For most people, OshodiÂ was a business hub even as it was seen as a safe haven for those who swarm the city daily without thought of where to lay their heads.
In fact, the place was for a long time synonymous with the menace of hoodlums and street traders. But that belonged to the past or otherwise the â€œold Lagosâ€â€“thanks to Governor Babatunde Fasholaâ€™s strides at creating a new, safer Lagos.
What has come as a welcome development is that governmentâ€™s efforts in this regarded are now being complemented through private initiatives. This is the case of a non-governmental organisation, Haven for the Nigerian Child Foundation(HNCF), which recently embarked on the humanitarian initiative of resettling some street children and ensure that they are kept out of harmâ€™s way.
The kids who were earlier living at the popular Kuramo Beach, either absconded from their homes or were born on the streets.
The good news is that succour has eventually come their way as theyÂ were re-united with their families after living on the streets for many years, exposed to the harsh realities of the elements.
Consider the story of Sherif. Some may call it a fairy tale. That he spent five years searching for his mother may sound incredible.Â But that is the story this Badagary born street kid is telling whoever cares to listen. Imagine a kid going beyond the shores of this country in desperate search of a mother he never knew.
How can heÂ recognise the mother he had never met or seen even in pictures? you wonder aloud. Unfortunately he has no answer to the question.
All he had to offer was a determination to locate his â€˜missingâ€™ mother.Â SherifÂ left home in 2004 in search of his mother who he thought his father deliberately kept him in the dark as regards her existence.
His quest took him from his home in Badagry to Seme, Oshodi, Obalende, Ojuelegba and finally to Kuramo Beach.
Given the notoriety of the beach, it was not long before Sheriff came to be identified as one of the â€œKuramo Boysâ€.
He was eventually discovered by HFNCF.
Adressing newsmen recently, the founder of HFNCF, Mrs. Oluyemisi Wada, regretted the pitiful fate of the Nigerian child, even as she called on well-meaning Nigerians to create a future for the Nigerian child.
According to her: â€œA street child is a child for whom the street, more than his or her family, has become a real home. This child may not necessarily be homeless or without a family but lived in a situation of some form of abuse, where there was no protection, love, supervision or expectation from responsible adultsâ€.
Explaining how the Foundation is achieving its goals, she said: â€œAt The Haven, we try to raise awareness about the plight of these children, we lobby the government, corporations and private individuals on their behalf, and some of the responses weâ€™ve gotten are quite encouraging.
â€œ The chef of an upscale restaurant here in Lagos has agreed to take one of the Kuramo boys (as we call them) â€“ Daniel, under his wing; heâ€™s training him to be a chef.
â€œAnother child has been sent to boarding school by a generous donor, and the popular musician Sound Sultan is currently in the studio with a former street child â€“ Jamiu, recording a single. In the meantime, we have rented a room for three of the older boys, and paid for apprentices in furniture making, painting and barbing.â€
Telling the story of Sheriff, she said: â€œOne of the children who was reunited with his family â€“ Sherif, left home in 2004 in search of his mother who he thought his father was keeping away from him. His quest took him from his home in Badagry where the father is a tailor to Seme, Oshodi, Obalende, Ojuelegba and finally to Kuramo Beach where he was discovered by the Havenâ€.
Also speaking on why he failed to tell Sherif the truth about his mother, his father said: â€œHis mother died a long time ago, but I felt he was too young to be told such sad news, and so I told him his mother wasnâ€™t around, and hoped that his stepmother would make a good substitute.Â I wish I had told him the truth long ago; weâ€™ve been looking for him for four years.
We paid people to help us, but they took our money and ran away. Then we were able to trace him to Obalende two years ago, but before we could go and pick him up, he had moved again and we had no news of him until the people from The Haven came.
We are grateful to The Haven for the good work they are doing, may the Almighty Father continue to bless themâ€.
The Foundation was founded in 2008 to help get children off the streets. The Foundation recently launched the N12.50K a day campaign which seeks to encourage people to donate as little as N12.50K a day to help a street child.
â€œThe funds realised from this campaign will be used to relocate even more street children, send them to school, and empower their mothers by setting up petty businesses for them.
Individuals who want to participate simply fill out a mandate, which is then forwarded to their bank managers. The sum of N12.50K or more is then deducted from their accounts daily, monthly or quarterly as may be the case,â€ Mrs Wada added.