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Providing succour for orphans, abandoned children

Orphanage

An Orphanage

They came out with enthusiasm like children receiving their father back home after a long sojourn. Some held on to the journalists calling them ‘Daddy’, while waiting for the next move from the visitors.

They are familiar with such visits, usually from well spirited corporate organisations as well as individuals who come to donated food items, toiletries and sundry items to the orphanage.

The environment at Compassionate Orphanage Home was serene. The children were filled with high enthusiasm they looked good and well fed. ‘I will like to always stay here.

We are treated well, I have also learnt how to plait hair and make beads.” says Sarah an orphan at the home. Though they are not left without their challenges, Compassionate Orphanage Home can be described as home away from home for the orphans.

In 2005, the United Nations reported that there was an estimated 132 million orphans in sub Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

This figure, according to UN represents not only children who have lost both parents but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.

There is nothing more traumatic for a child than to see a parent die. Added to this tragedy is the loss of adult guidance or custodian. Children without proper adult care are more likely to be abused and exploited.

Many orphans and vulnerable children slip further into poverty once the family’s main breadwinner stops working or dies. Losing a parent or caregiver often means losing access to social grants, education and healthcare.

In 2013, Nigeria had an estimated 7million orphans. Insurgency and HIV/AIDS pandemic have made the problem even worse, producing millions of orphans and countless vulnerable children whose rights are being violated..

These children are left to experience untold economic hardship, lack of love, withdrawal from school, poor health, psychological and emotional difficulties.

The consequences of these on the society are a cause for great concern. Though the Federal government had rolled out drums in celebration of its achievements in the realization of the MDGs, which includes; eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; Promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS; Malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and, developing a global partnership for development .

It is on record that girls aged 12 to 17 are regularly trafficked from villages and brought to the cities to work as maids for an average monthly wage of 2,500 naira which they usually send back to their grandparents who are caring for several of their siblings. Some of these girls, most times, are not paid.

Apart from being denied access to education, these girls are in many cases raped and beaten by their employers. According to online reports, trafficking in girls and orphaned children is driven by the extreme income inequality which exists in Nigeria as well as gender inequality.

It is also worthy of note that in northern part of the country, millions of boys live in very precarious circumstances, far from their families, these children are extremely vulnerable to the influence of those who offer them even paltry sustenance.

This number is further increased by the activities of insurgents.  Red Cross and humanitarian workers estimate that two thirds of the people who died in the clash between Nigerian troops and an Islamic sect known as Kala-Kato in Bauchi State were children under 15 years old in 2000.

Most of these children were students of Islam and Arabic who had come from outside the city. It was assumed that all the children killed would have been either struck by vehicles or trampled by crowds fleeing the chaos.

It is however pathetic to note that some families are not choosing to protect the newly orphaned, even if they have the means. 14 per cent of all orphans in Nigeria are disinherited, deprived of the property left behind by their parents, by members of their own families.

Children who are vulnerable are much more likely to be unhappy, lonely, frustrated and angry than children who are secure in their families.

The burden of orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria is higher than countries facing war, such as Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya and Syria. Until recently, the scale of the national response has not been commensurate with the magnitude of the orphans and vulnerable children’s problems.

Without taking determined steps to address the specific needs of children, there will be no chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Various Non-Governmental organizations have been trying to get as many people and the government to take the plight of orphaned children more seriously.

A social commentator, stressed that it was, however, important to note that all children, orphaned or not, have the right to quality education, health care and protection. “Unfortunately today, orphaned children are not enjoying these rights.

It is hoped that the rights of these children, who are among the most vulnerable of all, can be fulfilled. Childhood is a transitional period marked by great changes in physical, mental, and other capacities.

Children, therefore, cannot wait for government and stakeholders to cease endless contemplation before taking action.  Unarguably, these children need the basic needs of life such as: food, shelter and clothing like their counterparts who are with their parents. They also need parental love and care.

This however is not totally achievable due to the fact that most of the orphans are not living with their parents. An orphan who sought anonymity shared this: “I never saw my dad who, i was informed passed away when I was a baby. At two years, my mum left me with my granny and travelled abroad since my dad’s loss was too much for her.

I got to know my mum when I was eight years and i spent just six years with her only to lose her to breast cancer. She was very kind, gentle and so loving. I replaced her with my granny who I’ve always seen as my mum. I rated her ‘G’ because she was the greatest.”

It is noteworthy to say that societal neglect has been the lot of these children. Except for occasional visits and paltry donations, only few corporate organisations deem it fit to incorporate the rehabilitation of these homes, provide decent shelter for these children; cloth them and attend to their education and health challenges.

But a corporate firm with two years of existence deemed it fit to remember these children when the management and staff of Sixt, a car rental company, visited Compassionate Orphanage home, Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos.

The Managing Director of the company, Christian Chibundum, said” We thought of giving back to the society what society has given us. We have a foundation called Regina Sixt.

Regina Sixt is the wife of the owner of Sixt Rent a Car. The woman is passionate about helping children. We approached her in Germany and she told us that she was willing to dry the tears on faces of children in Nigeria. She further asked us: how can I dry the tears on the faces of children at Compassionate Orphanage Home? We thereafter told her that the orphans are staying at a place where the roof is leaking. We further told her that whenever it rains, the children usually cry.

They feel they should have a better place to stay. She (Mrs Sixt) thereafter said she would roof their house Expressing her appreciation, Mrs Pat Muzan, the Project Manager of Compassionate Orphanage said: ‘We are really grateful to Sixt for coming to our aid.

We have a lot of challenges in running the home. Whenever it rains, we are always affected, but that is gone now. Sixt came and did the roofing. We don’t mind the rain to fall now because we have a roof over our head.

Established more than a decade ago, Mrs Pat said the home has about more than fifty abandoned children. According to her, there was a particular time we went to Ojuelegba under bridge Lagos and we met a man that has lived under the bridge for more than twenty seven years. He got married while living under the bridge.

He also had his children there. He has never lived under a roof. Right now, the man is still with us and he works in the church. On how they started the home, Mrs. Pat said:”we usually go out to reach to them.

There was a time we had a party for the homeless children at Ijora Seven Up in Lagos but we discover that after   we help them, they go back to their homeless world.

The man of God here however felt very bad. He then thought of starting  a home where he could be a father to them and he also wanted to let them know that somebody somewhere cares for them. We then approached the Lagos State Government to run a home and they gave us approval.

Similarly, Dr Gabriel Oyediji who is the President of the home identified funding as another challenge confronting the home. According to him, 98% of orphanage homes are privately owned and there is no financial support from the government. We take care of the school fee, health and social care.

In Oyo State, there is a particular home that has applied to close down because of finance. The future of the orphan is bleak if there is no financial provision for them.

On his part and Speaking about Sixt, the Chief Executive officer of Coscharis , Mr Cosmos Maduka said: Sixt  is an organization that is over a century old and it is based in Germany.

It generates over two billion dollars in the car rental business. We took their franchise in Nigeria two years ago; Sixt is a famous European car rental company. They are the franchise owner and we just took the franchise.

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