For African Orphans, Little Drop Of Mercies
Long after Nigeria’s Civil War ended, early in the ’70s, ‘Coal City’ still bore scars of the internecine feud that left many families in tatters. A generation later, their inheritors were yet to recover lost grounds.
“Seeing this, day after day, unlocked something in me,” Charles recalls. It triggered an epiphany. “That was when I developed a real understanding and grew a passion for the plight of orphans.” There had been previous encounters pointing him to his calling. It’s all coming back as memories of his parents taking him on visits to orphanages and motherless babies’ homes in Benin City, tucked away in Nigeria’s Midwest, where he spent part of his childhood. On his own, he continued the pilgrimages to orphanages in Enugu.
After leaving Nigeria for the United States, Charles completed both first and second degrees against all odds and landed a job with Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. He thought of waiting to become wealthy to start a non-profit, but reckoned, “unless I win the lottery, becoming wealthy is way in the future for me!”
But his calling couldn’t wait.
In 2005, with very little money and still lots of school loans to pay off, Charles Duze started LittleDrops Orphanage Fund. His philosophy: “Little drops of help add up. To start, you don’t need a million dollars.” Certainly not his boss Bill Gates’ billions either!
Lucky Charles, he met and married Nkiru who’s keen on the selfsame vision. She stands right by him in the trenches, saving orphaned lives from the ravages of time. Before then Charles had reached out to friends and co-workers to join his cause: Ensuring all orphans and vulnerable children on the African continent have access to food, shelter, clean water, clothes, education, healthcare and other basic necessities of life; taking care of their present needs for a healthy childhood. Charles Duze envisioned a second component to the intervention:
Working to ensure that these children have a fair chance at a successful future so that they can one day stand on their own and contribute to society.
His passion was infectious; a good number pitched in with support immediately.
Volunteer Ikenna Ekeh joined in early 2006, “to make an impact in my own little way.” After a couple of outings, Ikenna got hooked with a determination to not “just lend a hand once every now and then… I could go further and use my God-given talents more to support the cause.”
The vanguard volunteer, Ikenna took up driving LittleDrops’ online fundraising campaigns with vehicles such as their growing Facebook group; developing and updating LittleDropsOrphanageFund.org, their various blogs; creating promotional materials such as flyers, brochures, wristbands and t-shirts and as promoting events in such as way that they turn out successful.
LittleDrops is an all-volunteer non-profit organisation. Hence one major issue Charles Duze has had to deal with is identifying and keeping open lines of communication with legitimate orphanages in Africa. This was a big challenge because of difficulties with information infrastructure there. Many of the homes had little or no access to telephones or the internet. He soon hit on a home-grown solution: ask his parents in Nigeria to liaise with the orphanages there.
The same idea worked for other places. Volunteers who had family or friends in those countries got them liaising with the orphanages. And whenever they travel to these countries, the volunteers visit the homes. That way LittleDrops gets extensive onsite verification without attendant expenses. And soon little drops of help trickling in begin to coalesce into ocean-spanning bailout for vulnerable children.
Back in 1845 Julia Carney captured what Charles Duze is doing today, in her classic poem “Little Drops of Water.” On the strength of Charles Duze’s vision, over 2000 orphans sheltered in 24 homes scattered on six African countries know indeed that, Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above.
To date, volunteers remain critical to LittleDrops. For instance, their wow Website was built entirely from the time, ideas and generosity of volunteers. “It is part of fiscal responsibility for us,” Charles explains, “to ensure that at least 90% of all donations make it to the children who need it so much. Volunteers are so important to our work.”
At Hopeful Grandmothers Orphanage, Nyahururu, Kenya
This no-frills model of doing non-profit, popularised by Microsoft alumnus John Wood (Room to Read), is now the toast of the corporate world. The business community is eager to see excellent results as turnover, with goodwill showing up on the bottom line as visible impact. For potential sponsors, it’s more than a mantra that doing good is good for business.
John Wood’s widely celebrated intervention in the education sub-sector is what Charles Duze is taking on in cheerful strides on this critical social front, with his many innovative orphan empowerment programs and lines of action.
Wearing a gentle, sunny smile Charles points to the similarity in operating system of LittleDrops and Room to Read as “something that runs in the Microsoft family!”
Indeed. From the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington, LittleDrops has leapt onto the front page as an outstanding example of doing non-profit right. It made a big impression at the company’s Non-profit Fair recently held to take stock of the abundant volunteer spirit resident in Microsoft’s employees.
It is Charles Duze’s concrete conviction that orphans are people, too – with voices that deserve to be heard. This is why LittleDrops does fund-raising enthusiastically around innovative ideas like “Express Your Dreams” contest. LittleDrops’ objects of attention can bank on such opportunities to showcase their aspirations creatively in art and writing, to open a window into their lives through which present and prospective supporters can get to appreciate them and their views of the world.
