As the artist, Afeez, whose hometown is Ede in Osun State, was speaking about his unbreakable spirit, another young man who shares a similar name, Azeez, also from Ede in Osun, sat close by listening to him with rapt attention.
Rotimi Azeez was brought to the press preview of Unbreakable by Ramat Folake Abdulsalam of Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative, located at number 16 Akinwunmi Street, off Alagomeji Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo, Yaba.
Ramat, who told Vanguard an emotionally laden story about the life of young Rotimi Azeez, was at the preview to represent her Project Manager, Comfort Alli Babalola. Alexies Galleries is partnering with Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative as beneficiary of part of the proceeds from the exhibition.
Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative rescues, nurtures, and re-integrates vulnerable and indigent children. Ramat says that Rotimi Azeez was rescued by the Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative outreach at the age of 13 from a street ghetto at Idioro Mushin, Lagos.
She said Azeez was among the many children the outreach spotted and addressed on the first day they came to Idioro. They had told the children to come to a particular spot, on a particular day, at a particular time, if they would like to receive help from Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative.
“He came to that point with other kids,” Ramat recounted. “They came to us and we took them to the Centre. Then we orientated them towards trusting us and opening their hearts to us.
“After that, we did home tracing to their families in order to get the consent of their families in addition to the consent of the children who needed a positive change of life.
“To God be the Glory, we met the mother of Rotimi Azeez who is in Ede, Osun State. The mother said she has been looking for him for a very long time. When Azeez lost his father, one of his paternal uncles took him to Lagos with the promise of enrolling him into school. But on getting to Lagos, the wife of the uncle sent Azeez to be hawking puff puff (a snack) on the street.
“Fed up with the suffering, Azeez, one day in 2013, ran away from the uncle’s home to Kuramo Beach to join other street urchins of his age. From Kuramo Beach he navigated to Idioro, Mushin, where we met him.
“When we took him we enrolled him into school. Soon, we discovered that he was a promising child who was willing to become good. He started in JSS II. That is how we have been nurturing Azeez till this present day. He was the head boy at the Legend College, a private school at Ebute Meta.
“Last year, in 2018, Azeez wrote his school Certificate Exams and passed marvelously well – his result was full of ‘As’ and ‘Bs’. So last year, we registered him to write the Joint Matriculation Examination. He scored 258!
“Before that time, whenever journalists came to the Centre and asked Azeez what he would want to become in future, he always told them he would like to be a lawyer. And to the Glory of God, today, he has been given admission at the Lagos State University, LASU, to study Common and Civil Law!
“As we speak, Azeez is starting his law studies at LASU by January 2020!
The challenge now, says Ramat, is how to sponsor Azeez’s law studies. “You know we have been shouldering him since secondary school, we need every support we can get. We still have others like him in the university. Azeez is not the first.”
Rotimi Azeez, the boy who, by some stroke of fortune, had leaped from the street ghetto to LASU Law Faculty, told Vanguard that “there is nothing God cannot do. With God all things are possible. Another important thing is to have a vision and be focused. Don’t let your background to put your back to the ground. That has always been my principle. When I lost my dad all hopes appeared to be gone, but when I met Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative outreach, my hope was revived. So, I would like to say to everyone: never give up, no matter where you find yourself.”
Ramat appealed to well meaning people wherever they are on earth to give the Street Childcare & Welfare Initiative a helping hand: “We will appreciate it if we can have more hands to support us in the good work that is already on ground.
“We are over ten years old, doing a laudable work for vulnerable and indigent children, irrespective of their language, tribe, or religion. Our vision is to give them equal opportunity so that they can make something good out of their lives, and become useful to themselves and to the society.”
SCWI is founded by Vincent Paturel and Perrine De Le Court.
The UNBREAKABLE exhibition is sponsored by Frigoglass, Tiger, Indomie, Mikano, Delta Airline, Cool world, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Cool FM, Wazobia TV, The Guardian, Art Café and The Homestores Limited.