BY Victoria Ojeme

We had a terrifying and beautiful and spectacular surprise baby. She was our third daughter. She was born with a smile, and that smile rarely leaves her face. She changed our life and all of our plans. We hired a nanny to help us with our daughters while we ran our businesses.

We were out of town training other advisors and we left our innocent and precious children with the nanny. We were gone for four days. When I got back to my kids, I knew right away something was wrong. Our youngest, Ebbe was three months old and her head was swollen on one side. I immediately ran to hold her and asked what had happened.

The nanny dismissed my concern as nothing. She added maybe Nkem hit her with a book.

I knew that wasn’t what happened.

Sweet Ebbe was lethargic. She wasn’t herself, and I was desperate to figure out what was wrong. I called our doctor, she assured me that if she wasn’t vomiting or screaming she was probably fine. Her sisters, Olive and Nkem were quiet and different, too. I kept asking if something had happened, and neither would answer.

It was Sunday night. It had been two days since we got back, and the older kids had started to return to normal. We were eating dinner, and I was holding Ebbe while Olive started sharing stories. She told us a story about Ebbe sitting on the counter and being pushed off by T-Rex (she’s a huge fan of dinosaurs and dragons). In her story, Ebbe fell off the counter and landed on her head. When I started to ask more questions, Olive clammed up. My husband and I exchanged looks of terror. He called the doctor, and she again assured us that if she was not vomiting and screaming she was probably okay, there was no need to bring her in.

The next morning Olive woke me, she had to tell me. On Wednesday, while we were gone, Ebbe had vomited and screamed all night. That’s when it all clicked. The nanny had said the kids were busy playing Wednesday night.

I drove Ebbe and Nkem to the doctor and my husband dropped Olive at camp and met me there. As soon as the doctor saw Ebbe, our lives changed dramatically. They rushed Ebbe in for X-rays and it all became an out of body experience. Ebbe had suffered a full cranial fracture. Her brain was swelling and there was no way to know the full extent of the damage.

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As our world crumbled, we worked to rebuild our life. We decided we wanted to raise our kids, we wanted to be present for these fleeting, precious years. As a family, we decided to change our schedules. My husband and I cut back our hours to part time. We each spent a half day with the kids. We were there for firsts, we got to experience the good days, the bad days, the highs and lows. My kids got to know their parents and we got to know them. We had park days and crafts and daily walks. We had laughs and games and hugs and tears. In the end, Ebbe was okay.

The story of Mrs Ifeoma in Umuahia, Abia State narrated above gives a peep into why the founder of   Zoe’s Flower The Foundation (ZFTF) Mrs Uchenna Duru-Nwaotule   came up her foundation.

According to Uchenna, ZFTF was founded in the wake of incessant news of extreme cases of child abuse, especially by care-givers and relatives of those child victims.

“I started relating on a personal level with those stories when the experience came right to my door step, when I learnt that the nanny I employed to take care of my 3-month old daughter had become extremely abusive toward her, to the point that I almost lost my daughter.”

“It was an eye opener because it caused me to delve into researching other peoples’ experiences with nannies and other care givers to children and to my horror, I found out that child abuse had become almost endemic in our society. It was then I made a decision to throw myself into the ring of this fight against the scourge,” she said.

So ZFTF was birthed to focus on developmental issues of the Nigerian child and the youth, with special inclination towards the girl child.

It also has as part of its thrust of work, gender issues, advocating for main-streaming gender balance into diverse sectors of our polity. However, ZFTF’s programmes also revolve round empowering the women, who are currently at the short end of the stick in terms having opportunities financially, economically and politically.

Currently, ZFTF’s programmes are financially driven by the measure of commitment the founder and the team of volunteer workers have in the its strategic goals and objectives. The team members’ personal efforts, both in kind and finances, are what currently sponsor their programmes.

“We have reached out to possible collaborators and stakeholders with like goals and objectives, both at the local and international platforms and we are positive that in no distant time, we shall engage with local and international agencies to fast-track the implementation of our annual work programmes,”

The NGO recently donated some school items to some schools in Abuja suburbs, which they christened the ‘Adopt a School’ programme of the ZFTF.

The project sees that public schools, starting from the FCT, are identified for adoption so that their deficiencies in terms of educational materials and learning environment are evaluated by the Foundation, with the aim of standardising these.

“It goes a long way in making teaching and learning a good experience for the pupils and the teachers as well. This also encourages school enrollment and retention, leading to higher literacy amongst pupils and helping to push forward the federal government’s universal basic education agenda. So we are at the 1st phase of that programme, where ZFTF adopted L.E.A Primary School, Durumi 1,’ Uchenna said.

The first outreach the Foundation had at one of the schools was where it identified children from the IDP camps enrolled in the school as well as indigent pupils, to help out with their study materials. It also made donations to educationally excellent pupils, the first three in each class, as a way of encouraging them to maintain their current trend and get the others to aspire to that position in the future.

Currently, ZFTF has a formal office located at Abuja but has volunteers working to advance its programmes on its behalf, across the country.

“We has plans to expand as much as its resources would permit but in this day and age of technology, no office has to be physically located in all places at all times. It may not make for economic sense; so long as your programmes are well spread and implemented across the geographical space targeted, that should suffix. And that is the foundation’s ultimate dream in terms of expansion,” Mrs   Uchenna said.

Recently, ZFTF, in conjunction with Junior Chamber International, Nigeria, embarked on an advocacy outreach in commemoration of the World Sickle Cell-Anaemia Awareness Day. The advocacy programme was bundled with a bit of a medical outreach to organize vision tests for the pupils so as to identify the ones that needed the intervention by the Ophthalmologist.

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It was a diagnosis outreach and was inculcated into our Sickle Cell Anaemia programme just within days to the day of the commemoration and so we did not have the time and resources to ensure that after diagnosis, they would be treated with medications and possibly, glasses for sight aid and possible correction.

At the event, the Programs Manager of ZFTF, Duru Rafael, stressed that it is important to promote awareness on sickle cell and basic understanding of sickle cell, as statistics have shown high number of sickle cell births in Nigeria due to lack of awareness.

He noted that information is key which it is important for the public to know their genotype before marriage.


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