It’s a great way to connect to the world of the children of Africa. For LittleDrops, it is a way to help correct the perception of the adult population about vulnerable children. An orphan is way beyond a statistic; she exists on a very personal and individual level.
A different kind of fundraiser – LittleDrops 5Km Run For Their Lives – shook select streets of Seattle, Washington on Sunday, October 11th 2009. Before then, Laughs For Hope comedy shows set Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, WA, agog with LittleDrops buzz: If you laugh, they won’t cry.
On the LittleDrops Website two hundred orphans, so far, have submitted essays and artworks on their dreams, passions and role models; they “now invite YOU to journey into their world to READ, VIEW, VOTE and HELP give breath to their dreams.”
The invitation had a democratic imperative. Although voting is now closed, enlistment into the cause continues: “Your vote could help some orphans and/or their homes win prizes,” the LittleDrops Web site invites. “We believe we can find 25,000 people who will care enough to listen to their stories.”
‘Come Out, Show Generous Spirit To Oldies, Orphans In Rivers’
From RoseAnn Chikereuba (Port Harcourt)
It was actually difficult to say they are in orphanage homes or elderly people’s home judging by their good and healthy looks, neat and expensive dresses as they play around.
Apart from the signposts indicating the names of the homes, one would conclude from the gate that the areas are special quarters for wealthy people, seeing the interior decoration with recreational facilities.
Investigations revealed that donations were made by individuals, organizations and the wife of the Rivers State Government, Mrs. Judith Amaechi.
At the Port Harcourt Children Orphanage Home yesterday for instance, individuals and various organizations were seen bringing bags of rice, yams, clothes, vegetable oil, carton of tomatoes, provisions, tissues, pampers among others to the home.
The Guardian gathered that Mrs. Amaechi donated recreational material to children as well as assorted gift items on last Monday.
Meanwhile, the managements of the orphanage homes and elderly people’s home in the city have described the residents and indigenes of the state as very generous people.
According to the Matron-in-charge of the Port Harcourt Children’s home, Mrs. Barine Austine, people have been coming intermittently to show love to the children.
“Our expectation has always been that people come and show them love because they have been called abandoned children and for this Christmas season, people have been coming to show them love, give them Christmas gift; you can even look outside and see people coming to show love, carrying their gift items”, she stated.
She lauded the effort of the governor’s wife towards meeting to the needs of the home, “She has been doing all that we request but recently we requested for an ambulance and she promised to deliver it. The ambulance is important because most times when it is late and there is emergency, with the ambulance we can move on, especially on the sanitation day,” she added.
Similarly, Sis. Judith Mary who spoke on behalf of the Matron in charge of Home of the Elderly in the city said the compliance rate in terms of gifts from people since the festive period has been impressive and encouraging.
She disclosed that individuals, organizations and government officials have been coming with various gifts.
She said, “This shows that people are aware that we are preparing for the birthday of Christ and we in the catholic church it is a season of advent for us , so we are aware that the birth of Christ brings joy to the world and it is expected from each of every one of us to awake that joy as well by putting smile on some body’s face”.
She explains, “There are many things that triggers joy, one is compliance from the people like giving of gifts and other things that are required to keep these category of people happy; Here in port Harcourt, it is very encouraging, we got donations in cash and kind, there is a generous spirit in this state especially from the people”.
She however stressed that the home is still in need of a commuter bus, 50kv generating set, refrigerators, televisions, DVD players, stabilizers, Computers, cabinet beds, mattress, pillows, wardrobes, visitor chairs, dinning seats, industrial gas cooker, cooking utensils, supplementary drugs, washing machine, plastic water tanks, construction of physiotherapy among others.
Mary who, maintained that it is not easy take care of old people as they are always not satisfied appealed to wealthy Nigerians to use this season and put smiles on the faces of the less privileged.
“I enjoin the people to read the gospel of Matthew chapter 25 which says that ‘whatever you do to the least my brother you do it also unto me’, it is clear that not all fingers are equal but there are some that are higher. We have people that have been blessed by God and we have the less privileged so I enjoin the rich people to at this season do something that can put smiles on the faces of the less privileged.
They should assist the less privileged so that every body will have complete joy in the society; they should reach out and strike a balance so that those people will not feel how less they are. I advise every Nigerian to imbibe the Spirit of Christ, which is love and giving”. Mary said.
Meanwhile, to accommodate the growing population of abandoned children in the state, the state government has planned to expand the Port Harcourt Children Orphanage Homes by 2011.
Dreaming Goodness For Orphans In Abuja’s City Of Refuge
From Abosede Musari, Abuja
Christmas is that time of the year when children look forward to a lot of partying, winning and dinning, dancing and visiting new places.
For children of City of Refuge Orphanage in Maitama, Abuja, the expectations are not different. The children, in an interaction with The Guardian said that every year, they visit places like parks and recreation centres and they are hoping this Christmas will not be different.
