Day 4: Heading South…

And I am off to Calabar!

Left Abuja at 10am on a mad dash to the airport to pick up the 11.30am flight.

Loving the Nigeria sense of humour: I just missed an airport bus carrying passengers from the terminal to the plane. As the next bus rolled up, I got on and joked to the driver that “I’d never had a bus to myself before”.  “Ok” he replied, “we’re going to give you the VIP treatment then” and promptly closed the doors before the next passengers had a chance to get on and drove to the plane, both of us roaring with laughter. Don’t reckon you’d get that at Heathrow….

After a short bumpy flight to the Niger Delta I am straight into meetings with our partners.

Harrowing child abuse cases are discussed at Basic Rights Counsel (BRC) with the amazing, inspiring lawyer James Ibor and his wife Ese.

Both James and Ese are on the frontline of our child-protection work. James will often risk his own safety to investigate allegations of child-abuse.  Ese ensures that there is always a warm welcome to any child and is responsible for co-ordinating the children’s trauma-relief and counselling.

Later this afternoon I visit the shelter run by our partner the Society for Youth Development and Rescue Initiative (SYDRI) which is run with total humanitarian commitment by an amazing woman called Esther, giving a home to boys who would otherwise be living on the street.

I hear more of the stories of the children who live and have lived here at the shelter and it is both deeply upsetting, yet totally inspirational and an important reminder that our ability to fund this work saves lives.

I reminded our partners that we have thousands of supporters, around the world, all of whom genuinely care about the lives of children facing violence and abuse on the streets in the Niger Delta. This appears to give them strength. The poverty, abuse and violence are unrelenting: this is a tough place to live and must be overwhelming to be a child with no adult to look after them. Amazing that we can have such a positive impact on some of them.

Am struck by a look of pride in Madam Esther’s face is evident as she detailed the academic achievement of one of ‘her boys’ and you could see him too visibly stand taller with pride as she told us he has enjoyed being at the top of his class for 3 years running. Am also struck by the thought of how different his life chances would be if he hadn't been able to access the shelter as a glue sniffing 7 year old, abandoned by his family, left to live on the streets

Your support is what makes this possible and it’s incredible – without it the alternative is unthinkable.

To find out more about our work with street children click here.

Another busy day finished and very tired but still need to prepare for my meetings tomorrow with two of the traditional rulers in this area: the Ndidem of the Quas and the Obong of Calabar. Very exciting, don’t know quite what to expect but I am told by James and Esther that this is a very big deal!