One question we often ponder over at different stages in our lives is “what is my purpose”. The Purpose driven life by Rick Warren has sold over a million copies and many years from now it would still be on the shelves of bookstores. Experts say, in finding your purpose look out for things you hate and seek to change. A few friends and I haven’t fully discovered our entire purpose but we all share one thing in common, putting a smile on someone’s face and giving them a sense of belonging. We are the Friends of Kutara IDP camp and we spent some time with them a few months back.
If you are a frequent reader on the blog you may have read our first visit to the camp. You can always read it up here. Something Adamu – the camp coordinator said that still resonates with me “We were displaced, but placed by God here”. Most of them are from Borno and Adamawa states who were affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria. They are currently 55 men, 99 women, 136 youths and 208 children.
We started planning for our second visit and just like the first one, God smiled down on us through people. A few lines on a whatsapp group gave us two amazing Doctors – Babarinde and Mariam who happen to be classmates and hadn’t met since graduation. A friend donated his truck, two others sent in money to contribute to hiring a bus, another person sent in money to buy sanitary towel. People sent bags of clothes, books, shoes even damask gele. Not to talk of Marie Stopes International who sent three staff with their equipment to facilitate talks on family planning and Halima became our Hausa translator during the talks.
The greatest gift you can ever receive is the gift of human beings and we sure received such gifts. Chioma was generous enough to capture the moments with her camera. Babarinde and Mariam attended to 43 patients mostly women (hopefully the next visit we would attend to more people including men and children). With instructions from our Doctors Efe, Halima, Chinwe and Akachi became pseudo nurses by dispensing drugs to the patients. The men Ebuka, Emeka, Tochi and Anthony were not left out. They spent time with some of the men and some of us visited their homes.
One thing we all agreed on was the transparency in the way they shared the relief materials. We saw how they shared everything into 79 parts to cover the number of families they had in the camp and I mean everything. They all took turns to pick up their items by sending a representative when the family name was called.
We are planning another visit in a few weeks from now and would be extending our hands to you to be a part of this amazing trip. So while we hope they can go back to their previous communities and resume their normal lives we can do a few things to improve their present condition. These are the current needs we would be meeting
Medical Professionals (Doctors, Pharmacists, Dentists, Medical Lab Scientists)
School Materials (Note books, Text books, Pencils)
Transferable skills (Soap making etc)
Renovation of their make-shift class-room block
Sometimes I wish I had the power to end the suffering in the world but sadly I can’t but I believe in the power of changing one life. We are doing just that and you can be part of it. You can reach us through the comment section or send an email to email@example.com.
It was one of those conversations you have with a friend, you remember the economic climate and the many job losses in the country and he suddenly says “Chijioke what of IDP camps”? This unplanned conversation ignited a fire that had gone dim for a while, thank you Gbenga. That same week I had gone to visit a friend and found out an IDP camp was close to his house. Oh! I was extremely excited, told my aunt and we took our first set of relief items in the form of clothes and shoes. But the visit left us disappointed, it wasn’t organized, we saw a lot of bags of clothes in a particular container, apparently they didn’t have a proper system for sharing.
I still knew there were more IDP camps and I went further to get a more detailed list of IDP camps at the outskirts of town. Thankfully I found about seven (7) camps and I chose Kutara Camp. Meanwhile a mentoring group I’m part of decided to carry out Charity work with an emphasis on IDP camps. I had posted a status on facebook without asking for help but causing people to think of how they could help towards the displacement crisis in Nigeria and I got private messages as well as comments on how they can get involved. You see when you have a desire to do something God causes the earth to respond. The journey to raise funds for the visit to Kutara started.
A little N2,000.00, few baby clothes and it kept coming. I was getting overwhelmed with people’s donations within and outside Abuja. A colleague overheard my conversation over the phone and asked how he could get involved. I explained the needs and he gave $100 and further made others to give $200. Oh! My heart was bursting with excitement, my friend Melford said my excitement was infectious even over the phone. While I was sorting out the clothes, shoes and textbooks I couldn’t believe all the things people sent. They were all new and laundered clothes, I saw the prettiest aso-eke for a little baby girl and I saw tampon too. That definitely made me smile but reminded me I needed to buy sanitary towels too.
I was awake by 3.00 a.m. on that Saturday and couldn’t sleep, not sure if it was anxiety or excitement but I was glad to be up to know a little thought was about to come alive. We were eleven (11) on the trip, three colleagues, six friends and the camp coordinator Adamu. We headed to Kutara in three (3) cars with lots of emotions running through our minds. Only one of us who is a doctor had been to several IDP camps. The trip became pretty interesting when we veered off the major road and kept on driving for another thirty (30) minutes and the camp was nowhere in sight. At some point my friend Efe who was in another car called to ask why I didn’t ask them to bring their passports cos’ it was clear we were leaving the borders of Nigeria. We finally got to the camp situated in the middle of nowhere and beheld the sight of many little children waiting for us at the entrance and singing a welcome song.
