Thirty children are now settled in the three bedroom bungalow we have been able to lease. The first year’s rent has been paid. All basic household items have been purchased and in the process we tried to support local craftsmen and artisans as much as possible. Our staff have been appointed from among the Displaced People.
I met Umar, our head teacher as I searched for suitable property during my visit to Maiduguri in late May. He escorted me through a few days as I spoke of the vision and the needs we wanted to satisfy: privacy, security, at least one tree and room for much more in the way of gardens, three bedrooms, space for learning circles where a teacher could work 1:1 with an individual as the other children worked in groups. We wanted good hygiene so there needed to be a bore hole and adequate bathroom and toilet facilities or room to add more. We wanted a sanctuary and we wanted the village children to have an education that expanded outside the house and into the grounds, so there must be grounds. Umar grew more intrigued with the idea that we weren’t aiming to have a holding pen, a boarding school, or an institution. Umar’s university degree and his character meant I created a new position beyond our original vision of two staff.
Through Umar I entered the first of several camps for Internally Displace Persons (IDPs). From his Local Government Area an estimated 140,000 people have fled and many have been left behind, slaughtered, shot down, or burned by the ravaging mayhem in the theatre of sorrows. There are tens of thousands of orphans in these camps, along with widows. Few families remain intact however the city of Maiduguri has provided shelter for the survivors by closing all secondary schools for more than a year. It was helpful that the camps were arranged according to village and town, so that the people were known to each other. By knowing each other, security was increased because no stranger could infiltrate from Boko Haram. From the camp we found two women to bring on board as our staff: Amina, a widow and Asta, herself an orphan caring for a younger brother.
Head teacher, ancilliary teacher and Mother of the House, and our nanny/cook were all appointed, briefed and ready for work. Donations cover the wages of Umar, Amina and Asta.
[lead]Support Crew in Maiduguri[/lead]
Ahmed, a doctor and Facebook friend for many years is the wisdom and calm that balances my passion and drive. His family hosted me in style during the ten days where I got to live the total Maiduguri experience, complete with a full night of red blazing lights dropping like fireworks, explosions, gun fire and the eerie silences before it starts again.
Jack Vince, another FB friend, intrepid reporter and commentator, has been provided now with a camera which he is using now on his visits to the house. He is a set of eyes and ears on the ground, a kind of valve that will help us identify matters that need to be addressed earlier rather than later, and a confirm that we are on the right track.
Through a network of friends I was linked to Jibrin who has become our supply and provisions man. With his brother they are prepared to meet any request in the current environment of curfews and checkpoints and across these first nine weeks since we opened, the brothers have met every request.
Ahmed, Jack and Jibrin are among those who donate time and services for the project.
The children came last in the implementation. They come first in our sentiments.
We have thirty children. How can you say, “No” when a girl has several younger brothers? Or when cousins might be separated if we kept to the original idea of 24. For safety, at present, we are not going to post all their profiles online. The children are happy and settled and, like most children in this region, the opportunity to learn is as addictive as a hand-device is to a child in other parts of the world. The smiles Jack has captured in his photos are the evidence we need that we should continue. I reckon it is about the best value one can get for N3000 per month: the smile of a child, engaged in learning, embracing life, smiling.