All wearing t-shirts with the inscription “Kids Innovation Hub Bootcamp”, the participants, mostly between the ages of 10 and 17, responded happily to all the questions asked by their instructors.
Mostly from Bogije community, a settlement along the Ibeju-Lekki expressway in Lagos, the children had come to attend the annual boot camp programme organised by the Destiny Trust Foundation.
Speaking with FIJ, Athina Jeje, the foundation’s education programme manager, said the initiative was aimed at introducing children and teenagers on holiday to the tech world.
“We introduce them to the use of the computer, and as they advance in age and their knowledge of computer use, we expose them to other aspects in the real digital world, like programming, coding and digital arts,” Jeje said.
“We have come to realise that digitisation is taking over from the paper world. Now, without the knowledge of the computer, you may end up struggling to be relevant in the job market.
“Now, we all know that to gain this knowledge is quite expensive. That is why we decided as a foundation to bring the initiative to the community once in a year, so children from within, especially the ones from indigent homes, would be privileged to gain knowledge at a very tender age.”
POSITIVE RESPONSE, LEAN BUDGET
Jeje told FIJ that when the foundation opened the registration line, over 200 children registered for the programme. However, due to the level of resources at the foundation’s disposal, it could only absorb a hundred children for the programme.
“We only just have computers for just a hundred children. We would have loved to take more, but due to the fact that we operate on a very lean budget, this is as many children as we can take currently,” Jeje said.
The programme manager also pointed out that after registration had closed, people continued to come, hoping they could get their wards into the boot camp.
“In the end, we had to absorb 130 participants instead of the 100 we had initially budgeted for,” Jeje said.
“It has been quite interesting. The children’s good grasp of the knowledge, who are mostly first timers, have also been impressive. The response and energy we are getting has been highly positive.”
10 YEARS OF GIVING HOPE
Founded on August 11, 2012, the Destiny Trust Foundation set out to see to the wellbeing, education and empowerment of homeless children, and other classes of young people in disadvantaged circumstances.
Since then, the foundation has not looked back when it comes to giving the disadvantaged Nigerian child another chance at having a success story in life.
After several years of impacting disadvantaged children’s lives positively, the foundation took things one notch up by building a bridge learning centre in Bogije, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.
Through the centre, the foundation has continued to provide a tailored solution to the education of over-aged out-of-school children. However, keeping the foundation running has been on the goodwill of well-meaning Nigerians.
“Our initiatives have been run mostly on the goodwill of individuals who sponsor a child or give consistently to support our work,” said Abimbola Ojenike, co-founder of the foundation.
“About 76 percent of our funding in the past years till mid-year 2022 was contributed by our own members, their friends and friends’ friends who form a strong community of kind-hearted people behind our work.”
IKENNA ANOZIE, A DESTINY TRUST SUCCESS STORY
In 2013, the foundation took up the responsibility of taking care of Ikenna Anozie, who was then a child living with his mother in Maruwa ghetto, a waterside slum in Lekki, Lagos.
“In 2013, I was living with my mum at the beach side in Maruwa ghetto. Things were really rough and bad for us, and we could not get any support from anyone,” Anozie told FIJ.
“It was at this period that someone told my mum about the foundation. That was how they took up the responsibility of taking care of me, and, in the process, my life got transformed.”
Anozie told FIJ that he could have found himself in an unenviable position but for the timely intervention of the Destiny Trust.
“If the foundation had not come to my aid, I would probably have done things that I would later regret in life. Perhaps, I could have found myself raising a family I was not prepared for,” Anozie said.
“I could have also joined a cult group, commit a crime and end up in a situation I might never be able to get out of. It is really a blessing for me that I am here.
“Some of my mates are no more today. These days when I pay visits to the ghetto where I used to live, most of my mates now have kids they are unable to cater for. Some are also now into cultism and other forms of crime.
“When I see these things, I always give thanks to God for giving me a good shot at life. Most of these guys actually don’t like the way they are. They are just victims of circumstances. I was only lucky to get out of that life, and unfortunately, and based on the kind of system we have, not everyone would have that kind of opportunity.”
In 2022, Ikenna became one of Destiny Trust’s many success stories when he gained admission to study adult education at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Ikenna told FIJ that he planned to further spread the love and care shown to him by the Destiny Trust Foundation once he graduated from the university.
“The ultimate goal is to use the virtues I have imbibed while being raised by the foundation in extending the same hand of love and care to other disadvantaged children by starting a foundation that would be similar to that of my benefactors,” Ikenna said.
Apart from being a student, Ikenna is also a professional photographer, a vocation he learnt at the foundation so he could be self-sufficient.
TAIYE AGBOOLA, ANOTHER DESTINY TRUST SUCCESS STORY
Taiye Agboola and his twin brother, Kehinde Agboola, were the last two kids to get to the Destiny Trust’s soup kitchen during the foundation’s first outreach on August 11, 2012, at Kuramo Beach, Lagos.
“We were already packing to leave when we saw them running towards us. We knew they were the real children we came for that day. They were living homeless on the beachfront without care,” said Ojenike.
“They wanted to school at Kuramo College, Victoria Island, but needed to save enough money to buy school uniforms and supplies before they could be enrolled.
“They had saved about N1,000 from washing the windshield of cars in traffic but it was not enough to get even one of them enrolled in the school. They were constantly victims of various forms of abuse.”
