“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give”… Winston Churchill
On 31st December 2013, during new year’s eve service I was so touched when my church recognized young Future African Leaders who have made an impact in their communities and given themselves selflessly to serve; to make impact in their environment and put a smile on other people’ s face. In that moment, I remembered Debbie Motilewa. To understand the latter part of this article and more about this Future African Leader, please read about her Volunteer Nigeria Initiative and her first volunteer project HERE. At 21, Debbie (a Youth Corp member) has decided to live her life affecting others positively. Where the government failed, Debbie stepped in to make a difference by volunteering to help others. In her words “As much as people do not like the whole “NYSC” idea, I can say I am one of the very few that actually thinks NYSC has more advantages in the society than otherwise. It was during my NYSC year (still ongoing) that this initiative came to being”. To end 2013, Debbie and the Volunteer Nigeria team embarked on a second project to visit the Alheri Special Village for Lepers, Yangoji, Abuja.
Lepers are a group of people who others usually segregate and stay away from; but Debbie’s heart of love and passion went beyond the stigma that has been placed on these people. She and her team visited the lepers with some food-stuff during the festive season; here are some of the pictures.
|Debbie and her team distributing the food|
IS THE GOVERNMENT AWARE?
It is said that the government promised every one of the lepers a monthly allowance of N4,000 when they were first sent to the community. However, at the end of Obasanjo’s administration, the lepers stopped receiving any form of income. On research Debbie found out that the Nigerian government is actually aware of what these people are going through. In a press conference, the Director of Social Welfare Services, Mrs Folashade Ayileke explained that the initial monthly allowance was given to the lepers to enable them stand on their feet, that there were skill acquisition trainings also accessible to the lepers during “the good months”. As such government is not obligated to giving them any more allowance.
WHAT DEBBIE THINKS ABOUT THE SITUATION?
Before my intended visit to Alheri Special Village, the only information I had about leprosy was what I read in the bible “Jesus healing the ten lepers”. On my visit we noticed the lepers are in possession of a big farm land which serves as their home. On the topic of why can’t they fend for themselves from the farmland, it was explained that neighboring villagers were not comfortable eating foodstuff grown by lepers.
But then again, coming from the government’s side, what other initiatives have been to put in place to place these people on their feet?
- Has the government tried to EDUCATE their neighbors on how they can not get leprosy by simply saying hello?
- Has the government tried to buy the crops grown by these farmers?
- Has the government tried to provide drugs to cure leprosy for them?
- Has the government tried to re-provide basic amenities like a good borehole? electricity?
I believe when you do not want to have an overly dependent child, it is in a parent’s best interest to make sure they have set up the child’s life in such a way that after a while the child can stand on his own.
WHY IS VOLUNTEER NIGERIA MADE PUBLIC?
Volunteer Nigeria is not set up to individually help the less privileged, or the community, but is set up to MOTIVATE youths to do more. Debbie says “I do not intend just going to a motherless home to drop gift items, but I intend getting a group of youths that have probably never gone to an orphanage to do something more than their daily activities”.