Thank you for visiting the blog for Ipaja Community Link (ICL), a small community-based organisation in Lagos, Nigeria, working towards creating a prosperous, healthy and empowered community in Ipaja.

The main activities of ICL are:
- skills vocational training for women and young people in basic cooking, sewing and bead-making
- youth and community volunteering
- community health education, awareness and support
- community care initiatives

ICL specifically aims to support and empower women, people living with HIV/AIDs, young people, and orphans and vulnerable children.

The following information is representative of the work of ICL and reflects the views of staff, volunteers and those that ICL are working with.

ICL is working hard to make poverty a thing of the past in Ipaja - no one in the community is asking for a handout; they are simply looking for ways to make their lives better, to provide for their families and to secure their future. For more information, please call 0702 969 8523, 0706 155 0665 or 0705 636 9269 (or add +234 if calling from the UK) or email icl@difn.org.uk.

Please read on... (and here's a tip: it might be best if you read from the bottom, for older posts, to the top, for newer posts)...

Monday, 19 October 2009

Celebrating World Elders' Day

On Thursday, 8 October, Agency for the Aged hosted an event in Ikeja, Lagos, to celebrate World Elders' Day. There were over 500 elders in attendance from Lagos, Ondo and Ogun States in Nigeria. There were representatives from the Lagos State Government, as well as two local traditional community leaders (Baale's) and representatives from other aged NGOs in Lagos.

The theme of the event was "The Role of Senior Citizens in Nation Building". Agency for the Aged believes that elders should be cared for in their homes, as well as empowered to build organised relationships with other elders in the community so to avoid solitude and to celebrate ageing in wisdom, dignity and independence. As well as key-note speeches along these lines, there was also singing, dancing and drama with youths from Ipaja Community Link (ICL) and Covenant University.

Throughout the day, there was also a first aid and health stand providing free health screening tests, HIV testing and eye tests. Agency for the Aged works closely alongside Melvin Jones Primary Health Screening Foundation to deliver critical health care services to the elderly during community health check-up days and events such as this. Each elder received a health pack containing vitamin C tablets and other literature about health issues. The elders were also served breakfast and lunch during the day.

During the next few weeks, representatives from Agency for the Aged will be going to the Lagos State Secretariate in Alausa to lobby on elders' rights and to discuss the status of the latest Elders' Rights Bill which is yet to be implemented on the ground.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Community rallies together for Ipaja health awareness day...

On Tuesday 29th September, Ipaja Community Link (ICL), in conjunction with Agency for the Aged, Melvin Jones Primary Health Screening Foundation and Ijegun Community Health Foundation, organised a community health awareness day in Ipaja. Over 150 people came for free HIV screening, free breast cancer screening, and free blood pressure, weight and temperature tests. The event was held in the Baale of Baruwa's compound, the community leader of Ipaja, who endorsed the event by allowing the use of this compound and who also donated canopies, chairs and refreshments.

ICL has been working hard to collaborate with other NGOs focusing on similar issues, such as HIV and AIDS and maternal, infant and elderly health. This community health event on Tuesday brought together four NGOs and 16 volunteers from Ijegun Community Health Foundation and Melvin Jones Primary Health Screening Foundation to provide free testing for the community. Those in attendance were also able to pay just N500 (under £2) for blood sugar level testing and eye tests. ICL receives funding from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) for a national volunteering programme. Last month, staff from Ipaja Community Link and the international volunteer with VSO visited Ijegun Community Health Foundation to talk to the community about the benefits of volunteering. The Foundation now has over 30 volunteer nurses providing services throughout Ijegun. 12 of these volunteer nurses assisted with the health day in Ipaja, alongside 4 volunteers from Melvin Jones.

During the event, 74 community members were received confidential HIV testing and counselling and 34 women were screened for breast cancer. Ipaja currently does not have an HIV and AIDS testing centre, although ICL are working alongside Ayobo-Ipaja local government and Lagos Sate AIDS Control Agency (LSACA) to ensure that a centre is established. Mercy Maxwell-Gii, ICL's HIV and AIDS Programme Manager, has met several times with the Medical Officer of the local government to this end. Within the next few weeks, Mercy will be providing counselling and testing for ICL's youth volunteers following basic awareness training with them earlier this month. The youth volunteers will also be trained as peer educators on HIV and AIDS following a model set by Ijegun Community Health Foundation.

