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)...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Feature: Jessica Odili, Bead-Making

Jessica Odili, aged 20, is currently a part-time student at catering school in Lagos. However, whilst studying this course, she also found out about the bead-making classes being held at Ipaja Community Link through one of ICL's staff. Jessica, pictured here with Rosemary, one of the trainers at ICL, says that she really enjoys making the beads, she says, "I really hope that when I finish my catering course in May and open my small catering shop, I can also show my other talents by displaying and selling my beads - and this also might boost my business." Jessica, like Beautrice, will be graduating from the programme on Friday, 27 February 2009.

Volunteering to help the elderly: Agency for the Aged

Agency for the Aged is a small NGO based on Abesan estate, near Baruwa, which has the unique vision of caring for the aged in their homes and reaching out to elders through meetings, events, exercise classes, information sharing, exchange visits to other elderly groups, concerts and counceling and community health check-up days. In 1986, Mrs Idowu Okusanya, a retired Army Major, set up Family Ark Mission. At first, Mama Major started teaching on adolescent and sexual health issues in schools, but gradually realised that it was the elders - the roots and foundations of Nigerian homes - who she could nurture to become real role models to help the youths to become fulfilled adults. So, in 1994, she started Agency for the Aged under Family Ark Mission and over the last fifteen years has reached out to over 500 elders and currently cares for about 120. As Mama major recently said, "I have thrown my house open to them!", and in answer to what she enjoys the most, "Seeing the elders smiling and laughing (with no teeth!), especially when the laughter is from the heart." She believes that old people love to being reminded of 'the good old days' and so, often, when she reminds them of the past when they are sick, this sickness goes away. Many elders die of loneliness - she recalls stories of elders who died and there bodies lay undiscovered for several days - and so this is where Agency for the Aged comes in; there is someone to say "Hello" and "Good Morning"; someone to show some love.

Mama Major believes strongly that the younger ones of society should take good care of the aged. And that's where our youth volunteers come in. They are on hand to assist Mama Major with home visits and meetings and events and to just generally interact and chat with the elders. Recently the youth volunteers assisted at the 3-monthly Community Health Check-up Day where elders can get their blood pressure and blood sugar checked, have HIV screening, eye tests and see a dentist and an optician - they helped with the registrations, setting up and clearing up, with refreshments and helping the other elderly volunteers from Agency for the Aged and those from the Melvin Jones Primary Health Foundation.

As with other small NGOs in the area, Agency for the Aged faces many challenges. Mostly, the lack of money which is handicapping to Mama Major's programmes, but also the lack of public, community and government awareness and understanding of what Agency for the Aged is trying to do. So, ICL is working with Mama Major to overcome these challenges and help with her plans for the future for Agency for the Aged.

Advocacy, fundraising and volunteering: Baruwa Community Primary School

Baruwa Community Primary School, one of the only government-owned public primary schools in the area and not that far from the office of Ipaja Community Link, has recently become one of the key areas of work for staff. The school has over 700 pupils, but just 7 classrooms and 7 teachers. This picture was taken inside one of the classroom where there were 120 pupils and one teacher. The school was originally sited in a factory, but the school moved to this site in 2007 and opened on 5 May 2008 - it was not completed, but the Headteacher and teachers believed that it was "manageable". Government funds have not since stretched to complete windows, doors and plastering nor are there available funds to install toilets for the pupils or the teachers or provide a bore-hole for safe drinking water. Currently, pupils and staff go to the toilet in the bush area beside the school (which is often frequented by snakes) and drink water from an exposed well.

ICL is now working alongside teachers, parents and community leaders, as well as the Local Government, to facilitate the necessary improvements to the school and to seek funding to install toilets and a bore-hole. Once approval is received from state-level, ICL youth volunteers will volunteer their time as teaching assistants, and following necessary training, the volunteers will also provide basic literacy and numeracy skills and information about basic health issues through the Child-to-Child programme to the pupils.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Feature: Mrs Beautrice Olufolajimi, Sewing

Mrs Beautrice Olufolajimi, aged 58, is a housewife living in Ipaja. Beautrice started attending the daily sewing classes at Ipaja Community Link in September 2008 after she heard about the skills acquisition programme through Family Ark Mission: Agency for the Aged. Beautrice says, "I am a pensioner but because my pension money is always late, I came to this programme to learn new skills to set up my own shop to try to make ends meet." During the five month programme, Beautrice has learnt new skills such as dress-cutting and sewing and can now sew different types of clothes, including various types of skirts and blouses. Beautrice is a widow and therefore hopes that, by establishing her own business, she will be able to provide for her family as well as having something else to occupy her time. Beautrice will graduate from the programme on 27 February 2008.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ipaja Community Link: what are we all about?

Ipaja Community Link (ICL) is the main partner of Development Impact for Nigeria (DIFN). DIFN is a registered UK-based development agency establised in 2000 and is run by UK-based Nigerians. In 2002, DIFN created ICL in the heart of the Ipaja community, Lagos, to create viable and meaningful socio-economic opportunities for all in the local community and to encourage and empower the community to be socially responsible for their own development.

ICL is currently supported by two international bodies - Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and Christian Aid - as well as DIFN in the UK and is working closely with Ayobo/Ipaja Local Government as well as other small community-based organisations in Ipaja. ICL currently has eight staff and is hosting an international volunteer from the UK for one year to assist with the development of the organisation and its programmes.

The main activities of ICL are as follows:
- Skills acquisition training: Women and young people attend daily classes for free, learning new skills, such as catering, basic cooking and bead-making. The classes are facilitated by two trainers and the programmes last for 5 months. The trainees receive small business training and support to enable them to set up and run successful small businesses within the community following the completion of the course.
- Youth and community volunteering: Volunteering provides the opportunity for youths, young adults and professionals to contribute to the development of their own community. The volunteers engage in activities such as supporting vulnerable people in Ipaja through working in collaboration with a local agency supporting the elderly and a small health foundation supporting mothers and babies, peer education and mentoring, fundraising as well as assisting with other ICL programmes.
- Community health education, awareness and support: Local training for teachers, along with youth volunteers, provides the basis for the community health education programme. Teachers and volunteers will educate primary school pupils on basic family and community health values through the Child-to-Child programme and educate secondary school pupils on issues of healthy relationships and sexual health, focussing particularly on HIV/AIDs. ICL also runs a monthly support group for women, young people and children affected by, and living with, HIV/AIDs providing voluntary counseling, advice about testing and drugs, donation of food packs, and educational support.
- Capacity building workshops and training: Following the establishment of close working relationships with the Ayobo/Ipaja local government, ICL aims to provide training for staff, members of other community development organisations and faith grup leaders on community development issues, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the eradication of poverty in the community.

Whilst most of ICL's activities fall under these categories, other programmes in development include:
- Youth apprenticeship programme to place 100-200 unemployed youth with local artisans/crafts persons as apprenticeships.
- Diaspora volunteering initiative programme to place UK-based Nigerian professionals on short-term placements on short-term placements in Nigeria in the areas of youth and community work, social work, education, community health, social policy development and local government administration.
- Ipaja entrepreneurship centre to provide on-going business development support, through workshops and mentoring, to all trainees and other members of the local community ensuring that all self-employed businesses have the best opportunity for success and to sponsor 40 unemployed graduates per year on a one-month entrepreneurship programme at the Entrepreneurship Development Centre (part of Central Bank).