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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reach out and touch someone......

I need advice! I want to help someone and don't know how best to. Here's the story;

I got to church a bit late today. One of the girls in my class, Jane* (name changed) said to me, aunty please I need to speak with you after class. Another girl was there teasing her, trying to make her laugh. Apparently, she had made attempts before I came in to bring her out of her shell with no luck. Jane is not new to my class, from my observation of her, I find her to be a teenager full of mood swings, upbeat this Sunday, broody and aggressive the next. On one occasion I had scolded her for using abusive languages in class.

After the class, I called her aside to have a chat. She asked me if I could borrow her N800 (eight hundred naira), for two of her school projects, N400 for each. She explained that her mother was having difficulty raising the money but promised she would pay N200 every week from next week if she could get someone to borrow the money from. I could see how hard it was for her to be doing this, at barely 14 years old, no child needs to be put through this! But ladies and gentlemen, this is the reality of the Nigeria we live in and believe it or not, this is not one of the worst cases.

I pressed further and she told me her story. She's the only child from her parents, her father is late. Her mother has another daughter from a previous marriage that ended when that husband died as well. Her sister who is about 17 years older than her ( it took some time for her mum to move on), is estranged because her mother sent her packing when she got pregnant out of wedlock. Her mother used to be a cleaner at a school where she was owed about 5 months in salaries and had to quit when it didn't make sense anymore to continue. Some good willed people in their neighborhood came together to raise some money for her mother to start a food selling business on the street but gathering the money to survive from that is still a task.

I asked about her sister, any other family? She said she went looking for her sister at some point and found her; she has three kids now and is struggling to survive too. Her mother's siblings have tried to offer the little help they can, but even they are living from hand to mouth. Right now, her mother is ill and needs N2,000 for blood pressure drugs.

That's it in a nutshell. By the time we finished, I was just weak. There's so much poverty around us. Yet some live in such affluence and waste! It's not right.  I gave her what I could, for her immediate needs. But I have been scanning through my brain, thinking of what I can do to help her in a more permanent way, but haven't really come up with an acceptable solution. Here's a list of the thoughts I have had;

  • Connect her with and NGO that supports children through school
I really don't know many of them or how they are run. I wouldn't want a case where she would fall into the hands of a bureaucratic system that can frustrate her further. Besides, if there are a few good ones around, I bet they are already laden with myriads of such cases.

  • Help her raise the money she needs to learn a trade
She mentioned that she considered learning tailoring so she could start a small tailoring business and use that to support herself and her mum. The charge was 10,000 and she started on credit but was kicked out when she couldn't pay. Perhaps this could be a good solution, but I have concerns about how this would interfere with her schooling. She starts her final year in September and needs to focus so she can get good grades.

  • Open an account for her and put her on financial support
Even if I could afford this, what would be the right amount. Not too much, not too little. Just what she needs to get that balance. I could get people to donate or one person to take her up as their responsibility, but it has to be sustainable and meaningful.

  • Adopt her or get someone to
She attends a public school in Oko-oba and from what she said her school counselors have been very supportive and have even offered to take her in. But her mum is not comfortable with their offer because she says she doesn't really know them and that they live too far away from her, so access to her daughter would be hard. I think too that Jane is all she's got left, so it would be hard to deal with a separation.

These are the options I have thought up so far. What do you think? How can we help this young girl? Please send your thoughts and proposed solutions to mofolusadesonaike@gmail.com. 

We may not be able to change the world, but we can help as many as we possibly can!