The Story oF ILAjE Community
Ilaje is located within Lagos, Africa’s largest ‘city’, which is located on Nigeria’s southern coast. Lagos holds 16.5 million people, and is home to some of the worst slums in the world. In a 2006 report, 9 slum communities requiring an urgent response were identified. Ilaje is notorious for its location on the edge of an ocean bay and the scale of overcrowding in Ilaje is mind boggling. In some homes, up to 15 people live in single room shacks where people are required to sleep in shifts. More than 250,000 people are packed into a small area. There are government schools in the area, but they cost money to attend which make them unaccessible for the poorest children. Half-dressed children roam the streets during the day, working as peddlers to create at least a small income. The ocean bay floods the community at most high tides, leaving residual water lying around homes and feeding a malaria epidemic. HIV is prevalent in the area and there is no access to clean water.
CHILDREN CURRENTLY SUPPORTED: 160
NUMBER OF CARE WORKERS: 10
COORDINATOR NAME: MRS. JOSEPH
DISTANCE FROM LAGOS LOCAL OFFICE: 30 KM
BASIC SERVICES STARTED: 2007
Aside from children, the community consists mostly of the aged and unemployed. The majority of those who are employed are engaged in unskilled, temporary work, such as cleaning construction sites or warehouse packing. Fishing is common among those living on the water, however there are many months in the year where the fish are absent from the waters and thus many fisherman are out of work and cannot provide for their families. Many girls, desperate for funds to even attend school, are involved in various forms of prostitution, resulting in a score of unwanted children born to young vulnerable girls.
In early 2007, a pastor named Rex was transferred to take over a tiny church building in the slum. Rex and his wife Patricia were shocked at what they saw in the community. They challenged their congregation members, as well as others in Ilaje, that something had to be done about the situation, and so began walking the streets as a team to seek out the most vulnerable among the children, widowed and sick in the community. Eventually they formed a formal organisation that is today called Eagle Wings Community Based Organisation (CBO) and started a community school.
Over the past years Hands at Work, alongside the Lagos local office, have been helping the CBO transition the school from not just being a school but also a Life Centre. Now, 160 children come together daily to receive basic services of food, education and health care, but also to connect with the Care Workers and the dedicated teachers who themselves have stepped up to visit the children in their homes. Children in grades 7 and 8 have been added to the Care Point and school as a part of this maturation process. Rex and his wife are no longer part of Eagle Wings, but the CBO has a strong team of teachers and Care Workers who are passionate about caring for the most vulnerable in Ilaje.
Victor* is described by his Care Worker, Mrs. Blessing, as a feisty but joyful little boy. At six years old and in the kindergarten class, Victor’s life has been transformed because of the daily love and care he now receives. Having faced the loss of both his parents, Victor has been embraced by the Care Workers and teachers in Ilaje, and loves to be the centre of attention.
The Hands at Work office in Lagos currently supports three Community Based Organisations, which exist to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. The office provides training, networking, and encouragement to those Community Based Organisations like Eagle Wings. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.