When we all came down no one remembered the distance we covered to get to the camp. They are displaced persons from Adamawa and Borno who were attacked by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The name of the camp is Kutara in Masaka, Nassara state. The camp is made up of seventy (70) families, sixty (62) men, sixty (60) women and two hundred and twenty-eight (228) children and they all live in houses provided by the Church of the Brethren Mission in Switzerland through EYN Church Headquarters in Mubi, Adamawa State . The same church owns the land they are occupying. There’s a solar-paneled bore hole in the camp. We all went to various areas in the camp. Tuboson who’s a doctor had a session with the public health worker in the camp, Rachel had a session with the kids where she recited the alphabets and sang the National Anthem in Hausa language, Efe, Ejike, Tochi and I went to view the make-shift school.
There are three (3) structures built with Zinc with a black board gotten by painting wood with charcoal. They have five (5) volunteer teachers who cover from per-crèche to primary three (3). The remaining kids go to private schools in neighboring villages which is funded by the produce from their farms. They are predominantly farmers. Tim had fun with the children while Iztok and Guy were busy strategizing on the next steps. Not to forget Chioma who was gracious enough to document our experience with her camera. I can’t forget what the young lady said when we handed the sanitary towels to her, she said the women in the camp use rags and wash it to re-use. Yes in the 21st century we still have such practices.
The heads of various groups spoke to us and the head of the camp who we observed to be highly respected said something very profound, “We were displaced by Boko Haram but God has placed us here”. They have made Kutara their home and when I asked him if he will like to go back home, he responded by saying TO WHERE! I can’t say we met all their needs but a child went to bed that day with a new dress on, one had a chocolate drink, another ate noodles while another child used a toothbrush and a bathing soap in the morning not to forget the new shoe a man will put on and the woman who will be using a sanitary towel that day. Or the volunteer teacher who took back money in envelops as a reward for their help in molding the next generation. You see, we all wished we could do more but at the end of the day we were glad we changed one life after all it starts with one.
Beyond what we gave them, they were excited that we crossed all the seven rivers and mountains to spend the day with them. They said people hardly visit them cos’ of the distance and the few people who visit them make promises but never come back. Although we didn’t make any promises but we’ve decided to be a little different. We have met after the visit and talked about what we can do for them. So here we have it: –
A proper school – We plan on constructing up to six (6) classroom blocks with desks and chairs.
A better health post
Medical supplies – Malaria is the major disease in the camp
Fertilizer for the farmers
Skills acquisition and initial start-up for them
Solar panel for electricity for the camp
Improved accessibility for local transportation
Publicity – We want to do a documentary to share their story with the world
If there’s anything we all noticed there’s transparency in the sharing of relief materials they receive. We plan on empowering them in making them self-sufficient so they don’t rely solely on aids. So like I asked in my Facebook post, what do you have in your hand that can help? Whatever it is, let us know and we’ll take it up from there. Yes we just made a difference last week Saturday but we are about to change the lives of many people to translate to many generations. After all said and done we live to leave a lasting legacy and at the end we all have the same color of blood and that’s all that matters.
Nigeria and the entire world woke up to the news of the rejection of the bill by the Senate on ‘Gender Parity and Violence against Women’ introduced by Sen. Biodun Olujimi. Before I go into the reasons given for the rejection, it’s important to get a background of the bill. Gender Parity – An index used to measure the access to education of both males and females, this is central to the achievement of the MDG 3 gender equality and women’s empowerment through education. Prohibition of violence against women in private and public places . The senator said the bill seeks to promote equality, development and advancement of all persons in Nigeria especially women, the bill if passed will give women freedom of movement that has been hampered by social and cultural practices in some parts of the country, sexual abuse against elderly people, all forms of trafficking in women and children, medical experiment on women and children without their consent or guardians, equal rights for women in marriage, divorce and land ownership/inheritance and much more.
In response to the bill, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu supported the bill saying Nigeria would develop if women were given the same rights as men, Senate Majority leader Ali Ndume criticized it urging Nigerians to stick to either religious or traditional marriage while Senator Sani Yerima condemned it saying it was in conflict with the Nigerian constitution citing the Sharia law as his basis which is recognized by the constitution. It shouldn’t be a surprise why the bill was voted down.
