The Story oF Amokoko Community
Amokoko is located within Lagos, Africa’s largest ‘city’, which is situated on Nigeria’s southern coast. Lagos has a population of over 16.5 million people and is home to some of the worst slums in the world. Ilaje is known for its location, which is on the edge of an ocean bay and built on layers and layers of rubbish and sewage. The slum is amassed of makeshift shacks which are completely overcrowded. In some homes, up to 15 people live in single room shacks where they 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 are also overcrowded and cost money to attend which makes them inaccessible 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 high tide, leaving residual sewage and garbage-soaked water lying around homes. This not only feeds a malaria epidemic, but also poses a huge health danger for all those living there. HIV is prevalent in the area and there is no access to free clean water.
CHILDREN CURRENTLY SUPPORTED: 50
NUMBER OF CARE WORKERS: 3
DISTANCE FROM LAGOS LOCAL OFFICE: 14 km
BASIC SERVICES STARTED: 2018
Aside from children, the community consists mostly of the aged and unemployed adults, many of whom are immigrants from neighbouring countries like Benin. The majority of those who are employed are engaged in unskilled, temporary work such as cleaning construction sites, warehouse packing or selling smoked fish. 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 fishermen 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 was transferred to take over a tiny church building in the slum. When he saw the community, he was shocked at the living conditions. Along with his wife, 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 Eagles Wings Community Based Organisation (CBO) and started a community school.
At the time, the model did not include the care of children above the age of twelve or under the age of 5. In the last couple of years, Hands at Work has made it a priority to ensure that children in both age groups are being cared for, whether or not they attend school. Two years ago, the Care Point called Temitope started in Ilaje and is currently caring for 75 children between the ages of 1 and 6. Then in 2017, the Hands at Work local office team in Lagos began looking to start a new Care Point which would care for the second group of children, those between the ages of 10 and 18. They started by doing Holy Home Visits to identify the most vulnerable adolescent children living in the community. The first children invited to the Care Point were those who had graduated from Eagles Wings Community School and were now in grades 7, 8 and 9. Next were the children who are older siblings of the children attending the Eagles Wings and Temitope Care Points. Finally, the remainder of the children identified by the Lagos local office team were those whose immense vulnerability and desperate situations have forced them out of school into working situations.
Currently, three Care Workers, who are themselves vulnerable, have committed to serving the most vulnerable children in their community. Their service has made a way for children from the ages of ten and up to start receiving access to food, education and basic health care at Amokoko Community Based Organisation from the beginning of October 2018. Many of the children coming to Amokoko Care Point have graduated from the Eagles Wings Community School and are now attending secondary school, while others have never attended school because they are required to help provide for their family.
One of the Lagos local office team’s dreams for 2019 is to spend time investing into the Care Workers and see more men and women understand the responsibility that they carry in supporting the most vulnerable and join Amokoko CBO as Care Workers.
At the age of 13, Sebastien* is a hard-working young man. Sebastien is not a child who simply sits back and does not help his family; when he is not studying, he is out in his community, looking to earn a small amount of money to help provide for them. In 2018, life became increasingly challenging for Sebastien when his mother passed away, leaving him under the care of his ageing father who is unable to work. While his older brother is doing all that he can to provide, work is very hard to come by and to effectively provide for the family is difficult.
When Toyin and the rest of the Hands at Work local office team in Lagos were doing assessments for the most vulnerable children who would join the Amokoko Care Point, they found Sebastien. Together with Moji, a Care Worker from Amokoko, they visited his family and quickly realised that Sebastien was extremely vulnerable and would benefit from coming to this daily place of love and care.
The Hands at Work office in Lagos currently supports four 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 Amokoko. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.