The relatively small country of Nigeria holds one fifth of Africa’s population—over 150 million people crowd the streets of large cities like the vibrating southern capital Lagos and cover the country side with villages. Over 90 million of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, though it is one of the world’s top oil producing countries.
The country ranks very low on the Human Development Index coming in 156th out of 187 nations, measuring factors such as life expectancy, education and literacy. Corruption is endemic in Nigeria, which renders the benefit of the oil wealth nearly nil for the country’s most vulnerable people. Rural areas remain mostly undeveloped and basic services such as running water and electricity are scarce even in the cities.
Public services and businesses across the country, including hospitals, can’t rely on the government supply of power and have to provide their own at a great cost by running generators on fuel. The poverty of slums within Lagos, the country’s largest city, is overwhelming: hundreds of thousands of the city’s poorest people are jammed into tiny rooms without water or sewage systems. Water from intense seasonal rains and the tides of the nearby ocean bay flood the slums, leaving dirty water filled with sewage and rubbish to surround even homes and schools, exposing children to bacterial disease and malaria. After South Africa, Nigeria has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Hands at Work began operating in Nigeria in 2006 and works in 5 communities in the country’s south, including the hyper-urban slums of Lagos and the rural villages outside the city of Ibadan. By supporting local volunteers through training and mentorship, local churches are being mobilized to bring essential support and a message of hope to the most vulnerable in Nigeria.
Opportunity to learn
10-year-old Michael is a vulnerable child living in the Lagos slum of Ago Okota. In 2010 when his mother could no longer afford to feed and keep him, Michael was given away to another poor family. His job was to work for the family, walking the streets selling rice and beans and passing the income over to his new guardians. He dreamed about attending school, but wasn’t allowed. He had joined the tragic situation of thousands of children walking the streets of Lagos: modern-day slavery.
Eventually Michael got to know other kids in the community and noticed two very poor brothers his age attending school each day, carrying note books and wearing new uniforms. When Michael inquired the boys shared about the group of local Christian volunteers running a school for the community’s most vulnerable children, feeding and advocating for their health and safety. That day Michael abandoned his work duties, to follow the boys to the school. Later that night when the situation was discovered by his guardians, Michael was beaten and eventually excluded from the family.
We Care immediately took responsibility for Michael, caring for his physical needs—food and shelter—and his spiritual and emotional needs—loving him like a found son. It’s an incredible responsibility for the Care Workers, many of whom carry their own heavy burdens of poverty, but it’s the necessary path to bringing the love of Christ to the most vulnerable in their community. Hands at Work began supporting the We Care team in 2009: mobilising the local churches to support and join the work, providing training and mentorship, and sharing their story to people around the world.