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.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Youth volunteers and staff help to renovate ICL's new Youth and Community Resource Centre...

In April, ICL acquired a new office in Akinyele, Ipaja, in addition to the current office in Baruwa, Ipaja. Our main funders, Christian Aid, were able to secure the payment of the rent for a much-needed Youth and Community Resource Centre in Ipaja. Over the last few weeks, volunteers and staff have been working tirelessly to clean and paint the office before some of the staff can relocate here in May. This new office will become the hub for our youth, community and Diaspora volunteering initiatives, community health education work and our growing orphans and vulnerable children programme. Once the office is fully furnished, we hope that this will serve as a 'drop-in' centre for young people in the area. But can you help? Do you have spare computers to donate to the Resource Centre? Do you have any spare materials or books to develop our Library? We really need additional assistance to make sure this new office is a great success. If you have anything to donate, please contact Yomi on +2347029698523, Mercy on +2347069743615 or Jennifer on +2347056369269 or email icl@difn.org.uk. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Ipaja Community Link and NYSC - an exciting new partnership!

Back in March, Yomi, Coordinator of Ipaja Community Link (ICL), Tonye, one of our dedicated youth volunteers, and Timothy and Jennifer, Youth Volunteer Coordinators, visited the NYSC camp in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos, to talk about the work of ICL in Lagos and the many benefits of volunteering. National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) is a mandatory one-year of service that all graduates in Nigeria, under the age of 30, have to complete. Usually corpers are placed in a different state to their state of origin and each year there are hundreds of thousands of corpers who complete this service. VSO and NYSC already have a partnership with the Corper Plus programme in Nasarawa and Kwara. There is more information aboutr NYSC here: www.nysc.gov.ng. As part of the NYSC placement, corpers are encouraged to volunteer as part of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) project. During camp, interested volunteers signed up to be part of a five-day intensive training programme around the MDGs and how they can actively become involved in their host community. I spoke to them about how ICL are working hard to meet all of the MDGs, even if this is in a small way, in a local community on the ground. Following this sensitisation session, ICL are now engaging corpers, who are based in and around our local government area, as volunteers with our community-based work on their once-a-week community development (CD) day. One corper, Dipo Ogunfeibo, aged 27, is regularly volunteering to assist at the local mother and baby immunisation clinic in Akinyele, Ipaja. Dipo told us that he is passionate about community development and has been challenged by the commitment of ICL staff and youth volunteers to do more in his community. The immunisation clinic, which exists to reduce child mortality and is synonymous with millennium development goal four, enables Dipo to have an impact in the local community by assisting with the registration of mothers and babies, handing out needles for injections and weighing babies. Dipo studied Eduation at Ile-Ife University, Nigeria, and is a Development Knowledge Facilitator on the MDGs, so he regularly talks to pupils in schools about poverty and development. He believes that peer education is key for young people - "if we plant these ideas in the minds of young people at an early age, they will tell their parents, brothers, sisters and friends about development, and hopefully become actively engaged with the issues as they grow older." Dipo is planning to provide some additional training for ICL staff and volunteers around the MDGs.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Ipaja Community Link facilitates basic health education training for teachers and volunteers in Ipaja

This week, on 1 - 2 April, Ipaja Community Link facilitated a two-day workshop for public primary and secondary school teachers and ICL youth volunteers on the Child-to-Child Health Education Programme at St Andrews Anglican Pimary School in Ipaja. The Child-to-Child approach is an educational process that links children’s learning with taking action to promote the health, wellbeing and development of themselves, their families and their communities. Through participating in Child-to-Child activities the personal, physical, social, emotional, moral and intellectual development of children is enhanced. Teachers and volunteers learnt how to convey messages about basic health issues to children, such as how to treat diarrhoea, malaria, worm infections, the importance of brushing teeth, washing bodies and boiling water. They then demonstrated methods of how to step-down their training in classes, through role plays, songs, poems and dances in both English and the local language, Yoruba.

On the second day, the 26 teachers from 16 schools and 4 youth volunteers spent time putting together action plans about how to implement their training. Ipaja Community Link will provide support to the schools by providing resources such as information packs, posters, and stationary, youth volunteers who will assist the teachers in schools and also find avenues for sustainability of the Child-to-Child programme. Confidence, Ipaja Community Link's new Community Health Worker, will work closely with Mercy, the Assistant Coordinator, on implementing this programme.

