HELP Africa ministry celebrates 10 years of caring for nomads, orphans through evangelism
The HELP Care Centre, located on the outskirts of Egbe, Kogi State was founded by Health, Education and Literary Providers (HELP) based in Texas, United States of America is now 10 years. The acronym name, ‘HELP,’ at the early stage of the ministry, meant something different to the people who approached the centre for immediate assistance. HELP Africa, a Christ-based ministry is founded to raise disciples of Jesus through sustainable partnerships in six areas of life in Nigeria, namely— social, civil society, education, agriculture, health and business domains.
In 1999, when American missionary and physician, Dr. Tracy Goen arrived in Nigeria, he had his mind focused on assisting the famous Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Hospital, Egbe, Kogi State but met the facility that somewhat was on the decline. Formerly known as Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) Hospital, ECWA Hospital is reputed as one of the best in Sub-sahara Africa, was established in 1951 by Canadian missionary and surgeon, Dr. George Campion and themed: “Christ Heals.” The massive health care village located adjacent the famous Titcombe College, Egbe, also founded by SIM, is complimented with schools of nursing and midwifery, competent, Godly and compassionate medical and auxiliary staff with world class facilities. A friendly and fascinating environment and an airstrip that enabled rapid response in times of emergencies and movement of drugs from foreign countries and within by aircrafts. The hospital was eventually carried out by another set of missionaries led by Don Campion, son of the founder and commissioned in 2014.
On his part, Goen, after a stint as Chief Medical Director of the hospital, will be remembered more for his daring evangelism among nomadic Fulanis, which many thought to be mission impossible.
With the aide of an interpreter, he was always very busy in the bushes with the herders. Goen soon raised a disciple for Christ in Pastor Babangida, a Fulani, who always accompanied him to Fulani camps around Pategi, Kwara State.
In January 2006 HELP Africa activities in Nigeria blossomed with the establishment of the Good Shepherd Nursery and Primary Schools for nomadic Fulani children in Okoloke, a suburb settlement in Yagba West Local Government, Kogi State. The development sparked off protests in the Islamic society and the caliphate with Muslim leaders accusing Goen and his team of a systematic attempt to Christianise the predominantly Muslim Fulani pupils through Western education. Their fears were amplified by the conversion of Mr. Babangida to Christianity. Babangida later became the school’s headmaster. The row over the real intention of the missionaries behind the establishment of the school was temporarily halted until the parties (missionaries and Muslim leaders) agreed that Christian Religion Studies as a subject should not be made compulsory but voluntary.
The story of Good Shepherd School made one of the cover stories in The Guardian On Saturday, titled: “HELP For Nomads.” HELP Africa followed up with the interfaith conference that brought Christian and Muslim leaders to a roundtable in Yagba area. A development that has helped to nip herders/farmers and religious unrest in Yagba area till date. It was not until 2008 that HELP Care Centre became an addition to Goen’s ingeniousness; eight years after a visit to the farm of octogenarian, Pa Abraham Dada, who worked with Goen in the pharmacy department of ECWA Hospital before he retired to farming.
One day, during one of his regular visits to Pa Dada in his farm, the old, aging pharmacist turned farmer had suggested to his visitor the idea of utilising the farmland in future for an old people’s home. Pa Dada admitted he had grown old and would no longer have the strength to withstand the rigour of farming. He thought about the cashew, mango, lemon and tangerine he planted and who would inherit and take care of them when his legs may not carry him to the farm site anymore.
“Goen responded that it is a good idea, and promised that when he gets back to USA he would discuss it with friends to assess if he could partner with me to open a home like that,” revealed the octogenarian in his emotional speech titled, “The Journey So Far,” during the anniversary celebrations of the HELP Orphanage held at HELP Care Centre, Egbe, recently. But Goen, accompanied by wife, Patty, on his return to Nigeria in 2003 indicated preference for an orphanage and requested for a land for that purpose and how much it would cost to buy the land. Pa Dada added, “I told him the land proposed for old peoples home could be used (for the orphanage). He said I should ask for what they would pay for the land area. I told him my family members would surely cooperate with me to utilise the available land for whatever purpose he wanted, that the orphans that would be taken are Nigerians, not Americans, so he should not worry about the money.