For more information about ICL or any of our partner organisations, please do not hesitate to contact us at icl@difn.org.uk or on +234 (0) 809 678 3177 or +234 (0) 706 974 3615. With further financial support we would be able to run more outreach days like this, providing essential medical care to the community where the government are failing to deliver.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

So, what's been happening with Ipaja Community Link over the last couple of months?!

This summer has been a busy time for staff and volunteers at Ipaja Community Link (ICL) with a summer camp for orphans and vulnerable children, assisting vulnerable families in Ipaja, commencing the organisational development process, the growth of the youth volunteer programme and, lastly (but perhaps most importantly!), hosting some big stars from Nollywood...

ICL's orphans and vulnerable children summer camp, August: Over the summer months in Ipaja, ICL has been reaching out to the most disadvantaged in the community – children from very low-income families, orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) – by providing a summer camp throughout August every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, run by staff and Ipaja youth volunteers. Over 25 children had English and Maths lessons every day from staff and Ipaja youth volunteers, learnt pottery-making, went to an amusement park, received cake-making lessons from one of our skills acquisition instructors, enjoyed dancing (modern and cultural!) choreographed by volunteers, watched drama performed by volunteers, and received IT training. And played lots of games!

Quite a lot to pack into the four weeks! Each day the children received lunch and refreshments, which included donated drinks from the Zen Group and stationary, t-shirts, caps and food from Indomie. Each child went home with big smiles! Special thanks to Yomi, Lucy, Segun, Tinuke and Confidence for the success of the programme, all other staff, and especially to volunteers! ICL will be recommencing its Saturday Club on 19 September providing weekly socio, psycho, educational and nutritional support for OVCs. Working alongside State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and local government, ICL will be reaching out to over 200 OVCs from September. This programme continues to run on just N3,000 (less than £12) per week and is in much need of further support from donations.

Assisting vulnerable families in Ipaja: ICL are supporting the Anifowose family in Ipaja, who have been suffering from glaucoma. The youngest daughter, Adeola, became blind from glaucoma two years ago at the age of 12. Her father, Festus, and older sister, Duru, have now started to have their operations to treat their glaucoma. Their sight will not be restored (Duru has already lost her sight in one eye), but the glaucoma will be halted at its current stage. Like many in Ipaja, the Anifowose’s are a low-income family, so the children are involved in the OVC programme, the mother of the family will soon be starting on the third skills acquisition training programme, Duru will learn pottery-making through ICL’s new youth skills acquisition training programme, and the father will be given a small loan to start a business. Over N200,000 was raised from supporters in UK and within Nigeria to help this family – thank you all so much for your support!

The organisational development process: ICL has commenced the Organisational Development (OD) process –a model used by Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) to assess partners and intended to increase organisational effectiveness and develop a continuing capacity for learning. This process will assist ICL to build on its abilities in areas such as HR, finance, strategy, vision and values, and communication. It will also help to increase the scope, impact and efficiency of ICL’s development initiatives. The process is being led by VSO volunteer, Jennifer, along with assistance from staff and volunteers.

New recruits to Ipaja youth volunteer programme: Ipaja youth volunteers are growing steadily and having a huge impact on community – as well as regularly assisting with the running of an immunisation clinic, the 30+ youths played a fundamental part in the running of the children’s programme and have been making their own versions of Nollywood with dramas around issues such as dangers of drug abuse, stigma around HIV and AIDS, importance of education, and issues around early pregnancy. Following recent HIV and AIDS awareness training with Mercy, ICL’s Assistant Coordinator, the youths will soon act as peer educators in local schools. They are also working alongside elders from the community as part of the preparations for World Elders Day on 8 October coordinated by Agency for the Aged. The youths and elders will be planning and rehearsing a drama performance for the celebrations around the theme "Elders: Their role in nation-building". On 12 August, over 20 youth volunteers gathered together for International Youth Day to attend an event which addressed the importance of information technology and the internet for positive development. Subsequently, ICL is currently trying to look for resources and funding to organise an I.T. training programme for the youths within the next couple of months.

And finally!!!

