A little over a month ago, a respected friend who had been putting up pictures of social work activities he had been recently pursuing, invited me to come and see for myself. It was in Makoko community, Yaba, Lagos. Prior to that, my only views of this community had been from 3rd Mainland Bridge, where you can always see them on their boats, fishing, pushing wood logs, and defecating in the water.

Words may fail me here, in trying to describe it but without exaggeration, it is terrible, really, definitely below recommended world health standards. The stagnant, brackish water breeds germs which inhabitants, especially children, are exposed to. Some neglected kids even swim in it.  The filth in several dump sites within the slum does not help either; no mosquito nets to help against mosquitoes bred by the water; their clinics and health centers are small, under-equipped, and almost just as dirty; clean water was little and fetched from a distance. Bathrooms and water closets?  Almost alien technology to these guys.  Education is very poor and almost non-existent.  Only very few of their youths could act as interpreters for us. It is a moving sight, especially when you imagine the fate of the numerous kids in the community. To see them poorly clad, playing in the filth or foul water, with dirty dogs, or eating with their dirty hands and in such germ-ridden environment, is really sad. And there are so many children. One of the men who took us on a boat to see the Baale on water had 3 wives and over 17 children!! And that was just one man.

A 7year old girl trading in a canoe during school hours.

It is never true that all men are born equal but we all have the ability to change our situations and those of others.  I believe that these children are (part of) the future of our nation and the world and they WILL be the ones to achieve what their parents never could. I believe that as clearly as no one can see tomorrow, every man is a potential world leader, and inevitably, every man is important and must be treated as such!!

My friend Otto Orondaam and his numerous (still growing) noble partners, stakeholders and volunteer team have been working on different projects, all for the Makoko community;

  • The SLUM 2 School Project; This focuses on community sensitization and advocacy on the importance of education and also getting the kids into schools. Every child should be given an opportunity to Universal Basic Education. It also entails the provision of school materials which includes, school bags, books, shoes and uniforms for the children. Monitoring and evaluation also forms part of the project scope which is the key for sustainability.
  • Project NET A CHILD ; This is a medical intervention for children and pregnant women which centers on donating free insecticide treated nets to improve living conditions and reduce malaria prevalence. The scope of the project also includes more medical enhancements: improvement of Makoko health centers, donation of some drugs, donation of water purifiers/educating inhabitants on proper usage, testing inhabitants, de-worming, general hygiene education, etc.
  • Project CLEAN Water: Building wells and boreholes for potable water in the community.

In the course of planning all of these, we have met with many amazing young volunteers who are utilizing personal skills to contribute effort and strategies for driving these goals home.  We are also planning on enrolling a minimum of 100 children into schools this month. We however believe that we could extend the opportunity to everyone who feels passionate about the cause. In-kind donations would be very helpful. A lot of books (not just school books but lovely, illustrated storybooks) school bags, sandals, clothes and other materials that would aid their mental and psychosocial development, would be needed.

It is normal to ask why these kids in particular, as they are surely not the only kids suffering, vulnerable or deprived. But the true question is “why not them?”

If you cannot give something, you can refer this case to people who can. Or to people who will refer the case to even more people. At least say some words of encouragement to those who are trying to make this work.

We really appreciate all volunteers, supporters and all those who have  been encouraging us on this blog, asking how to be a part of this and taking out time to join the volunteer team. This is the time to go full throttle and push forward. In the midst of all the chaos in our Country, we should try to light candles instead of cursing the darkness. Sometimes I ask if I and or all the goodwill/charities in the world, can actually accomplish all the MDGs and 2020 goals, eradicate extreme poverty, disease, etc! I always arrive at the same conclusion. I, we, must NOT stop trying!!!  

There is a story of a young girl who was throwing back shellfishes that had been washed ashore, one after the other into the ocean, as she strolled along the beach with her mum. Now, the shellfish on shore covered the extent of the beach as far as the eye could see, and the mother asked her daughter “Surely you cannot throw all these shellfish back in the water. They are way too many. It makes no difference.” And the little girl picked one more and replied her mum “To this one and each one I throw back in, it makes ALL the difference!”  Her mum was inspired and joined the daughter, gradually everyone on the beach joined them, and in few hours latter all the shellfishes were thrown back into the ocean. We must learn to make all the difference in relatively little situations.

Simple stories (like this) in life show us that you don’t have to be bitten by a spider, nor come from planet Krypton before you can be a super hero. It is not about catching missiles or stopping trains from colliding with brute strength. As you are, small, huge, fair, Parent, Husband, mother, young adult, artist, celebrity, model, fine girl, whatever, you have the means to save a life in some way! Wear that superhero cape in your heart and let us do this together!

And my elder brother Rowland’s favorite quote…”All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!”

You, good man, will you do nothing?

Written By: Ekene Enyekwe for Community iMPACT.