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SOS Children’s Villages brought hope after I dropped out of school – Teen

By Ijeoma UKAZU

One way to help families experiencing poverty is by connecting them with local resources. Poverty, occasioned by economic hardship, insecurity has resulted in the inability of most families to provide for themselves and their children.

In Nigeria according to the National Bureau of Statistics, 40 percent or 83 million Nigerians live in poverty. This alarming figure has driven more children out of school to an estimated 10.1 million.

However, for the timely intervention of SOS Children’s Villages, a not for profit organization, Ruth Udeh, would have added to the number of children in Nigeria who are out-of-school. She said, “I was in Senior Secondary two and was about 15 years old when I dropped out of school. My mom is a petty trader.

“I had to change schools due to difficulty in paying my fees and eventually dropped out of school. Before I joined SOS Children’s Villages, things were quite difficult for my family.”

Grateful for the organization for seeing her through secondary school, Udeh says she looks forward to gaining admission into the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Ghana to study Pharmacy.

Udeh, a beneficiary of the Family Strengthening Program, FSP, an initiative by the organization, which provide support to disadvantaged families with the goal of helping to prevent child abandonment, added that the program has supported her mother in her business, accommodation and has built her mother’s capacity to take care of the family to the point of self-sustainability.

The Family Strengthening Programs work directly with families and communities to help them to effectively protect and care for their children, in cooperation with local authorities and in collaboration with other charities on the ground.

SOS Family Strengthening Program targets disadvantaged families to prevent crises that can in the worst-case scenario lead to child abandonment. The programs offered enable parents to better care for their children through.

According to the 1989 United Nations Convention decree on the Rights of the Child, Article 27 says, “Children have a right to the standard of living that is good enough to meet their needs.”

Following Article 27 decree, the SOS Children’s Villages, a not for profit organization with the mission driven to take care of children, provide alternative homes and strengthen families has empowered over 6, 000 children from over 1, 000 families in Nigeria.

The Family Strengthening Program is currently in six communities in Nigeria, namely: Ejigbo and Ishaga in Lagos State, Sasa in Oyo State, Owu-Ijebu in Ogun State, Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory – Abuja, Kaswan-Magani in Kaduna State, and Zawan in Plateau State.

Through local communities like ISOILAJ, a Community Based Organization made up of Isolo, Ilasa Maja, Ajao Estate communities, the SOS Children’s Villages have been able to reach these 1,000 families including Madam Calista Uzoma and Mrs. Maryam Olawale with support.

Recounting, Uzoma, a Lagos trader into second-grade clothes popularly known as “Okrika” said, “SOS Children’s Villages has given my children educational support, financial support and business support which I am currently leveraging on. The organization has also trained us in different skill acquisition for both parents and children. My husband has also been supported in his business.”

Also pleased with the organization, Mrs. Maryam Olawale, a fashion designer is full of thanks as her children are in tertiary institutions through the SOS Children’s Villages support program for communities.

Olawale, “Through ISOLAJ, SOS Children’s Villages have supported me in my tailoring business, my children’s school fees, food items, various training have been organized for us on how we can care for our children and protect them from abusers amongst others.

“I have been supported with my house rent. My hope has been revived with the kind of support I have received. Two of my children are in University and the third is preparing for admission. I am very happy.”

The programme manager, ISOILAJ Economic and Social Development Project, Faronbi Bashiru, said that, “We are a Community Based Organization in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages and key implementers of the Family Strengthening Program interfacing with the beneficiaries in the communities.

“Through the organization, we created a child protection committee targeted at protecting children from any form of abuse, molestation or neglect within our area. We have several cases of various forms of abuse that the committee has taken care of. Due to the successes recorded, the committee has been admitted into the Lagos State Child Protection Network.”

He said part of the criteria the community organization uses to admit families into the Family Strengthening Program are, “We look for families who are vulnerable and can’t fend for themselves or children. Families that have little means of livelihood. Currently the community has over 3,000 children and about 900 families that have been enrolled by ISOILAJ into the program.”

On child protection, the secretary to the committee, Prince Dosunmu said, so far, the newly inaugurated committee have rescued two children in Isolo and a woman at Ilasa Maja from abuse.

Speaking during a two-day media engagement and capacity workshop in Lagos, the head of advocacy, Brand and Communication, SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria, Chinweuba Ezeigwe, told The Abuja Inquirer that, “Part of what we do is advocating for quality care for children. We have been able to support the Lagos state government to develop a state’s guideline on the alternative care for children.

“The right environment must be created for the Nigerian child to thrive. Some of the ways that this will be done is by enactment of relevant laws. We are alongside other organizations are holding conversations with State government to ensure that Child Rights Act is enacted in the 10 states yet to domesticate the Law. For those who have enacted these laws, we are also helping them to ensure that there is adequate implementation of these laws because, beyond enacting these laws, another key component is the implementation of the law.”

Ezeigwe said The Child Rights Act entails a just and peaceful society is dependent on a child who grows in a loving home and becomes a contributing member of the society.

He stressed that the society benefits when children are properly taken care of, pointing that these children are the ones who grow to sit in high places, treat people when sick, make up the nation and decides the fate of a nation; “When you take care of the child, you take care of the nation.”

Ezeigwe revealed that the event is geared towards building the capacity of media practitioners on the work of SOS Children’s Villages and understanding the real issues being faced by children without parental care and bring the issues to the front burner.

Speaking during a tour to the SOS Children’s Villages premises in Isolo Lagos states, the Regional Programme Manager, Ayodeji Adelopo, said the government brings the child to SOS Children’s Villages to care for and thereafter, the government hand over the child to whoever they deem fit to take care of the child in a permanent family.

“Part of its focus is on family strengthening. If people feel cared for, they might hold some allegiance or responsibility to the community. The family strengthening is a preventive programmme that seeks to support vulnerable children while they are living with their families. We believe that it is a very strong programmme the government should consider in every community where we have these type of children. It is a programme that has the potential of helping us curb insecurity situation we currently have in Nigeria.

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