As part of the children’s summer programme, on 14 August, ICL Akin and Paw Paw visited ICL – two small, but very big Nollywood stars – and spoke to the children about their work, education, hopes for the future, and tips on how to become Nollywood actors, as well as answering plenty of questions from the children! The children were delighted that Akin and Paw Paw came all the way to Ipaja. This was a great success and we hope that we’ll be involving them more in our programmes over the next few months.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Africa Representative of HelpAge International from Nairobi, Kenya, visits Agency for the Aged in Ipaja, Lagos...

On Monday 15th June, Nesta Hatendi, the Africa Representative of HelpAge International, visited Agency for the Aged to see the work being done for elderly persons on Abesan Estate, Ipaja, Lagos. Nesta met with many of the elderly volunteers who help with the running of Agency for the Aged as well as the co-ordinator, Mrs Idowu Okunsanya, a retired major from the Nigerian army, and who is more fondly known as 'Mama Major'.

HelpAge International is an international development NGO which helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. HelpAge International works in over 75 countries and its reach is further strengthened through a global network of like-minded organisations – the only one of its kind in the world. The organisation is driven by a fundamental understanding that older people themselves have the wisdom and the personal drive to contribute their own wellbeing and that of their families. The contribution older women and men make to society – as carers, advisors, mediators, mentors and breadwinners – is invaluable. HelpAge International does not currently have affiliates in Nigeria, but are hoping to expand their work in West Africa over the next few years.

Agency for the Aged currently reaches out to over 162 elders on Abesan Estate in Ipaja, through four key areas of work:

1. Elderly health care
2. Elderly skills and knowledge empowerment
3. Family and community support
4. Social and leisure activities
Agency for the Aged is a vision of Family Ark Mission, started by Mama Major in 1994, which firmly believes in the respect for the dignity of elders and so assists them to celebrate ageing with wisdom, grace and independence. Mama Major and the elders shared this vision with Nesta, whilst Nesta shared some literature and wisdom from HelpAge International, especially around the growing incidence of elderly grandparents looking after their children's children orphaned by HIV and AIDS across Africa. Agency for the Aged currently supports the elderly caring for orphans and vulnerable children, but this area of work is something that will grow over the next few months with the support of Ipaja Community Link, and with guidance from HelpAge International and its affiliates from across the continent.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

And then we increased Ipaja Community Link's income by almost 10%...

Recently, Ipaja Community Link (ICL) acquired an extra N250,000 (£1,000) funding after a fundraising drive on Red Nose Day in March by Children's International School in Lekki, Lagos. The school raised over N1,000,000 during their fundraiser and donated half of the money to share between ICL and People Against HIV and AIDS in the Barracks (PAHAB). Jennifer and Heather, both VSO volunteers with ICL and PAHAB, collected the money during their Africa-themed assembly at the school on Friday 5 June.

The fundraiser was co-ordinated by Lucy Jennings and Natalie Ghazi, from the UK, who are primary school teachers at the school. Lucy and Natalie visited the work of ICL and PAHAB earlier this year and wanted to see what they could do to raise money for children in Lagos who are less privileged than those who attend Children's International School. They were deeply moved when they visited Iba Community Primary School where PAHAB does a lot of work with orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC). There are over 700 children in the school, with many classes bursting at the seams with over 150 per classroom, and with no toilets and no safe drinking water. Both PAHAB and ICL will use the money raised as part of their existing OVC programmes. ICL intends to use the money to help with the running of its Saturday programme for OVCs and for the expanded programme which includes school attendance grants and nutritional support for extremely vulnerable children and families in Ipaja. Some of the money will also be donated to Baruwa Community Primary School - recent campaigning by ICL resulting in the renovation of the school; however, much work is still to be done by constructing toilets and building new classrooms.

As well as raising money, the children in the school also went home and collected lots of resources for the children of Ipaja and Iba, such as clothes, shoes, books, stationary and toys. The pupils of Children's International School were delighted to have collected so many resources and were eager to assist with packing them into the van destined for the mainland of Lagos - over two hours drive from Lekki. This money, however, is just the start. N250,000 is an amazing amount of money to have raise to assist our programmes, but much much more money is needed. Pupils at Baruwa Community Primary School (seen below) needs at least four new classrooms, modern toilets and a functioning bore hole (the government recently installed a bore hole, but with no means of electricity to pump it). ICL aims to facilitate this process, not to lead it, hoping for matched funding from other organisations, such as Rotary and community leaders, to ensure a sustainable development programme.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Happy Children's Day in Ipaja!

