja. Kayode is currently planning an initiative with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) of Nigeria that will address Human Security and Healing of Memories in Nigeria and that will kick off next year during the centennial celebrations in the country. This initiative has the support of the President and is being reviewed by him and his staff personally. As Kayode has been a support to TWCF over the past many years (I have known him since we started our work here in Nigeria), I also support him in his work with NOA. I have been asked to help consult on the curriculum and initiative by Kayode and the Director of the NOA. It is something I am honoured to do. The more I hear about this initiative and work on it, the more I see how it ties into how we are raising our children in TWCF. There is so much work to be done on teaching and training people in regards to human security (rights and assurance to basic human needs, safety, shelter, food, employment, respect, ect) and healing from wrongdoings by others. Hopefully by sharing ideas and raising important questions, solutions can be found that will create change and make a difference in this country.
Eg. An example of how there is an effort for change yet a struggle to implement it: I attended a ceremony and unveiling of a new initiative in Nigeria called “Do The Right Thing: Avoid Dirt, Be Clean”. There were dignitaries, politicians, religious leaders and international country ambassadors present. The initiative was introducing garbage cans to be used to reduce waste in the environment and keep our environment clean. While the initiative is a good one and supported, it has not been fully thought out. Not every state will get these garbage cans and push the agenda, let alone every city/town/village in the states that do get them. Also, once the garbage cans are filled, there is no plan yet as to what to do with the garbage in them. So we continue to have mass amounts of waste and garbage cover the streets and pile up on the corners, making the environment smell, becoming breeding grounds for bacteria and disease, aside from looking awful.
This month has been filled with meetings both in Abia State and in FCT. I have traveled twice in this month to Abuja to work on our Expat paperwork it is taking a long time to make progress, but we know everything is in God’s timing. So in the meanwhile there have been meetings in Abia State, in Umuahia as well as in the Isuikwuato LG villages.
*We have had ongoing support from our Abia SS Director and Assistant Director, we are so grateful for them as we would have been in a serious dilemma without their willingness to help. We have had several good discussions with the Perm Sec of Women’s Affairs for Abia State, and have her full support for running our home and the program we offer in regards to caring for OVC’s. We also met with the Perm Sec and Director of the Children’s Welfare Department, and have their cooperation and support in running our program as well. We have met with the heads of the main hospitals in Umuahia, specifically in the maternity and pediatric wards, sharing our information and availability to review situations that make come up through them.
We have made a concentrated effort to meet more of the Eze’s, Chiefs and big business men who are all leaders in our surrounding villages and community. It has been a pleasure to make their acquaintances and we pray and hope for their support and willingness to step forward and be a part of what we are doing as they have the resources to do so.
*During my time in Abuja, there have been multiple meetings with the Ministry of Interior, those who are holding our Expatriate Quota applications. Peter and I have held meetings to discuss what steps to take and what options to pursue.
We have touched base with our Director of SS as well as the Director of Internal Security of SS. They both are supporting us with our documentation.
I have met with several individuals who run different NGO’s in Nigeria, from HIV/Aids education, TB awareness, and educational support programs. It has been very informative to learn what other areas in the country are needing support and change, as well as to learn that there are others out there making an effort for change.
At the beginning of the month I visited Umuahia Prison to speak to the Warden and Matron of the women’s section. I was informing them of our work and that we were aware there are cases of women who have children within the prison, and we were interested to know the particulars of their situations, if they had an interest in us. I was introduced to a particular young woman who is the mother of twin two-year-old girls. They were born in the prison and have never left it. I have had several meetings with this mother and the heads of the prison to discuss TWCF and how we approve cases and run our program. This mother is considering giving up parenting rights to her children and handing them over to us, so they might have an opportunity for positive and successful lives and grow up outside the prison. It is a big decision for her, and in Nigeria, does not make it on her own. She must have extended family be aware and agree as well as the lawyer on her case. We are open to take these girls and trust that God will help make the process and decisions clear.
