By BENJAMIN NJOKU
Number 45 Owolabi Street, Okota, Lagos is a one-storey building that leaves no clue about its inhabitants.
Like most buildings in the area, the house is well-secured and neat.
But it is a different story inside the compound. Welcome to the office of Society for the Safety of the Insane and Destitutes, SOSAID.
Scattered around the compound are children, adults and youths. Some jump on their feet on top of their voices to welcome you.
Theirs is a different world. Misery and pain are written all over their faces. It’s such a dark world inhabited by people whose dreams and aspirations have suffered some setbacks.
Even a heart of stone will melt at the sight of these individuals. To some of the destitutes at the home, life is as meaningless as it is interesting. Yet they try as much as possible to keep hope alive that they will some day live to retell their stories.
Beyond psychological denial, the insane persons are locked with the need to begin to heal the emotions of their unconscious mind. Held bound by circumstances of life, they are shut out of the world of the normal human beings until they are able to regain their senses.
Until you show a little love and kindness to them, they do not seem to belong to this world.
But what does it take to care for the destitutes, you may want to ask? “ It takes courage and the will of God to do so”, replied Mrs. Concern Felicia Martins, the National Co-ordinator of the rehabilitation centre who believes in giving back to the society. She went out of her way over a decade ago to embark on rescuing and rehabilitating the insane and their offsprings on the streets of Lagos, who have been abandoned by their families and relatives.
For her, rehabilitating the insane comes with its own challenges. Sad enough, when she started the charity work, she found herself living on the street with the destitutes for eight months, because her husband could not comprehend what she was up to.
Yet, she had to abandon her studies as a law student at the Lagos State University to fulfil her mission of rescuing the destitute and insane.
She said, “the journey started in 1999, then, I was still a Law student at the Lagos State University. I failed my courses and I wondered why I should fail because I put in my best , coupled with my hard earned money to pursue my education. So, I was pained. But something happened: while I was grieving over the disappointment, I heard a voice instructing me to go out and do His work. I looked around but I did not see anybody. I immediately knew it was God, even though it was not an accepted voice by me then.
“I started the journey in 2000 by sharing food and water to them on the streets. By 2001, I established the centre. Since then, we have continued to carry out this humanitarian work and we hope to spread to other states of the federation.
“When I started this journey, my husband never believed that her beautiful wife would choose to go to the street to rescue the insane. Till today, he has not understood my vision. He send me to the street to live with the destitutes for eight months. In fact, my husband at the early stage, was more of an obstacle to me.
“As I’m talking to you today, we have a destitute we picked up on Oshodi -Apapa Expressway. He is on admission at the moment. We are spending so much on him because of the critical condition of his illness. At the hospital, where he is admitted, the management asked us to write an undertaking that we would not abandon him at the hospital. We did write the undertaking because it’s something we have been doing.”
Mrs Martins said, in the cause of accomplishing this task, she and her team have had to suffer certain humiliation and rejection by the society. “People on a number of occasions have asked us whether they were the ones who asked to undertake the business of rescuing the insane persons on the street,” she said.
Housed in the centre are over 200 insane persons including children. Among them are a female medical doctor who was picked from under the Bridge along Oshodi -Apapa Expressway and a middle-aged woman, Kolsoos Oluwatoyin who claimed to a telecom broadcaster.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that some of the destitutes have spent close to five or ten years in the centre. The centre also has reconciled about 65 of them with their families in the last 10 years.
I woke up and found myself on the street— Lili Madichie, Medical Doctor
Ms Lili Madichie, from Anambra State, is one of the inmate at the centre whose story elicits pity. Her journey to the centre began in 2006, when she was picked from the Berger Bus Stop, on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. As a medical doctor, Lili never enjoyed her life. Moment after graduation, and working for only three years, she found herself on street. Hear her story:
I’m actually a public health officer. I was researching on social medicine before my condition changed. I specialised in public health and consultancy. I lost my mother and I woke up one day and found myself on the street. How it happened I don’t know. I had been roaming around the street for over 10 years before I was picked up from Berger under bridge, along Apapa-Oshodi expressway, in Lagos, some five years ago.
My problem had to do with disorientation and loss of sanity. I worked for three years, before I found myself on the street. I’m okay now, I have regained my sense, and I’m ready to go back to the society. I would want to marry and raise my own family. That is the wish of every grown up lady. And I really want..
I’m a drug addict– Kolsoso Oluwatoyin
I used to stay around Yaba area before, I was rescued by SO-SAID. I have lived on the street for a couple of years.
I studied music and Drama at the Guide-Hall School of Music and Drama, United Kingdom. I was a victim of rape and I had a baby girl out of wedlock. My mother is no more, and in the cause of my having disagreement with my father who is now late, and his younger wife, I was pushed out of our home. My father snatched my baby from me and sent me to the street. I found myself living in the street
Unfortunately, I was a drug addict and I was also into smoking and drinking too. One day, while in my hide out, a woman walked pass me , and asked her for a help, and rather than helping me, she waved at me to come to her. I obliged her, and she took me to a nearby church and prayed for me.
After some weeks, I succumbed and through her assistance I secured a room apartment in the church. Later I asked for a job, which she also provided for me as a cleaner .
She later rented an apartment for me at Iwaya, and it happened that I fell sick and was admitted at the hospital. lived in that apartment for two years but I was not grateful in continuing to live there, hence I abandoned the place and went back to my hide out. But while I was there, SO-SAID team rescued me and brought me to this place. I have been at this centre for about five years now. I need to get back to the society and continue with my life.