Government Should Always Remember and Think Of Orphanages – Adetutu
Eromosele Adetutu is the Director of Education and Welfare at Ijamido Children’s home located at Ota in Ogun State. In this interview with TIANNAH ADELERE and BUNMI AYODELE, Adetutu speaks on the activities of the Home, advising both State and Local Government authorities to be supportive of orphanages. Find below excerpts of their discussion.
Tell us briefly about the home and when it started
Ijamido Children’s Home started precisely December 17, 1958, by late Chief (Mrs.) Irene Virginia Willoughby who hailed from Guyana. She came to Nigeria at 9 with her parents, Mr and Mrs Liverpool who were early missionaries to the country. She was the first Head Girl of Queen’s College, Lagos and a mid-wife nurse.
That year, the then Ota district council called upon her to open a medical facility for Ota indigenes and neighbours as there were no medical facilities at the time. People had to travel as far as Abeokuta or Ilaro to get medical aid.
After the discussions, she started the medical facility which interestingly still exists till date. It is “The Ota Maternity Centre”. It was while she was offering that service that God gave her another vision to care for the underprivileged children.
Since the existence of this home, what has been its impact on society?
Well, we call Ijamido a Home because it is a non-adoptive Home. Every child that comes into this Home stays here until they become a person of their own and can start their own family.
I will start with the first product of the home that was brought in as a 3-day old baby. She is presently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Managing Director of the Home. She is Dr (Mrs) Victoria Abosede Obakoya and she is over 60 years now. She is a doctor and a retired teacher who has contributed immensely to the lives of many peoples including children in the home. She is the one keeping the legacy alive. Presently, we have hundreds of children.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in bringing children to the home?
We have become used to it because some laymen out there find it difficult to cater for a baby. It is generally believed that an infant without breast milk cannot survive but here, we know that breast milk is just an opportunity in life. The fact that you were not breastfed does not mean you cannot live healthy to attain whatever it is you want to attain in life. Whenever we have no cash to get baby milk, we give them pap and the children continue to grow, until we can get baby milk.
It is not just infants that are brought into the Home, we also have toddlers, teenagers of different circumstances. Sometimes, the home even serves as a rehabilitation centre for some of these kids so they can see the other side of life.
You may know the answer to your question when you know the category of children in the home. We have the abandoned, orphans, motherless and family support. Family support children are those who have parents within the community or around but their parents have come to solicit the assistance of orphanage. However, when it becomes recurrent, we investigate such a family to know if they are actually in need before we take such child(ren) into our care. However, that child has to be brilliant because we don’t have enough for our children too.
We take it as our social responsibility. We enrol such children into schools where we have our children. Why? Because they allow our children to stay in school until we are able to pay the fees. They all understand the fact that we have to solicit for funds. There are other challenges such as feeding, clothing, but we have no challenge in the medical aspect because one of our fathers, Dr Kukoyi has taken over the medical responsibility of the children. All we need to do is take the children to the hospital and we don’t have to pay a dime.
The home is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and at the same time, it is registered with the State Government. We have our supervisory body in the Ministry of Women And Social Affairs.
We don’t go picking children out there. When babies or any class of child is found, the first port of call is the police station, then the Juvenile Welfare Department will be the ones to collect any fact pertaining to that child. There is a document that is called an Extract. It is an abstract of information pertaining to the child. Who found it, where it was found, when and how?
When all this information have been extracted from whoever found the child, it will then be documented and stamped by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO). It is that extract that must accompany the child to this home. Without that extract, we do not take any child into the home but when we have that legal binding, we admit the child into the home and seal our own admission form and whosoever brought the child will need to append his/her signature, then the child automatically becomes a Willoughby.
These days when we have motherless children, you still have to go to the Police Station to report that you want to bring your child to the orphanage for custody because we now have so many people kidnapping children. We take this measure so that there won’t be a case of somebody coming in that the child is his or hers after we have been told that the child is motherless. Everything has to be backed up by the law in order not to get into trouble.
Ijamido is a large family and here we don’t practise adoption. Children grow up, study and start a family of their own. However, we do not marry ourselves. We study outside the premises and the same society where the children were rejected from is the same society they mingle with, study, make friends, build their own world, pick their spouses and start their own family. Ladies name have to change after marriage. For the men in the home, they bring in women to answer the name Willoughby.
How do you cope in terms of finances?
This is a big question because finance has always been a huge challenge. It is true that some of our children have sponsors because people come in, find them loveable and thus, decide to offer them either part or full sponsorship. However, only a minute number of them have sponsors. Majority of the children are still being paid for by the Home and education is one of our biggest priorities in this Home because that is the most lasting thing we can give to these children. If you give them clothes, they will outgrow it. If you give them food, sooner or later, food will be passed off, as food is just for physical growth. Even buildings will not last forever because someday they will start their own family. However, whatever is imparted and instilled into them from childhood is what will help them in the outside world.
We are quietly hoping that the government too will be supportive. We know they have so many responsibilities; however, they should always remember and think of orphanages. When they do so, they will be able to do something no matter how little it is, even if it is on a yearly basis. The Local Government too is not exempted because we are also taking up their responsibilities. Most of the support we get come from individuals and some corporate organisations. I must also say that the support we receive from Lagos State is a lot more than what we get from Ogun State.
We have schools that have taken it upon themselves to donate to the home from time to time. We also have churches and corporate organisations like Cway Foods and Beverages, De United Foods among others. So also do some private organisations and individuals, they assist us in their own little way and some of them don’t even want their names mentioned.
How do you network when soliciting?
Every organisation has its own culture. For us, we belong to the social responsibility category of most of these companies, and usually, they already have a pre-determined schedule. For example, IDL come on a yearly basis; there is a praying band that brings their token whenever they have it too.
Let’s not also forget that there are many fraudulent people out there who create fake identity cards and impersonate us. We have accosted such people on several occasions. In that case, what we do if we have correspondence is to write to the desired organisations, soliciting for assistance. However, because it has to pass through so many tables, if it lands on a desk of someone who does not fancy our work, then it may end in the trash can. If you don’t really know someone at the top who could facilitate your request, then all your efforts may remain fruitless. Who knows where most of our applications have been ending up?
Can you mention some products of the home and where they are today?
We have Stella who is the Executive Secretary to the Home. She is the Registrar to the Ultimate University. We have other children of the home that have graduated and are on their own like Moses, Charles and so on. My brother Dr John can also speak for himself.