Taiye and Kehinde were once arrested while roaming the streets and arraigned before a court for allegedly committing a crime in Oshodi, a place they had never visited.
“The twins have grown to become adults we are proud of,” Ojenike told FIJ.
Taiye completed his primary and secondary school in eight years and was also his school’s senior prefect in his final year.
Taiye’s story would even get better when he secured an admission to study wood products engineering at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
“The journey has really been life changing and great. A whole lot of things have changed in my life since the foundation took me in. I went from sleeping on the beachfront under an umbrella to living in a home with my own personal bed space,” Taiye told FIJ.
“I have also been given the opportunity to go to school. Besides these, I have also learnt various vocational skills like coding, shoe making, pastry and some other life skills.
“I was given another chance at life by the foundation.”
Kehinde is also awaiting admission to study economics at the same University of Ibadan. Both of them are front end developers. Kehinde also plays the piano when he is not writing codes.
JOY FROM GIVING CHILDREN A BETTER CHANCE AT LIFE
Speaking to FIJ, Moyosore Ajayi, the foundation’s social worker, said being able to help children and other disadvantaged persons brings a level of satisfaction that cannot be quantified or measured.
“Working with the children, going to the field, being in contact with them, getting to know them and their stories and connecting with them, brings you a kind of joy that cannot be quantified,” Ajayi said.
“There is this joy derive from being part of a cause that continues to strive in ensuring that these children are given a better chance at life.”
Ajayi spoke to FIJ about some of the steps the foundation takes when trying to help a homeless child.
“Part of the initial steps we take is to identify vulnerable and homeless children who need help. Once we successfully identify these children, we don’t just recommend them to the home for refuge and grooming, we also carry out background checks just to be sure that no mistakes are made in terms of their status,” she said.
“Once we are sure about the child’s status, we reach out. From our interactions with the child, we are always able to decide the kind of intervention they need.
“The moment we are able to establish a relationship with the child, we make him or her understand what the foundation stands for and what we do.
“It is at this point that we get to ask if the child is willing to allow the foundation cater for his or her needs. Now, I must let you know that it is not in all cases that the children are willing to allow the foundation to cater for them. Some do refuse our offer of help.”
Ajayi said the moment the child accepts the foundation’s offer of help, home tracing is done to make sure that his or her families and relatives are identified, duly notified and carried along as far as all necessary procedures are concerned.
“It is with the consent of the families and relatives of the children that we then approach the ministry to inform them of our interest in taking over the grooming and upkeep of the child, and also for proper documentation,” she said.
Presently, the Destiny Trust foundation caters for over a hundred children.
LAGOS GOVT’s ATTITUDE TO CHILD CARE
FIJ learnt that foundations who see to the welfare of homeless and disadvantaged children in Lagos do not enjoy any form of financial support from the state government.
“We do not receive any funding from government at any level. We are not aware of any non-governmental child education and care facility that receives funding from the government,” Ojenike told FIJ.
“Indeed, all child care facilities pay annual subscription fees to the government. Government mainly acts as a regulator to enforce and monitor child protection standards.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Child’s Right Law shows that the state shall see to the protection and care of a child, right to parental care, and right to education and duties of parents regarding child responsibilities.
The two sub-sections under ‘Protection and Care of a Child’ are as follows:
“A child must be given protection and care as necessary for the wellbeing of the child, taking into consideration the rights and duties of the child’s parents, legal guardians, individuals, institutions, services, agencies, organisations or bodies legally responsible for the child.
“Every person, institution, service, agency, organisation and body responsible for the care or protection of children must conform with the standards laid down by the appropriate authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, welfare, and suitability of their staff and competent supervision.”
Section 19 of the law also states explicitly that:
“Parents, guardians, institutions, persons and authorities having responsibility for the care, maintenance, upbringing, education, training, socialisation, employment and rehabilitation of children have the duty to provide the necessary guidance, education and training for children in their care such as will equip the children to secure their assimilation, appreciation and observance of the responsibilities set out in this Law.”
FIJ understands that rather than support child care facilities in Lagos, the state government mandated them to pay an annual subscription fee of N10,000, a clear opposite of what is obtainable in Europe and the United States of America.
CHILD CARE FUNDING IN THE US AND UK
In the United States of America, the Child Protective Services, an agency present in all the country’s 50 states, is responsible for matters concerning child protection and welfare.
With the help of the agency, state and local governments in the country can fund child welfare even in foster care.
In 2020, money spent on children in the US amounted to $482 billion. This fund was used to support out-of-home care, adoption, guardianship, family support, preservation services and child abuse prevention.
In the United Kingdom, where over 135,000 children are said to be either homeless or living in a temporary accommodation, parents and guardians, through the recommendation of a social worker, receive child benefit support for raising children that are under the age of 16.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
For 10 years, the Destiny Trust Foundation has given hope to homeless and disadvantaged children by providing them with basic education, shelter and, more importantly, a second chance at life.
As a future projection, and despite the numerous financial challenges, the foundation still looks forward to spreading love and care to disadvantaged children all over Nigeria.
“We want to touch everywhere; we want to touch every part of the country where less privileged children are. This is because every child has a right to a good life,” said Athina Jeje.
“If there are less privileged children in Borno, we want to be there. If they are in Kaduna, Port-Harcourt and Ondo, we want to be there. This is not even about the Destiny Trust alone now, we also hope more people buy into the vision of floating similar initiatives that would continue to give hope and a future to children in this category.”
This report was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
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