Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The 149th good thing about Lagos: a home for unwanted children

The other day I went out to find my way to an orphanage that is a charity sponsored by the American Women's Club. Our member that served as a contact to this charity had moved over the summer, and I needed to check on the charity, as well as to get good directions to give to a club member who had expressed an interest in being the contact for this charity. I had visited this charity on an AWC field trip a year ago, but since I went on a bus, I hadn't really paid attention to where it was. The dirt road to the orphanage was still like a roller coaster and we drove through one deep puddle that had both my driver and me really worried. But we managed to get through it without stalling.

The orphanage had several babies there now, but the matron said they would soon have more because it was getting into the season when many people abandoned their babies. I expressed surprise about that, but she just shrugged and said that when people have financial crunches during the holidays, abandoning their baby was one solution they found. We've been getting security warnings for weeks now reminding us that we're entering the season when there's more frequent robberies on the street, as "hoodlums" (as my driver calls them) turn to that method to get their Christmas shopping money. Yes, some people here have interesting ways of getting into the Christmas spirit. Anyway, the matron said babies come and go quite easily because they are easy to adopt. The older children at the orphanage -- they have over 200 now -- are more permanent residents. But the children were cute as I toured the buildings. They ran up to me for hugs and attention and repeatedly called out "oyibo, oyibo," their word for white person.

They showed off their new boys dormitory building. There were bunks on one side of the rooms and the other side just had thin foam mattresses on the floor. I was a bit concerned that there was no sign anywhere of any bedding. I wonder if they have any sheets or blankets. At least the room was clean and dry.

This boy is 17 years old. He was on his bed and going through a drawer full of books. He said he liked to read. That was the only evidence of personal belongings for the children that I saw. There was one rack with some clothing hanging on it in the room. But they told me that Saturday (the day I was there) was laundry day. They said that the children do their own laundry (and I know they don't mean putting it in a washing machine -- everything would be hand washed here), and there were clothes hanging on the clothesline. This orphanage has really good living conditions compared to many places in Nigeria.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know that living in Nigeria, causes one to become insensitive. I became used to the ubiquitous beggars and people selling knick-knacks in the all to common "go slows".

I can't imagine how I would feel if my parents ever chose to abandon me. But then again in Nigeria, you would just shrug it off. Just like many things that are so revered and respected (in the developed world), there is nothing but a shrug and possibly a sigh.

If you hadn't told me it was an orphanage, I would have thought it was a juvenile detention centre (characterised by bars on the windows and spartan bunk beds), however it beats the almajiri system. Where boys are turfed out of the family home from as young as ten, to fend for themselves (due to grinding poverty).

I do hope that those children despite their austere surroundings, will grow up to lead fulfilling lives and learn to overcome the many apparent barriers that lie before them.