I mentioned in previous blog post as well as on our FB site, that there was a large event coming up this November. The Chief of Army Staff for Nigeria, his father passed away some months ago, so there has been mass amounts of construction and infrastructural improvement made since then in our village area so that his burial and wake keep could be held properly. As the guest list held some of the most important people in the country, the entrance, location and exit to paying respects had to be proper. New roads were laid, new buildings built, light connected, ect. Also, as the man was the father of the current top Military General in the country and that important people were attending, our villages were essentially put in lock down for a week (although we are always surrounded by military as our village is the Chief’s village and he visits often). I spent much of the week at the Chief’s house and guesthouses, outside of attendance for the two-day event, to meet many of these people. Everyone assumed I came from out of country to attend this event, and were shocked to learn that I lived down the road! It was funny and great to surprise them with that information; it certainly helped keep their attention for the rest of my explanation of why I am here. On Tuesday at a dinner with the Chief and several of his top officers and friends, I met our retired General D. He promised that over the rest of the weeks events he and his wife would have me accompany them so I wouldn’t feel lost or out of place. The next day at a luncheon and then inspection of the events site, I was given a dress that was sown in the head military and family’s colours. It is customary at burials/wake-keeps that uniform is worn; there are different colours and patterns for different groups of people. It was certainly an honour to wear the family’s uniform. On Thursday after a morning of visitors at the home with the children, I was picked up and taken to one Senator’s house in our area. There were multiple people there all visiting before moving to the wake-keep. Some of those individuals remembered me from 7 years before during my first move into Isuikwuato. Eventually we proceeded in a train of cars to the event site. There were tents and stages set up everywhere, and thousands of chairs. As I was with some of the top military and political people, we were all seated directly behind the Chief’s family. As far as I could see there were about four thousand people in attendance so far, and more continued to come. Wake-keeps here start at dusk and continue to the break of day, where there are a few hours rest before the burial program commences. There was an un-ending supply of food, drinks, alcohol, celebrities (artists and actors), music, dance shows, and general partying. I saw many people that I have met before at different houses and events. I saw our good Dr. Hans Van Corput and his wife, as well as several of the SS men (on duty) who had been on our details before). I met several new people and had a great night listening and visiting with some of Nigeria’s current artists. The next day I was picked up to come to the Chief’s house and be in the train of family and close friends to attend the burial events, again a huge honour. It was a very long program and was scorching hot, however there was so much to see it was easy to be distracted from the heat. Again, there were over five thousand people in attendance. The president’s wife came and gave a speech on behalf of her husband, three different state governors where in attendance, many of the top defense Generals in Nigeria, as well as many other important politicians and businessmen. The program lasted about 5 hours, before some of the important people were moved to a reception hall. Inside the hall there was courses of food and drinks as well as a program. As I sat at a table with some of the friends and family, there were countless individuals who came over to greet me as say hi. Of course all of them at a high level, so I, and the entire table, had to stand up every time! It was a bit humorous, the table noted, “Wow, you really know people”. After a few hours I moved with some of the family’s close friends and cousins back up the Chiefs house to see the family and visit.
All in all, it was probably the biggest event I could attend in this country and to be in the presence of so many important people and be introduced to them.
This month has been busy for the children as there have been many visitors who came to see them.
*Several of the children’s extended relatives showed up this month to visit them and see how their progress was. There was certainly mixed responses from the children in seeing their relatives, mostly they were afraid that they were going to be taken away from us. Once they were assured that was not happening they were much calmer and became excited to show the relatives their crafts, schoolwork, and some belongings. The relatives were also amazed at their state of health, education progress and mostly their behaviour. It was wonderful to hear outside reports in recognition of their positive progress.
*We had retired Military General D come and visit them twice, bring treats for both the children and staff. He is a strong support for us in the work we are doing. His visits encourage the staff and excite the children, as well as he sees first hand how our progress is and passes that information on.
*The Nigerian Youth Corpers (NYC’s), who are posted in Isuikwuato and to the humanitarian efforts in the area, came and visited the home. They brought supplies to the house, mops, buckets, notebooks, pencils, a clock, plates, and some food. They also spent time singing and playing with the kids. They loved it.
*Also, this month we had our first birthday. Chinomso, our oldest boy, turned nine years old. He has never had a birthday ‘party’ before so it was quite an experience. The other children have not had birthday celebrations before either, so there was lots of explaining to do surrounding how a birthday and gifts work. In our home there is struggle surrounding sharing and everything HAVING to be equal.
*We had a visit from another Military General’s son, who came to spend his birthday with the children. This is a common practice over here, that individuals will spend their birthday with the less privileged, such as in orphanages, hospitals, motherless babies homes, ect. So he came with some friends, with bags of rice, yams and other supplies, as well as pre-cooked food, to play with the kids, eat dinner with us and have cake (which I made in a pot on the stove) ☺
We are excited to announce we should be receiving one of our first two promised vehicles, NEXT WEEK! YAY!
This has been a top priority request for some time and seeing the end in sight is a huge relief to many of the daily challenges we have been facing with lack of transport. We are so excited. I will be sure to let you know when it arrives and put up pictures!
Also, we have several individuals compiling items for us that include:
battery/rechargeable oscillating fans
an inverter (power saver)
and others not mentioned to be but presumably taken from our request list…
We have our Igwe working hard on making contacts for us to have a second and possibly third house donated to us. We are waiting for some meetings to take place hopefully this weekend regarding this. We are hoping for the second house to be made available and moved into by Dec.
I must also mention that as we have distant relatives or community members coming to see us and visit the children here, each of them always bring items for us to help in some way. We are grateful!
We have recieved: