By; Oluwaseun Olowojaiye
It was a surreal experience on Saturday 6th July 2019, when iVolunteers visited the Nana Berry Orphanage in New Karu, Nassarawa State, Nigeria.The affection was contagious, the concern for the less privileged children was evident as the volunteers took turns in lecturing, interacting and having fun with the children.
iVolunteers is a group of individuals (professionals in their various fields) who render services for no financial or social gain to benefit orphans, students/children in public schools (secondary and primary schools) and unexposed children in the third world. Balancing the lacuna in communication, exposure, creativity, ethics, etiquette, world overview between the highly exposed children and the totally unexposed children.Their Mission is to develop, support, and create encompassing curricula that maximizes creativity, leadership, team spirit and innovation in young poor and third world (unexposed) children.
The iVolunteers is powered by Fedmas Films, a subsidiary of Fedmas Group in conjunction with Voice of Orphans Africa and Diaspora Initiative whose aim is to give voice, advocate for the well- being, Zero tolerance to hunger, Quality Education for orphans, needy and the worried in our society.
The Day started on a high note when Barr Oluwafunmilayo Sam-Idiagbonya, the Managing Director of Fedmas films charged the ivolunteers on the task ahead.
Mr Lugard Osheku took the children on aerobics. The children screamed in glee as they jumped, ran and laughed round their obviously very small playing ground in company of the volunteers and their caregivers.Obviously drenched in their sweats, the children were made to sit, and relax while the volunteers treated them to comedy, and other children inclined fun.
After ensuring they were well rested, Mr Ikponwonsa Success, the Director of Administration and Operations of the Voice of Orphans initiative gave a short engaging talk, charging the children not to look down on themselves. He gave them tips on how to build their esteem, reminding them that they are bunch of talents and creativity. The children listened with rapt attention. He ensured the children partook happily.
Ms Judith, a legal practitioner reviewed Mr Success’ talk with the children to ensure they understood the lecture.
Shortly after, Arch. Olajide Kawonise, told the children – the world is waiting for them. He explained to them that in years to come some of the children will be doctors, lawyers and anything they decided to be. He said the world is waiting for them. They should be well behaved, disciplined and respectful, and they shouldn’t rest till they achieve their dreams.
Immediately Mr Elijah Famodimu charged the children on being accountable. Accountability is the hallmark of success. Using jokes, rewards and gesticulations, he drove home his point.
Succinctly, Barr. Oluwafunmilayo Sam-Idiagbonya, the Managing Director of Fedmas Films with her warm motherly mien, took charge and engaged the children in fairy tales, charging them in music and rhymes.So that no one gets bored, she suggested the children play a game – blind fold and pick. The children were excited.
Mr Tunde Okokoro, the Executive Director of Voice of Orphans Africa and Diaspora Initiative anchored the competition. Two boys and two girls – Victor, Richard, Evelyn and Dezia.The children were divided along gender line, the boys cheering the boys in company of the male ivolunteers and the girls cheering the girls in company of the female ivolunteers.
The atmosphere was tensed, everyone cheering their representatives. The game was simple – their eyes were blindfolded, and they were made to pick drinks and indomie noddles from the floor into two separate baskets. Mr Tunde was impartial, the game was repeated thrice till we got a winner. Evelyn won, haven followed the rules and followed closely by Richard. All the participants were given five hundred Naira each and the winner – Evelyn won a scholarship. Her school fees for a whole session will be paid by the Fedmas Group CEO.
After the rowdy and engaging fun, the children were broken into groups, along their passion line.
The Boys were taught photography by the ace photographer Mr Pius Osaheni Osiobaifo. He illustrated with his camera kits which elicited the kid’s curiosity. He told them that this can be both a passion and vocation, and he made the children touch the camera and also few clicked to capture their friends. By the end of his lecture, they visibly didn’t want him to end.
Mr ochuko Justin Thomas, a professional cinematographer and Editor took few boys on videography. Visibly the boys immediately stood behind, appreciating the magical feel of seeing their friends through the camera. Not forgetting they are orphans, he encouraged and inspired them.
On the girls end, Mrs Rita Aniah, taught on how to make fascinators. In a matter of minutes, majority of the girls in the orphanage took interest and they all designed fascinators for themselves, in different shades and colour. It was wow. Mrs Rita went ahead to tell them, this could be a vocation.
Ms Oke and Ms Femi Ibitoye in turn took the ladies in gender talk. The girls listened with rapt attention. Barr Oluwafunmilayo and Barr Judith informed them on their rights, the children all wanted to be lawyers when they grow up, after they listened to them.
Mr Joshua Omotola Olotu an amiable gentleman who has strong moral ethics taught the children on morals and self-discipline. Taking them in clusters of twos and threes, he passionately spoke on the need for self-discipline and morals.
Ms Ojineme Enakeme, suggested that the ivolunteers should also entertain the children. So the female ivolunteers had to dance around to the amusement of the children. And soon the children joined, it was a free for all dance. See steps! Wow.
The male ivolunteers led by the lead cinematographer – Mr Ochuko Justin Thomas had to interview the orphans and their care-givers outside.
Ms Omar Nwosu in company of Mrs Nicole ensure the children are well fed and they have a lot to drink.
The breaking point was when the owner of the orphanage – Mrs Aishatu Athanasius – Kwalmi told all the ivolunteers her story. The tears flowed freely. She couldn’t hold back her tears. She started this when she was in the university, paying school fees for less priviledged children, but later in life, she found out that it was her passion and calling.
She moved to New Karu in Nassarawa state in company of her husband, to look after sixty – four (64) children, whose parents either died when they were young, others their parent murdered by the gruesome Fulani herdsmen, and others just abandoned. She had to cater for them as well as ensuring they are schooled.
She also founded the Nana berry Academy which is the school attached to the orphanage which caters for one hundred and seven (107) children. Sixty four (64) from the orphanage and other children of the less privileged. She had to pay teachers from her next to nothing income, feed sixty four children daily and also house them.
She begged well-meaning Nigerians that her needs are enormous. Few among so many are;
- Bore-hole. Water is a major problem. She paid someone to sink a borehole for them, but the man ran away with her funds, and she is left with no option than to pay daily for water for sixty four children.
- She needs food stuffs. So many mouths to feed. But there is scarcity of food. She needs food, food and food. Begging Nigerians to donate food to the orphanage.
- Vehicles for mobility.
- Salaries for teachers in the academy.
- Text books
She said many of the children are sick, she has to foot their medical bills personally.
Mrs Aishatu didn’t fail to appreciate her darling husband Mr Charles Kwalmi, who she said, gives her his salary monthly to run the orphanage. Her passion and concern for the children was obvious. She couldn’t hold back her tears, her love and her compassion.
The high point was when the children sang farewell song to the ivolunteers. Most of the ivolunteers couldn’t hold back their tears. The ivolunteers had to hug the children one after the other, assuring them there is hope.
Worthy of note during the visit was the efforts of Mr Ayodele Omojoye, Mrs Itoro Peter who walked so hard to ensure the event was recorded.
Arch. Olajide Kawonise and Mrs Ezenduka Nicole both coordinated the event.