Peter (names have been changed for anonymity) is a 15 year old child we found working at Oshodi, Lagos. He started visiting the Home after being invited by our support workers, during their outreach to the streets. From his visits, we got to learn about him, and why he ended up on the streets. We continued our assessment with a home tracing to Bariga, Lagos, where he used to live with his siblings and uncle before he left for the streets. We learnt that Peter is actually an orphan, and the second of three children to his late parents. Their story is really quite sad, and one can understand why Peter had no other place to go but to the streets to fend for himself. We invited his family over to the Home to visit him, and to begin the process of reconciliation.
His sister, Rita (18 years old), visited the Home with their uncle, Jeffrey, and they talked with the social worker about the challenges at home. Jeffrey expressed that their major challenge is poverty. He explained that he has seven other children of his own, and a wife whom he looks after. Their mother had died shortly after giving birth to Daryl (13 years old), the last born. Since their father died five years ago (from an unverified illness), all of them live in a single room accommodation, in a ‘face me I face you’ style building. For lack of space, Peter and his siblings would sleep on the floor outside the building. Jeffrey conveyed that he was doing his best, and that all of them were going to school and were well fed.
However, Rita returned to tell a different story. She said that if it had not been for her insistence, they might not have visited at all, and she wasn’t able to come on her own because of his objection. She told of how things were when her parents were alive, and how, though they were not rich, they didn’t want for anything. When her father died, they were left with an inheritance, which she alone could sign off, or use when she turned 18. However, she had been made to sign off on it so that her uncle could use part of the funds to care for her and her siblings. She relayed, however, that there is no evidence of how the money had been used, and they haven’t seen the benefit, even though the money is now all spent. She lamented that her uncle and his wife used to make them hawk on the streets, and were very miserly with the money.
She told about how she was the first to run away from home. This was because there was a man who was coming around to visit them, and paying particular attention to her, and giving money to her uncle, because he wanted her to be his mistress. However, though she refused, her uncle continued to pressure her to give in to the man, and take his money. She decided that she had to leave, because if she remained there, she would have been made to do what she didn’t want to do. So, that is how she ran away at the age of 16 years.
However, when she fell very ill, she was brought back home to be cared for by family. After that time, she remained with them, and began to work. Even though she has finished her secondary school education, she has not done her WAEC exams for lack of money for fees. She complained that the money she earns from her work is taken by her uncle, who leaves her with a pittance of it, so that now, she has to lie to him about how much she makes, and where she works, so that after he has taken part of her money, she will have some to save. She said that, currently, she is the one supporting her youngest brother, Daryl, to school, because her uncle doesn’t care for them, and doesn’t even make provision for them to eat.
Under these circumstances, being made to work and not being well looked after at home, Peter took to the streets. He says that he wants to go to school, and is quite bright. He is now enrolled in a private secondary school, local to the Respite Home, and is studying to write his WAEC examination next year. His sister continues to call and visit the Home, and came again with Daryl, and another uncle, Jonathan. We spoke with Jonathan, who is the younger brother of their father, to learn about how he can help the children, in light of their current experience with Jeffrey. He said that he is willing to help, except that he too is financially struggling. He has a wife and two kids who also live at Bariga, even though he works far away in Ajah. This means that he is only home during the weekends. We discussed with him that we are willing to help with the logistics of getting Peter and his siblings to live with him, and advised that he come again with his wife so that the process of reconciliation can continue.
Peter is smart and generally well behaved, and we hope that, given the right support, he and his siblings will be prevented from a fruitless life on the streets. We invite you to help us to support Peter, and sponsor his education. Rita also needs to do her WAEC, and needs support and encouragement, so that she doesn’t follow the path than many young girls in her situation take. You can be the life line that this family needs. There are eleven other boys, resident at the Home, with their own stories to tell. Follow our blog to know how your support is making the difference in their lives.