I have often asked in a plural state like Nigeria, what law supersedes the other, for example we have the Nigerian constitution and the Sharia law. Article 10 of the constitution states “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion” this simply means Nigeria is a secular state. In 1999 twelve states adopted the Sharia law without the implementation of the Apostasy law (an offence committed when a Muslim leaves the Islamic faith or gets converted to another religion, the punishment is death). Article 38 “ Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief…” contravenes the Apostasy law and Nigeria is equally a convener and gave her accession on 29 July 1993 to Chapter IV of the Human Rights Treaty by the United Nations which states in Article 18 ‘’Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, this right shall include freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice…’’.
One of the senators cited religion as one of his reasons for rejecting the bill, I am a Christian and I’ll speak from that point of authority. My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge – Hosea 4:6. The day I came across this information in the Bible I was stunned and wondering why it hasn’t been expounded upon since we are a very “religious” nation. I will summarize the chapter Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad from the tribe of Joseph had lost their father in the wilderness and they had no brother brought up the case before Moses and asked a profound question “why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no sons? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers” this is what my people call Alu!!!. Just like what some senators felt, how can such bill even be mentioned, it was a taboo but Moses took their case to God and this is God’s response in vs 7-8 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them. “Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter… In a conference I attended a Muslim scholar said a man asked the Prophet, who deserves the best respect and the lyrics of a song I love written by Yusuf Islam sums up the answer “Who should I give my love to, My respect and my honour to Who should I pay good mind to? After Allah And Rasulullah Comes your mother Who next? Your mother Who next? Your mother And then your father”. The repetition of the question and answers isn’t an error.
I have presented the two reasons cited for the rejection of the bill. So I ask what exactly are they against, empowerment of the women, violence against women, education or the well being of the widows. Nigeria is a secular state although there is freedom of religion which provides the ultimate source of a group’s identity and reason for their existence. In creating laws to govern the state the question should be, who are the laws made for, in the case of Nigeria we are talking of the female gender and a time comes when the fundamental human right of an individual needs to be considered first regardless of the gender . There is the need to separate the state from religion, granted religion has a public figure, we should be mindful of making state laws based solely on religion especially when the state is secular. The Apostasy law hasn’t been implemented because it contradicts the constitution of Nigeria, it goes to show not all religious laws are acceptable in all countries. Dear Senators with your recent actions, you have placed Nigeria as one of the countries against the development and empowerment of women, let’s not forget the “Chibok girls saga”, the many Ese Oruru’s out there. “The hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world” if that hand is not protected what will become of that world?
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Over the weekend I recorded another ‘first event’; I joined a team from my local Church to invite people for our Special Easter service. Our target area was the City centre, it was pretty interesting. First of all I was intruding on people enjoying the beautiful weather; some were having lunch while others were just spending quality time with their families. I had to remember to smile, to be polite, answer a few questions and to say thank you to those who wouldn’t take the flyer. But thankfully a few indicated interests in coming and a particular couple I met asked if there was going to be food, I think I said hopefully (I wasn’t sure) all the same I took down their numbers and told them the Church bus was going to pick them up on Sunday.
On Sunday they were ready before 10 am; and someone else picked them up. But somehow I sensed there was something about them, on my way to Church with a few friends I brought up my concern of them been homeless and asking for food too. One of my friends asked why everyone always expects to eat in Church every time they are invited. This led to different people expressing their view on the issue. Well I got to Church, met them and at the end of the service I found out they were really homeless cos’ they came with their entire bags and the man told me too. They finally asked me for food, although we didn’t have cooked food in Church that day but we had 2 separate bags packed with canned food, pasta and some other dry food. Thankfully the Pastor asked me to give it to them.
I had to paint this story to point out something about the Church. She was born to cater to the needs of people, the early Church shared all they had and gave to anyone in need. Looking back now to the episode on the bus I remembered a few things, my coordinator in my Church in Nigeria said something profound, she’s one of the youngest in her family yet when anything happens and there is a monetary contribution they expect her to give more but you know what, she prefers to be on this side where she is giving than the one asking for money. A pastor I respect always says ‘don’t tell me you love me, show me – don’t say it is well, God bless you when you have the means of helping the person’. I read a book some years ago ‘Church Shift’ by Sunday Adelaja ; it’s an amazing book and he was saying the Church needs to be active and meeting the needs in the society. The Church he pastors feeds 2000 people daily through the Stephania Soup Kitchen that caters to needy street and abandoned children.
I think instead of us complaining that people are only coming to Church to be physically fed, let us ask God to bless our hands so we can be sources of blessings to such people. Even Jesus Christ fed the hungry, he didn’t send them away hungry rather He met their needs. Jesus Christ is in heaven, He won’t throw food from heaven rather we are representatives of Him here on earth. As we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us remember love brought Him to the world, love led Him to the cross and that same love nailed Him to the cross. May this truth resonate within us as we carry out the message He entrusted into our care. Loyiso sums it up with this song ‘Jesus to the world’.