Friday, September 19, 2008

The 131st good thing about Lagos: We have our own Mama Theresa!

The world knew and appreciated the work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But Lagos has our own Mama Theresa and today I was privileged to visit her school and clinic. (And because, by some fluke, I just had an unusually fast internet connection, I was able to upload more pictures than I would usually attempt to post here.)

In 1963, 45 years ago, the American Women's Club helped her make her dream come true with the establishment of a maternity clinic and school for the women and children of Lekki peninsula. Ife-Oluwa Maternity Home and Clinic and the Ife-Oluwa Nursery and Primary School are charities that are supported by AWC and I went with our club sponsor today while she delivered some money from the club to Mama Theresa. I'm trying to visit all the charities we support so I can get familiar with them, even though the sponsors from our Community Services committee, which I now co-chair, are the ones doing the one-on-one contacts and follow-up.

Mama (what she likes to be called) turned 80 years old this year. She has slowed down over the years -- her knees are not what they used to be. She lives and reigns from the 3rd floor of her building and only descends when she must. When I met her today, she was gripping a 2-volume set of "Lives of the Saints." She sits in her recliner in the center of a living room which has many awards and plaques celebrating her good work displayed on the wall. I think she truly is a saint, as her work has blessed many women and children over the last 45 years. When we gave her the quarterly allotment from the club's budget, she immediately knew what she wanted to do with it. The money is intended for salaries for the doctor and nurses that she employs, but she said that when she can she uses the income she receives from the rental of her mother's home, which she inherited, to pay salaries and this money can go to other things that the clinic needs. She said she keeps nothing for herself, but God provides for her, and she is very happy with her life. This picture is Pam, the AWC sponsor of this charity, giving money to Mama. Pam got the donation of the exercise bike in the background for Mama which she needed for therapy to strengthen her knee.

Right now Mama's working on getting beds and equipment for a surgical area so the clinic can perform Ceaserean sections. Next month she will receive some funds from the American consulate which will go toward an anesthesia machine and drugs. We are looking for donations for a surgical bed or two and before long the surgical area will be equipped and ready. The club has provided much equipment and support of all kinds over the years. Mama is also a frequent recipient of donations from golf tournaments and other charity events, because everyone knows she will put the funds to good use. We looked over the newly finished surgical suite area and the new ultrasound machine, which the AWC helped Mama to purchase. Right now if things go wrong during a delivery and the laboring mother needs a C-section, they need to call a taxi to take her to the hospital -- certainly not an ideal situation! They will be very glad when they can be prepared for these emergency situations and do their own C-sections.

Mama keeps as tight a rein as possible on her charity enterprise. She has a very good name and reputation which she is intent on protecting. She is careful about where her money goes, though she has been a victim of unscrupulous people in the past. Pam told me about a setback the clinic suffered last year after Mama fired a doctor working at the clinic. Mama didn't like his work as he didn't keep things as clean as she liked. After he was fired, he asked to stay on for another month while he looked for another job. The following weekend, he cleaned the clinic out of medications, equipment, even the sheets on the beds. He stole it all and moved down the street and opened his own clinic -- even posting a sign saying that Mama's clinic had moved, in an attempt to steal her clients! Pam said that Mama refused to report his theft because then he would be arrested and lose his medical license. She said that the area needed a doctor (I guess even a dishonest and unhygienic one) more than she needed revenge for his treachery. So much of the funds which would have gone toward equipment for the new surgery went toward replacement items for the clinic. Pam said that it really wasn't a huge loss for Mama, because much of what he stole was old and needed to be replaced anyway. So I guess Mama's a smart leader, as she was willing to give him the old stuff, knowing that God would provide and give her new and better replacement supplies. She turned the other cheek and refused to make a new enemy, and cared more about the welfare of local residents than any thought of revenge. What an inspiration!

This photo is Pam and the nurses in the clinic waiting room. We didn't visit the examination and delivery rooms.

In a room beside Mama's living area, there is a room for babies. When policemen find abandoned babies, Mama's is one of the places that will take them. She cares for them and does testing on their health. When they are well and proven HIV free, they are available for adoption. This little girl (about 14 months old) is already officially adopted by someone who came over from the US to adopt a baby (it sounded like it was a Nigerian living in the US). They are working through the paperwork necessary to bring her back to the States. The baby pictured below is only a week old and will presumably be available for adoption once she is proven healthy.
They keep the babies very bundled up even though the room was quite warm. But they are obviously well cared for and loved here. Since Mama doesn't get out much these days, she tries to arrange for outings for the older babies so they can get some sunshine and outside stimulation.
Behind the clinic are the school rooms. This first picture is of some Primary school rooms that were recently finished. Some desks and benches were recently delivered and the school rooms will soon be used. The school is expanding into upper elementary grade levels.

The playground area is in a small courtyard in between the school buildings and the clinic rooms. The Little Tikes slide was recently donated by the American Women's Club. Pam said that the equipment and buildings age very quickly with constant exposure to the heat and humidity.

We were greeted by Mrs. Rashid, one of the teachers in the Primary School and her beautiful year-old daughter. She said that she went to school here when she was young and then returned to teach here. We also met her 10-year old son who is a student here. Her daughter was staying close by her mother, just toddling around near the classroom.

Before she opened the classroom door to the nursery area, she warned us that the children would cry. She said they were very new to the school this year and they still missed their mothers.

We were a bit of a disruption to the classrooms, as the children were very interested in watching the visitors. One class said some little recited welcome rhyme to us. But they were such cute kids, and obviously well-disciplined. Though the classrooms were quite crowded, as is typical of the charity schools here, it seemed to be a good environment for learning. I left feeling very good that our club is supporting Mama and her good efforts for women's health and children's education in the area.

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