Joy BuJireh Odesola is a six-year old girl who says she would like to enjoy and play at Christmas. She is looking forward to visiting Wonderland again this season and would like new clothes and shoes.
As for Promise BuJireh, the eight year old vibrant boy said, “I like Wonderland. Last year I went to Millennium Park. I want new shoes and clothes”.
All the children in the home answer BuJireh as their surname, the name is coined from Jehovah Jireh, which means God the Provider. Only those who have been adopted bear other names, The Guardian was informed.
Sarah BuJireh is another eight year old. For the girl who nurses the ambition of becoming an actress, Christmas is a time to enjoy. “This is December and we enjoy our Christmas. At Christmas they take us to parties, play with us and people come to visit us. I want God to give me long life. I want hair ribbons, shoes and clothes for Christmas”.
Proprietor of the Orphanage, Mrs. Esther Odesola, while speaking with The Guardian noted that though all is being done to make the children enjoy the season, there are still challenges to be met.
“The challenges are school fees. We need a school bus and money to pay the rent of this home. We have about five schools for the children, some of them international schools where they pay in dollars. Two are in the University.
“We need the society to assist these children. We need money for hospital bills. Some of these children are HIV positive. We won’t throw them away. Many HIV babies are brought here by the Social Development Secretariat and we don’t reject them. That is a great challenge. Some of them come out of it after prayers and there is no trace of HIV again”, she said.
As for the preparation for Christmas, Barrister Odesola said that the home is already decorated. “We are all in the Christmas mood. We’ve decorated the orphanage just as my home is decorated. The children are looking forward to go to Wonderland and parties. They are all looking forward to Christmas presents under the Christmas tree. We attended a carol service at the Living Faith Church and they did very well”, she said.
She however, added that there is no in-house programme for the children as regards parties. They would rather concentrate on teaching the children the real essence of Christmas. “They will eat goat or chicken like any other kid out there. If there is money they will go to Wonderland or have a party and if there is no money they will stay at home. More importantly, we are teaching them that Christmas is not just about partying”.
“If anybody comes and say they want to have a party with them, why not? Children like parties. However, the party can only last for maybe two hours so that the children can have a normal life and rest as well. Everyday, over 40 people come and want to see the children. It may sound good but it is having an adverse effect on them because they don’t have enough time to rest”.
“When they come back from school, they can’t do their homework because everybody wants to see them. From next year, there will be restriction. If you bring something for them, you drop it. You don’t have to wake them when they are sleeping”.
“For over 40 people walking into the children’s bedroom everyday is unhygienic. I want people to see giving to orphans as a covenant to God. Many give millions to Churches because they want to be recognized for one thing or the other while there are orphans and widows suffering. I don’t think God accepts such”, she said.
According to her, the orphanage was established six years ago beginning with a child. It was the child of a mentally challenged woman. And today, over 100 children have passed through the house, 32 already adopted while 68 are still living in the home.
From Angel Of Hope, Love Unparalell For The Hapless And Hopeless
The conference room of Excellence Hotel, Ogba was agog recently as children from regular schools and charity homes came together for the ‘Angel of Hope Children Concert.’
The event, organised by Treasure Life and Style Magazine, had in attendance homes like, Red Cross Motherless and Abandoned Babies, Lagos; Jesus Children Mission, Ibadan; Makoko Down Syndrome Association of Nigeria; God Sent Caring Mission, Ikeja; Heart of Gold Hospice, Surulere; Arrows of God, Aja; Precious Pearls Home, Idimu; Light of Hope, Akute; Maryland Special School, and many others.
Talented Gems Club, a group of privilege children, within the ages of four to 12 years whose main aim is to learn the art of drama, music, creative arts was also present to entertain the children. Special children were not left out as they used their special sign language to entertain.
Speaking on how the whole idea was initiated, Femi Akintunde-Johnson, the initiator of Angel of Hope and publisher of Treasure Life Magazine said, “it was as a response to a distress call to save a toddler, baby Chidera, from the grip of a hole-in-the -heart disorder.”
He said “several kind-hearted readers of our magazine and others, made it possible for Chidera who traveled to India, and returned with a healed heart.”
This, he said prompted the organisation to do more, especialy since there are too many Chideras. The initiative, he added, gave birth to Angel of Hope which has been giving to the hopeless children ever since.
Several other children like, one year old Ezekiel Akhigbe, three years, Peter Nwele have had this same surgeries through the organisation.
Other donations that come to the organisation are in form of school fees, clothes, foodstuff, mopsticks and buckets, pampers, paying for house rents, hangers, pencil and books, wrist watches, generators, etc. Whatever we receive at the end of the event are shared among the homes based on their needs.
Lagbaja, the mask entertainer, said he was at the event ‘to identify with his people’ and not to perform. So he chose several children who did several rounds of a dance competition that saw three them emerged winners.
There was also father Christmas who shared gifts to every child that attended the event.