For more information about the Child-to-Child Programme, please visit www.child-to-child.org.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

What is at the heart of volunteerism in Nigeria? VSO National Volunteering training, Abuja, March 2009

According to the latest national volunteering posters which Yomi and I received when we attended a VSO training course in Abuja last week, "At the heart of volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world better." Ipaja Community Link are working to support the national volunteering programme by strenghtening opportunities for youths to engage in volunteering activities for social development in line with NEEDS (Nigeria Economic Empowerment Development Strategy for poverty alleviation) and by creating awareness and increasing the profile of volunteerism. Two staff from VSO, Kayode and Abdul, visited Ipaja Community Link at the beginning of March to meet with volunteers and staff to review our national volunteering programme in Ipaja. Our volunteers told Kayode and Abdul that they had experienced many benefits from their volunteering activities with the mother and baby clinic, the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children and with each other during the youth volunteer programme weekly meetings, such as increased self-confidence, making new friends and being involved in social activities and a sense of achieving something useful and making an impact on the community. The organisations that our volunteers spend their time with said that they had inspired staff with the spirit of service, provided extra support to fill skill gaps and improved the relationship between young people and others in the community. The national volunteering programme with VSO sees volunteers as one of the key ways to deliver its development agenda in local communities. Between April 2008 and March 2009, the VSO national volunteering programme in Nigeria placed over 2,500 volunteers throughout the country.

With the support of VSO and Ipaja Community Link's international volunteer, Jennifer, and alongside Timothy, the Youth Volunteer Coordinator, we are looking to provide volunteers with a high-quality volunteering experience that changes a person's life. There is also a network of international volunteers across Nigeria from the UK, United States and Netherlands, with 5 of these based in Lagos, and so through the sharing of experiences, contacts and learnings, we can drive forward the national volunteering programme to alleviate poverty in Nigeria. In Ipaja there is only a certain amount that 8 paid staff can do in the community, but our youth volunteers are able to reach more people through volunteering with local community organisations and meeting with, caring for and assisting others in the community. Volunteering is now seen as a must-have building block of communities and civil society.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A busy Friday and Saturday in Ipaja!

Friday 13 March was Red Nose Day in the UK - a day when people come together to raise funds for projects in Africa. As a volunteer from the UK, I decided that I would see what I could do to bring the Red Nose Day spirit to Ipaja. We were recently given N20,000 (£100) towards the work of Ipaja Community Link and therefore along with our youth volunteers, we decided to use this money to buy Red Nose Day gifts for some of the other local NGOs that we work closely with. We bought rice and tinned tomatoes for the elders of Agency for the Aged and donated money to Ipaja Community Health Foundation for immunisations, syringes and other supplies for their twice-weekly mother and baby clinic. All the gifts were received with much surprise and even more gratitude. The remaining money will be used towards our work with children and young people. We are also hoping that more money will come to Ipaja Community Link through Development Impact for Nigeria and our recent fundraising efforts with the Diaspora in the UK, along with friends, family and other contacts.

On Saturday morning, we ran our programme for orphans and vulnerable children in the Ipaja Community Link office. The programme was re-launched last week for children who have lost either one or both of their parents. The children gather to socialise with each other, play games and to also learn - there is time for reading and for literacy and maths lessons run by one of the youth volunteers - and they receive nutritional support at the end of the meeting with food packs to take home. The programme receives N10,000 (£40) per month support from our funding. This money has been instrumental in setting up the support group, however, as the programme expands, this leaves around just N100 (45p) per child per Saturday if there are 25 children attending. Therefore, we are seeking additional funding from within and from outside Nigeria to support this vital work.

On Saturday afternoon, Yomi and I met with the Rotary Club of Gowon Estate, Ipaja, to talk about Ipaja Community Link and how we can work together on some of our projects. I had met with the Rotarian's of Birmingham before I came to Nigeria to seek support for VSO as part of my fundraising, so I was interested in finding out if there was a local Rotary Club which could support Ipaja Community Link. Rotary is a global network of individuals and community volunteers with over 1.2 million Rotarian's worldwide in 168 countries. Rotary International has 4 main areas of emphasis:
1) Literacy and Education
2) Health and Poverty Alleviation
3) Family of Rotary
4) Water Management
The Rotary Club of Gowon Estate have been providing assistance to community development projects in Ipaja since 1994. They are now excited about the prospect of working closely with Ipaja Community Link - a successful organisation on the ground with existing links with other NGOs in the area and fully functioning programmes. As the President Benedict Osilamah Okhumale said, "We can be sure that we're now both paddling in the same direction!" The main object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service and to help the less privileged - together, with Ipaja Community Link, both organisations can now reach more people in Ipaja. We will start with the Baruwa Community Primary School project by working with community leaders to install toilets and a bore-hole and then build our new relationship from there...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Online newsletter, March 2009

Reflections of a returnee: Yomi Oloko, Coodinator
Last year February, I took the decision to relocate to Nigeria from the UK with a view to coordinate a small community-based organisation on the outskirts of Lagos called Ipaja Community Link. Ipaja Community Link was the main Nigeria partner of a UK-based/Nigerian-run development organisation called Development Impact For Nigeria (DIFN, see www.difn.org.uk). At the time Ipaja Community Link had very little funding, very low project development and a low staff morale. The previous coordinator had died suddenly some months back. I had actually came with the view to inform the staff team that we may have to close the project down. However, a year plus things are definitely looking brighter. But there is still much more to do and in order to do this, DIFN in the UK and Ipaja Community Link want to develop partnerships with Nigerians in the Diaspora. The motto of DIFN is "Doing Nothing Is Not An Option" and as we move towards 2015 DIFN wants to partner with Ipaja Community Link to endeavour to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 8 is Developing Global Partnerships and one partnership DIFN is keen to develop is that with the Nigeria Diaspora in the UK and other interested individuals or groups in the UK interested in Nigeria-focused development.

