I did not succumb to breast cancer – Uche Ejindu-Baker

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By Ebele Orakpo
Many people take access to food, shelter and clothing, three basic needs of the human race, for granted. They have never known hunger, homelessness or nakedness. But the fact remains that about one billion people go to sleep hungry every night, according to the World Disaster Report.

Going by the current economic downturn the world over, this number will likely increase if nothing is done to halt the drift. Little drops of water, they say, make the mighty ocean; many drops make a flood and the last drop makes the cup run over. These are popular English sayings that underline the importance of  giving, no matter how little.

To the Nigerian-born, US-based Uche Ejindu-Baker, these sayings are so true. Uche, as she is popularly called, was
diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and given a few months to live. The reaction of some people in such
situation would have been self pity, anger directed at the world, brooding, crying, etc., as they realise their days
are numbered.

Uche-Ejindu-Baker

But not Uche, who went through pains and sleepless nights. Instead of resorting to self pity, sought
to alleviate the pains of others through Uche Ejindu-Baker Charity Organisation, a non-governmental organisation.

According to her, the journey of her ailment began in 1997 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. “It
was not good. I was given few months to live and I prayed to God that if He saved my life, I will devote the rest of
my life to serving the poor and the elderly.”

Unlike people who will make promises to get out of tight corners and afterwards forget about them and go on with
their lives as if nothing happened, Uche went ahead to fulfill her promise as God obviously kept His part of the
vow.

“That is what I have been doing since then and, with the help of God and the support of my doctors, co-workers,
friends, churches and corporations in America, I have been fulfilling that promise. It was not easy but I am still
here today.

I have had a lot of ups and downs, one problem after the other but that has not stopped me from
fulfilling the promise I made to God because He spared my life and I told Him I was going to serve Him and provide
for the less privileged children, the elderly and poor people that have no say and nobody to do things for them,”
the cancer survivor said.

In 2009, Uche was a recipient of the Heroes Among Us Award in Hollywood, California, USA. According to the
organizers, the aim was to honour everyday people who do extraordinary things.

Nothing stops a person who has a vision, passion and determination from reaching his goal and so, despite all odds,
the director of Uche Ejindu-Baker Charity Organisation has continued to forge ahead to wipe away tears from the
faces of many and replace them with smiles.

Speaking on how she gets the items ranging from clothes, footwear, beddings, medical supplies, food items, to
educational materials and toys for the beneficiaries of her charity work, she said: “All these things are donations
from friends, churches, my doctors and some corporations. I tell them to donate anything they could for these people
who have nothing. So nothing they donate goes to waste. “

After collecting the items from donors, the next step involves sorting them and packing them in cartons, suitcases
and bags for shipping to Nigeria. This step which is usually very tedious is made easier by family members, friends
and co-workers who lend a helping hand.

“It has not been easy bringing the items to Nigeria because a lot of money is involved. People donate the items but
not the money to ship them. The organisation is still in the process of registering, so I have been doing it on my
own and with the help of friends, doctors and my family. They have been great in that regard. It costs a lot of
money to ship these things to Nigeria. For instance, the last shipment cost over $10,000.”

On the response from beneficiaries, Uche said it has been wonderful. “They are very happy and it makes life easier
for them. Some of my doctors, co-workers and friends have adopted some children from Nigeria who they take care of
whenever I come to Nigeria and that has been very helpful because these are people that do not have anything and
government has nothing for them.

In the US, government assistance for the unemployed and poor families but nothing like that in Nigeria. It will be very nice if we can have a program like that in Nigeria as a lot of people are dying everyday because of hunger.

Appealing to individuals, corporate organisations and governments in Nigeria, she stated that people can help by
giving funds and materials. “There are lots of ways to help. You don’t have to be rich or very wealthy or wait till
you have thousands or millions of naira before you can help somebody. From the little you have, you can help your
neighbour that does not have; it doesn’t take much to feed a child.

“Tell me how you can look at a child and say ‘I can’t be able to feed you today’? How will you feel? And if you can
just for one day start it, you will get your reward. I don’t have money but the little I have, I am always making
provision for children. I have more than 4,000 children here in Nigeria that I feed and clothe each time I come and
also poor families that I take care of. You don’t have to be very rich to be able to do it.”

Asked how she selects benefiting children and families, she said:”It’s from the villagers themselves. When we go to
a village we want to help, the villagers know those amongst them who are very poor, those that can hardly afford one
meal a day and we go on from there.

When somebody comes to me and says: ’Oh, there is a family that needs your help,’ I go with them to go make sure and from there, I know ‘ok, this is one of the families that I will take care
of now.”

Uche pointed out that with time, the organisation will begin to offer scholarships to indigent students. “I have not
got to the stage of offering scholarship but I know with the help of God, one day, it’s going to be possible.”

She said the organisation has so far visited some towns and villages in the south-east of Nigeria, notably –
Anambra, Imo and Enugu states – and with time, the gesture will get to other parts of the country.

Uche also took a little girl with deformed face from Nigeria to the US where a medical team gave selflessly – time,
money, drugs, expertise – to enable her live a normal life. She went through corrective surgeries.

The cancer survivor appealed to the authorities to help by realising that “certain things we bring into the country
are for charity and they are not supposed to attract Customs duty and I hope they will realise that these things are
given freely and they are not for profit or anything”.

She added: “Again, we face challenges transporting the goods within Nigeria. The police are always there asking for receipts and everything even though they look at it and know it is for charity. I always show them a copy of the magazine that published the Heroes Among Us Award in Hollywood in 2009 and even my registration which has not yet gone through in the US, but still have problems with them on the road. Some don’t even bother to look at the papers. They want us to give them something. I think they should help us
too.

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