Last Wednesday, 27 May 2009, Ipaja Community Link (ICL), celebrated National Children's Day in Nigeria by throwing a party for over 60 children living in and around Ipaja. The children, many of whom attend ICL's orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programme, took part in dancing and singing competitions, fashion parades and drama. The children, along with the Baale of Baruwa, the head teacher of a nearby school, parents and staff and volunteers of ICL, came together to focus on enjoying a day dedicated to them and to celebrate being children.

Several of the children from ICL's OVC programme presented a drama around the issues of HIV and AIDS from information that they have learnt during the Saturday Club. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 1.8 million children in Nigeria orphaned by AIDS. But this is still just a fraction of the number of children whose lives have been radically altered by the impact of HIV and AIDS on their families and communities. ICL is working hard to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, to educate children around the issue and to empower them to care for and educate other young people in the Ipaja community. Lucy and Segun, ICL's Community Care Workers, along with several of ICL's youth volunteers, run the Saturday OVC programme by providing an opportunity for children to socialise outside of school and their homes, receive some additional lessons around literacy and numeracy, and also some nutritional support. During the Children's Day celebration, the children received food, prepared by trainees on ICL's skills acquisition training programme, drinks donated by staff and gifts and prizes donated by supporters in the UK.

However, as with much of the work of ICL, there is so much more that could be done to increase the scope and impact of the OVC programme. ICL is working on developing a sustainable partnership with the Rotary Club of Gowon Estate, Ipaja, to support the growing number of orphans and vulnerable children in the community through the international development organisation HOPE Worldwide. ICL currently has funding to support just 20 OVC's, but Lucy and Segun are regularly identifying more OVCs in the community and, with the assistance of Rotary and additional funders, ICL could support many more children who need our support. We are particularly focussed on the need to deliver school assistant grants, especially for uniforms, transport, books, stationary, and to support the families of OVCs with nutritional support, education, and the provision of essential items such as mosquito nets and drugs. For more information or to pledge financial support to our programme for the most vulnerable children in the community, please contact Yomi, the Coordinator of ICL, on icl@difn.org.uk, or visit the work of ICL when you are in Lagos.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

What are you doing or what can you do? Development Impact for Nigeria, Diaspora Workshop, 14 May 2009, London

On Thursday 14 May, over 25people interested in development awareness issues in Nigeria, mostly Nigerian Diaspora, gathered to hear about the work of Development Impact for Nigeria (DIFN) and its main partner, Ipaja Community Link (ICL). Ade Fashade, General Secretary and Trustee of DIFN, said "The presence at the event was very encouraging to us all at DIFN and ICL. DIFN is determined to continue to support the great work going on in Nigeria in making a difference in society. Although the bulk of the work is concentrated in one small, deprived local area of Lagos, the work could, and has, begun to be a template for further development, poverty eradication and skills empowerment work in other areas of Lagos and beyond. To continue to sustain this, your help, both financial and in kind, will continue to be most valuable to our work."

As the international volunteer with ICL, I shared what we work we have been doing in Ipaja - from empowering women and training teachers and youth volunteers, to supporting orphans and vulnerable children and people living with HIV and HIVS. The work of ICL is far-reaching. With more assistance, we could do even more. In partnership with VSO, DIFN would like to recruit individuals from the Diaspora in the UK to volunteer on 3-6 week placements in Nigeria, as either teacher trainers or community development professionals. This is an amazing opportunity to make an impact to the development of Nigeria at grass-roots level in both Lagos and Adamawa.

For more information about the VSO/DIFN Diaspora volunteering initiative, how to subscribe to our regular emails and newsletters, or to make a donation to our vital work, please contact Ade, in the UK, at difn.uk@googlemail.com, or Yomi, in Nigeria, on icl@difn.org.uk. Please do not forget us - your support and commitment will be most appreciated! As Ade says, the impact of the work of ICL in Lagos is just the start - let's work together to achieve much much more.