“In 2005, it was clear the proposal for an orphanage would come to stay with missionaries in SIM headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, (including), Rev. Peter Friethmam and Dr. McCain becoming the first trustees. Today, it is a thing of joy for me that I no longer worry myself over the mango and cashew plants that have grown to become big trees with fresh, cool breeze when you sit under them,” he said.
The farmland, today, hosts HELP Care Centre, with a capacity for housing 60 males and 80 females, serving as home to orphans and less privileged children, as well as secondary school pupils. It was officially opened in 2008 with eight kids all from Benue State. The centre partners schools and colleges for quality and private school education.
Some of the products of the centre who graduated from higher institutions have returned to the centre, as workers to boost the staff strength.
Speaking at the event, the President of HELP Care Centre Alumi (HCCA), Audu Husseni and Ariyo Joshua, leading other students from Port Harcourt, Zaria and Ibadan to attend the anniversary celebration, said they decided to return and work at the centre, to give back to the institution that had brought them from a state of hopelessness and homelessness. They added that HCCA was inaugurated to provide a forum for exchange of ideas and reunion of the alumni. Chairman of the Board of Directors and Trustees, Andy Wallace, in his report to members at this year’s Annual General Meeting, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Care Centre, said discipleship is at the core of HELP Africa ministry. “This continues to be God’s ministry with our foundation being built on prayer to be run by Nigerians with the support and assistance of servant-minded missionaries, local, state and Federal Governments and, most assuredly, fellow Nigerian followers of Jesus Christ.”
Wallace, however, lamented that 99.2 per cent of HELP funding came from America with local Nigerian donors showing little interest.
He said: “We have been struggling in this area since the ministry’s inception in 2005. We don’t know why Nigerians are not willing to give more, but we trust that God will continue to provide. We believe that our staff have demonstrated Christ-like stewardship, evidenced by the surplus of income over expenditure.”
Wallace who replaced Dr. Goen, as chairman of the HELP board in 2010, listed the ministry’s goals in the year under review. Care Centre Administrator, Mrs. Christiana Sunday appealed for more aides for the orphans in the areas of tutors, food supply and clothing. She emphasised that the centre’s Adopt-child-programme needs more Nigerian sponsorship for orphans, saying; “there is only one Nigerian sponsor so far, Mrs Evelyn Yeye Dada, and one American, Mrs. Pam Wallace, who has 11 orphans under her sponsorship.”
Various speakers at the 2018 HELP Africa AGM unanimously agreed with the chairman on the need for attitudinal re-orientation among the locals, especially defaulting beneficiaries of loans under the business domain. They also urged wealthy Christians and church leaders to come to their aid. One of the trustees, Rev. Babawarun objected to the impression that Nigerians did not appreciate what HELP is doing. The cleric attributed the lull to economic recession and non-payment of salaries, especially in Kogi State.
Although HELP Africa ministry was officially registered on December 1, 2006, the Care Centre was commissioned in June 2008, the ministry has accomplished so much in its major areas of operations within its 10 years of operation in its six domains in Nigeria. Occupying 98 hectares of land and water, Aje-Yemi/HELP Farm, in it’s fourth year of operation, is a partnership thriving both in winning disciples for Christ among staff, farmers and customers. While the social domain takes care of orphans, vulnerable children and widow’s empowerment, and the civil society domain outreaches to Fulani nomadic communities around Kwara, Kogi and Ekiti states.
The Education department partners schools and colleges for the schooling of orphans. HELP operated a school with modern facilities in Okoloke, Yagba West LGA and is planning a satellite school among Fulanis. For the health domain, the ministry is currently working on an operating primary healthcare mobile clinic. The Business department of HELP has trained and empowered more than 100 participants, including widows across different religious and cultural settings.
HELP has sunk over 70 boreholes in Egbe and its environs, including Fulani settlements. The board of directors is made up of business professionals, and community leaders who ensure the organisation sustains it’s core values.
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