REVEREND Tunde Bolanta is the General Overseer Â Â Â of Restoration Bible Church and Ministries based in Kaduna. He is also the president of Mercy Home Orphanage, Maternity and Vocation Centre which is an arm of the ministry. At the orphanage home, the church offers free vocational training to those who cannot afford it, graduating 345 of such people at a recent ceremony in Kaduna. Bolanta was at the graduation ceremony and spoke to our EMEKA MAMAH on the vision behind the orphanage home. Excerpts…
Can you briefly tell us about the Mercy Home?
The orphanage was officially commissioned on November 24, 2001; but we started operation in 2002. We have always had a burden for social work and felt that we should have some impact on the society. So, when the opportunity came to build the place, we took it. With that, we started taking care of orphans and carrying out community health care. We have delivered over 2,000 babies here. We have also been engaged in a bit of vocational training right from the start as a way of helping people. That is how the orphanage began. We have matrons and attendants who look after the children and they run several shifts.
One discovers that there are various sections in the home. What actually is the scope?
We have a Day, Nursery, Primary and Secondary school for the orphans. The orphans attend the school free and there are some others from the community who also attend the school free. Children of members of the community pay a token to attend the day school. Everything is subsidised by the church to make sure that we give something back. We have a regular boarding secondary school and the fee charged there helps us to augment the cost of running the school for the orphans. Similarly, our health care is not about profit making, but just to get a bit to run the place. The goal has never been to make profit. In view of that, the prices we charge are very low. The skill acquisition you are seeing today is all free. We graduated 308 last year, 345 this year and we have another set of over 300 that will graduate in March 2010. At the moment, we are taking the skill acquisition outside Kaduna. We have some people in Doka Village and to Niger State. We are also going to remote places where people cannot read nor write.
What would you say is the goal behind setting up this place and how far would you say you have gone in achieving this aim?
The goal basically is to touch lives and improve the quality of life of people because poverty, in any shape, is bad. Part of the things we are doing in skill acquisition is literacy training. If you donâ€™t know how to read and write, you may be giving the wrong medications to your children because you cannot read the medication. Even when it comes to your basic rights, you do not know. A woman who is not educated may not value education for her children. We have found out that some of these old women who are coming here to learn how to read and write are now pushing their children to school. What that means is that in the long term, poverty is reduced. When you look at these areas where we are giving basic training; some of those who graduated last year have been able to set up their own businesses. So, we feel that in the long term, we are able to reduce the problem.
Running an orphanage is capital intensive because you only give out and get nothing back. How have you been able to run the orphanage successfully?
The church had the vision and it gives something to the home weekly. My wife and I also contribute something from our pockets. I travel around the world and some of my friends abroad also pick interest when they hear what I am doing in this part of the world. So, from time to time, they also come in and help. But there is a Hausa proverb that says you donâ€™t need to be satisfied before you help someone in need. People believe that you have to be wealthy to help. I donâ€™t believe in that. I believe that the word rich is relative. To me, to be rich means that you are living a basic normal life. You donâ€™t have to have so much money in your account to help somebody because you can have a lot of money and not help anybody. So, as a church, we believe that we can start from where we are because when compared to the needs in Nigeria, it is still a drop in the ocean. I believe that everybody can do something to help right from individuals and churches and as you do that, God will have His own way of reaching back to you. That is what we have experienced here, because it is a faith project. When you have 53 children that you are responsible for, you know what that means. But somehow, those children are not looking as orphans because they are well fed, dress well and have all their basic needs and a good environment for them to be happy. I think it is God at work and so, we cannot take the credit because it is God that is making it possible. The orphanage alone has over 25 staff members who are working full time and we pay them. It is a miracle to us because we know our limitations.
Are participants in the skill acquisition strictly members of your church or the programme is open to everybody?
Less than one per cent of the participants are from the church. If you count the people that just graduated, I donâ€™t think we have up to 10 of them as members of our church. It is people who are interested, because we donâ€™t ask questions about what church you attend or what religion you belong to. A lot of people come here and we donâ€™t ask about their church or religion. If you want to acquire a skill, just come and acquire it. There are no strings attached and when you are through with the training and you donâ€™t have money to buy your own equipment, you can come back and use what we have here for free. That is the philosophy.