By Chioma Obinna
When a parent becomes sick and dies,Â the child is usually affected in several ways that could leaveÂ him/her traumatised leading to emotional, physical and mental distress that could undermine that childâ€™s overall health and development.
Unfortunately, the 2.5 million Nigerian children orphaned by AIDS(excluding the ones in the Niger Delta areas of the country) are faced with this situation. Statistics have shown that the number of orphans and vulnerable children has increased with the global financial downturn.Unfortunately, this number is expected to double by 2010.
Hope, however, came the way of these unfortunate ones recently as HopeWorldwide, Nigeria and MTN Foundation decided to devote their resources and time to give them a reason to be happy and to look forward to the future with hope.Â For instance, last week,Â 200 of these children were taken on an exciting ride in a water bus across the sea to the idyllic Snake Island in Lagos.
This gesture came under the auspices ofÂ this yearâ€™s MTN Foundation and HopeWorldwide, Nigeriaâ€™sÂ three-day life camp for children orhpaned by the dreaded Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome( AIDS).
The journey, which is about 10 nautical miles from the Sea School Apapa to the Island, will forever remain evergreen in their young minds. For sure, most of them could not hide their joy as they screamed and squealed intermittently in excitment, just as tears of joy rolled down their cheeks.Â It was clear they were havingÂ the fun of their lives.
The three-day life camp which is theÂ third editionÂ of the MTN Kids Camp, targeting over 250,000 Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)spread around six states of the Federation with Lagos having the largest number is tailored to remind them that there are various occasions to feel the joy of living.
The Lagos camp, which started last week Wednesday ended on Friday on a note ofÂ funfare. According to the organisers of the programme, it is also to bring out the best character and talent from these children.
In a chat with Vanguard Metro shortly after the kick off of the programme beside the sea, the Executive Director of HopeWorldwide. Mr. Yemi OsilajaÂ who expressed fear that the greatest challenge facing the two organisations is where these children will end up after completing their camping period, commended MTN for its consistency in its social responsibility to Nigerians.
According to Osilaja: â€œOur worries is not to see them come out of secondary schools but where will they be after attaining 17 years, a period the sponsors (OVCs), MTN Foundation USAID and others areÂ supposed to hands off?
Unfortunately, Nigerians and corporate organisations are not coming up toÂ assist.
â€œThe programme is to remind them of who they are and what we expect them to be in life. We are trying to let them see various occasions in life so that they will learn that all of them cannot be doctors or lawyers, which is one of the biggest problem we are having in Nigeria. We see our children as if all of them are going to end up in one university or the other, and then when they came out of the university, there is no work for them. Whereas, there are several vocations that can make them to be responsible members of the societyâ€.
Osilaja explained that apart from having fun,Â the three days camping was used to sensitise them on why apart from being a doctor or lawyer they can take to other trades and become better citizens of the country.Â â€œMTN is taking care of these 250,000 children for the period of five years; if you do the mathematics you will understand that this is a whole lot of investment on Nigeria children,â€ he said.
He explained that from the very first day the children are engaged into the programme, they go through the organisationâ€™sÂ tutelage for the next five years.
â€œAlready these children have done three years. The beautiful thing about the programme is that it supports their care givers such as their uncles, grand mothers, etc. In most cases where the two parents are gone, we take care of them in addition to theÂ people who are taking care of them,â€ he noted.