So, what can you do?If you'd like to get in touch, give us a shout at info@difn.org.uk. If you'd like to send us some funds please write a cheque to "Development Impact For Nigeria" and post to DIFN's Secretary, Ade Fashade at 84 Springfield House, 5 Tyson Street, London, E8 2LY or to pay by direct debit or bank transfer, email Ade at difn.uk@googlemail.com and he will contact you personally and provide you with the details. Or, if you are based in Nigeria and just want to help contact me on yomi@difn.org.uk or phone me on 0702 969 8523.

How ICL empowers the community through skills acquisition: Ojo Oluwabusola Atinuke, Enterprise and Cooperative Development Worker
The skills acquisition programme is all about mobilising, giving skills and empowering women, unemployed graduates and youth in the community with different types of skills. Presently, we are focusing on: basic sewing/dress-making, bead and bag-making and baking/snack-making. The programme started last year with 24 trainees divided into three classes. During the course of the training, we also organised an enterprise workshop which took place once a month where we taught the trainees how they could be a successful entrepreneurs and manage their own businesses. After five months of training, the first set of trainees graduated on 27 February 2009. In this great ceremony, many dignitaries were present, such as a representative from Ayobo/Ipaja Local Government, the Coordinator of Agency for the Aged, the Baale of Baruwa and a representative from UBA Bank of Nigeria. The training and the graduation ceremony has, without a doubt, impacted the lives of the trainees.

Supporting people living with HIV/AIDs (PLWHA) and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC): Mercy Maxwell-Gii, Assistant Coordinator
ICL sponsors a support group for persons living with and affected by HIV and a support programme for children who have lost one or both parents in death and for children whose parents are living with HIV/AIDs.

The objective of the PLWHA support group is to improve the quality of life of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDs and to help them rediscover themselves. Activities include, the provision of psychosocial support, counselling services, referal and follow-up services, drug adherence support, home-based care, training on HIV and key issues relating to HIV/AIDs and nutritional support in the form of meals and other food stuffs. Members of the support group are also encouraged to sign-up for the skills acquisition training programme. The support group holds every third Saturday of the month between 12 noon and 2pm. Presently, the support group has 12 members of which 2 are female and 2 are male.

Last Saturday, 7 March, ICL relaunched its programme for orphans and vulnerable children. The objective of the OVC support group is to reintegrate children back into the community and give them a sense of belonging. Current activities include, psychosocial support, educational support in the form of assistance with school fees, provision of school uniform, school books and enrollment of children into local public primary and secondary schools, provision of literacy training and nutritional support. Presently, the group is made up of 18 children.

ICL always needs extra financial support for these programmes. We want to reach out to as many people in the community who are vulnerable and are only able to do this if we get extra support. If you are able to donate financially, or through the donation of clothes or food items, please get in touch.

7 is an unlucky number. Can you help Baruwa's Primary School this Red Nose Day? Jennifer Byram, VSO volunteer
On Friday 13 March, people in the UK gather to raise awareness and funds for people living in poverty in Africa. 11 Red Nose Days have so far raised £420 million. ICL is working in a community in Africa to give the chance for people living in poverty to change their lives. Baruwa Community Primary School has 700 pupils, 7 teachers and 7 classrooms. You can do the maths. The school has no toilet and no safe drinking water. ICL is working with teachers, parents and community leaders to raise the awareness of the challenges faced at the school and raise funds to facilitate the installation of toilets and a bore-hole.

But we need your help. Please think about donating this Red Nose Day - it's easy, if you're in the UK, just put a cheque in the post payable to DIFN and post it to Ade Fashade at 84 Springfield House, 5 Tyson Street, London, E8 2LY; or, if you're in Nigeria, call Yomi on 0702 969 8523 to arrange a transfer. Many of these children are part of the OVC support programme and ICL want to do all that we can to make their lives better.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Congratulations: Successful Completion of the First Skills Acquisition Programme!

On Friday 27 February 2009, 24 women graduated from the first skills acquisition programme run by Ipaja Community Link. The day was a celebration of five-months of training on skills such as bead-making, sewing and basic cooking by both the trainees and ICL's trainers, Rosemary and Runke, and Tinuke, ICL's Small Business Enterprise Worker. Over 60 people gathered for the graduation event at Dazzles Hall, near the ICL office in Baruwa. Amongst the audience were representatives from the local government, community leaders, local media and many proud family and friends of the women. When sharing personal experiences of the last five months, Beautrice, one of the trainees, said "I had always admired beads from afar and I never dreamed that I would be able to make them myself. I have Ipaja Community Link to thank for that!" There were displays of beads made by the trainees, a fashion parade with trainees wearing items that they had designed and sewn and food served which was cooked by the trainees on the basic cooking class. Well done to everyone! The next set of women will commence their five-month programme will ICL in April.