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)...

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.

Volunteering with the local mother and baby clinic: Ipaja Community Health Foundation

Ipaja Community Health Foundation was started in 1995 by Mrs Oshodi and Mrs Awolola, two retired nurses from Lagos State Teaching Hospital. The small community-based organisation in Akinyele, Ipaja, is run by over 25 local volunteers - mostly retired and elderly women from the surrounding community. The older volunteers have now been joined by younger ones as youth volunteers on ICL's youth volunteer programme volunteer their time two mornings a week at the mother and baby clinic. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, between 09.30 and 12.30, around 30-40 mothers from the local villages around Ipaja town bring their babies for vaccinations. Between January and December last year, almost 6,000 vaccinations - against Polio, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus), Measles and Yellow Fever - were given by trained nurses at the clinic. As well as running the twice-weekly clinic, the volunteers, along with community health workers and nurses, rent a bus once a month and go into the surrounding villages to raise awareness of general healthy living for mothers and to give mobile vaccinations - once the babies have received their initial dose of vaccine, they then go to the clinic for the four remaining vaccinations.

When Ipaja Community Health Foundation started almost fifteen years ago, the clinic used to rely on donations so the vaccinations used to be free. However, the lack of funds now means that the mothers are charged a small amount to vaccinate their babies - each vaccination costs around N30-50 (14-23p). This is considerably less, however, than if mothers took their babies to a local private hospital where one vaccination could cost anything between N1,500-2,000 (£6.80-£9.10). Vaccinations are given free at the local government in Ayobo/Ipaja, but there are hundreds of mothers a day at their Monday-Thursday clinic and many will leave without their babies being seen unless they arrive very very early. So, the volunteers at the mother and baby clinic are working hard to assist the local government with the delivery of essential vaccinations.

Ipaja Community Link is working alongside Ipaja Community Health Foundation to ensure that this service to the mothers of the community continues - firstly, through the help of our youth volunteers who assist with registrations, weighing the babies, recording vaccinations and arranging subsequent appointments and helping to clear up at the end; and secondly, through a local fundraising initiative to raise money to help fund the vaccinations or to find people in the community who are willing to donate items for the clinic, such as syringes, cotton wool, extra tables and plastic dispensing bottles. For more information about this project, please contact ICL using the contact details above or below.