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Do they know it’s Christmas?

A cross section of inmates celebrating Christmas in their own way
A cross section of inmates celebrating Christmas in their own way

By Ebun BABALOLA
TO the mentally deranged, the story is the same.Saturday Vanguard had a chat with some mentally challenged people at Society for the Safety of Insane and Destitute, (So-Said Charity Home) to know if it was really a different day from other days of the year, and how they react to it.
The Home in Owolabi Street, Ago Palace Way area of Lagos State did not wear any look to suggest that this yuletide period. Christmas time.  Unlike the occasional decoration of other homes and offices with ribbons, Christmas lights and other adornment, the building looks more or less needy and impoverished.

Entering the home, the air,  atmosphere and general outlook changed to tell a story of a helpless and impoverished people. The reporter weary of the environmental harzards had to take some precautionary measures.

A minute in the environment was killing. The odour oozing out of the place could be dangerous to one’s health.
Interestingly, the inmates rendered some choruses to welcome their guests. Dressed in a uniform orange colour clothes, they exhibited different manners of their usual acts. The co-ordinator was up and doing checking their acts employing insane measures to deal with them at different times.

But inspite of all these various episodes of insanity, they still look forward to Christmas. But how do they celebrate?

What fun do they share? The  National Co-odinator of the home, Mrs Felicia Martins said, “We let them feel different, eat and drink specially, dance with fun and make them happy”.

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She continued, the fact still remains that, we take them out during festive period like this and some people who have taken it upon themselves to cater for these particular Nigerians also do. They enjoy the fun in taking them  out of the street.”

Speaking with some of the inmates, Rose who is also known as Professor in that home, said, she would be glad to spend the season at Nite Shift Club. According to her, it is the best place to enjoy. In Nite Shift, there will be lots of drinking, dancing and well dressed people who would come to give themselves good treat.

Asked why Rose preferred to spend her time at the place, “that used to be my hang out area and during festive period, I visit the place before coming to this home,” she replied.

Rose, according to her was the Chief Executive Officer of Child and Women Development International Magazine with degrees in International Relations, French, Computer, Mass Communication and specialised in Public Relation and Advertising.

For Toyin who is also known as Newscaster in the home, there was nothing to celebrate than thanking God for sparing her life while she also prayed that her affliction should cease and dissapeared.

“We thank God for this charity home that has taken destitutes and insane people off the street. We pray that such happenings would  not occur anywhere even to the unborn children in Jesus Name,” she prayed.

And Lilly, also known as medical doctor in the home was of the opinion that there is nothing special about the season that could make her celebrate more than anyone else in the country.

The National Coordinator, in her remark, opined that the season could better be celebrated if Nigerians come to their rescue.

According to her, the home is lacking financially. The challenges of giving them (the inmates) good food, shelter and other needs are enormous and difficult to meet.

Mrs Martins said,  “our major challenge now is feeding and accommodation. We don’t have a home for these people. We are still living on a rented place, made possible by one Mr and Mrs. Osime, a couple who came to our rescue last year, if not, the story would have been different.” she lamented.

“We were in Ajeromi area of Lagos State close to nine years before relocating to our present place. But, we have seen two plots of land in Ago area, but don’t have enough money to acquire the land. We were told that the land is N5million but we don’t have such money on ground.  She further disclosed that they are under intense pressure from the landlord to vacate the place.

“We are calling on government and well meaning Nigerians to come to our aid. People prefer to give those who have than those who don’t have but really need the help. Christmas is here and just few people are responding to this call.

Although, we have received some gifts from well meaning Nigerians including the First Lady of Lagos State, Abimbola Fashola because I wrote a letter indicating that they should assist us this season,” she cried.

She also acknowledged the assisant of some churches and men of God such as the Resident Pastor of Fountain of life, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, as well as some churches even as she cried for medical assistance from governments and well meaning Nigerians.

She disclosed that there are about 200 people in the home excluding those in other branches, adding that meeting this challenge  becomes hardous especially when compounded by the additional responsibility of general care and school fees of the children of the inmates.

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“We need support from Nigerians to come and celebrate with them and mark their birthdays, and anniversaries. This will go a long way to make them happy. We have a lot of talent in this home, we’ve lawyer, newscaster, lecturer, medical doctor, professor to mention a few,” she said.

She opined that the re-branding project of the Federal governement could also be boosted if the attitude to the needy and physically and mentally challenged people are well taken care of. “Nigerians are talking about re-branding the country, let them come and re-brand these Nigerians,” she said.

The journey so far

It started in 1999. I was General Manager with Coppers Limited and running a part time course in Law at the Lagos State University, LASU. I was in 300 level when I received the call to cater for the mentally challenged persons.

Even in my dream, I was hearing the message. And anytime, I’m on the road, this people call on me to help them, so I know, it was from God.

I started by giving food, sharing clothes for them and after a year, the Lord took me to a place in Awodi-Ora, Ajeromi Local government, Ajegunle in Lagos where I requested his Royal Majesty, Oba Alaran of Aran, Okikiola to give me a place where I could start up the work.

There is no support from anywhere and feeding became a problem. We had to take pictures of those we were catering to the market places just to get some foods for them. We were begging for head of fish, melon, vegetable. So we were cooking egusi soup, eating it with rice and garri for three years.

But, at a time, those people stopped rendering their support and we were stranded. Until, we discovered a particular mad man in Ajeromi whom So-Said Foundation took and catered for. This man was in his condition for 25. He was the one the Lord used to help us because he was popular and so people started believing in us.

We live by what people give to us. And stayed like that for four years before First Monument Bank came to our rescue and was giving money every month for assistance. And that was when we could employ few to join in the crusade to save these people’s lives.

Merry Christmas!


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