12 kids!!! I’m talking about a dozen children.
Who does that?
Especially, not in this day and age!
Try telling that to this mother of many.
Who is the mother of many?
As the largest nation in Africa celebrates her independence this first week of October, it is a particularly critical time for all Nigerians at home and abroad to reflect on their shared nationhood. With her projected population of about 180 million people, Nigeria has quadrupled her population in the last five decades due largely to her very high birth rate amongst many other driving factors. Projections estimate Nigeria’s population will be about 300 million by the year 2050. Most importantly, children under 15 years are estimated to make up about 45% of Nigeria’s population. In the reality that is Nigeria, the world into which these children are born, the care and nurturing of many of them leave a lot more to be deserved than we currently see happening. As we celebrate 57 years being an independent nation, let us spend some time to ponder on who will love all these children!
Meet one unique Nigerian who is already loving the less privileged Nigerian children. A mother of many! Wome Uyeye.
Seeing her for the very first time, it doesn’t take very long to discover that Wome Uyeye is different from any Media Professional, Content Producer and WordSmith you have ever met. In every sense of the word, she is a “Mother to Twelve Children” born and raised in one of the most notorious ghettos of Lagos, Nigeria. A place, known as Ajegunle or AJ city. Read what drives Wome, another one of the everyday heroines who lives amongst us.
I always knew from an early age (I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old) that I was born to touch and hopefully change our world. My vision was clear – I would start first from Africa and then spiral into the world, blowing the wind of change forth with the power of my written or spoken words. There is no going back on this mission.
It all started the year I turned 14. I kept hearing on the news and generally on people’s lips about abandoned babies. For days on end, I was neither able to get rid of the images nor answer the lorry load of questions regarding these babies out of my head. Who were their parents? What kind of mother would abandon her own flesh and blood? Why would a father not want to care for his child? How can a woman go through nine months of torture and labour in pain only to dump the product of all her endeavour, given her by Mother Nature? What does it take to nurture another human? Nurturing should breed joy or should it not?
Then one day, while returning home from school, I saw a group of people gathered around a dumpster; curiosity took the better of me and I moved closer to them. I heard them say that the corpse of a baby which had been abandoned there all through the night had just been removed moments ago. That the stench and the ants crawling everywhere in the dumpster must have gotten to the baby long before help could come.
I never actually saw the baby, but I remember leaving that place physically sick to the pit of my gut. I felt like I’d just been beaten up. For many days thereafter, the taste of food in my mouth was bland and I was very sad. It was at that time that I made a silent promise to myself to do anything and everything within my power to save a helpless and disadvantaged child enough to redirect his or her life. Unconsciously, I’d created #ProjectH.E.L.L.P long before I brought the dream to fruition.
Before I continue telling how I came about mothering many. I will side-step a bit to let you have a glen of my background. I graduated from Broadcast Training School in 2007, as a certified News Anchor, Broadcaster and Journalist for both radio and television from the prestigious Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria training school in Ikeja. I had my internship in Channels TV. Between then and now, I have worked in quite a number of varied media professional (Content Production and Presentation) capacities in different media houses including EAtv (Entertainment Afrique Television), Issues and Society on TV (strictly Politics), Rhythm FM 93.7, ChoiceFM 103.5 (currently known as BondFM under RadioOne), WakaAbout (a magazine focused on domestic tourism) just to mention a few.
Fast forward to December 2010, my mind was made up to reach out to the ghetto children. To me, they had so much potential that I was prepared to move any mountain to get them to come in. So I decided to throw a Christmas party. It was themed, *A December to Remember* and was strictly for the AJcity kids between the ages of 2 – 17 years as a way of officially unveiling #ProjectH.E.L.L.P to the community! It worked!!! The turnout was massive and they had major fun!!!
Now that I had 100% of their full attention, on to the herculean task of revamping their young lives. Was it easy? Absolutely not! Did they fight me all the way? Oh yes! Every step of the way! Even their unruly guardians and elder siblings whom these children were mirroring in every way (stealing, smoking and or selling marijuana, cutting school promiscuity, you name it, they did it) fought me as well. Sometimes they’d just show up at our weekly meetings and drag the kids out! Saying I was wasting their time and mine and calling me all kinds of names.
The many faces of us:
Over the years, time tried and tested them and today, I have a revolving – door policy where *my 12 disciples* can be inspired to challenge the status quo with audacity!!! At our weekly meetings, we often use these three tools:
*God* (moral teachings)
*Love* (creating a borderless bond which in turn makes each child see the other as an extension of himself regardless of tribal differences)
*Arts ‘n Crafts* (bead making, performance poetry, creative writing, etc) are just a few of the many artistic things I use in engaging their overactive imagination which in turn keeps them out of trouble
Over the years, this project has enabled us to discover the brilliant *Kidpreneurs* who before now were just mere statistics. Now, we have turned out children like Elohor Brooks (future C.E.O of a bead craft business that we are already calling *iCr8t by Elohor*) and Onome Oruremu (future C.E.O of a hair and body therapy salon known as Nomski’s Total touch). Both girls are currently 13 and 10 years old respectively. They joined #my12&I a.k.a #ProjectH.E.L.L.P at the ages of 6 and 3yrs respectively.
Then there’s Emmanuel Oruremu who was 12 years old when I discovered him. At the time he was attending Tincan Island Junior high school and he wanted to become an accountant in order to help Nigeria’s economy in the future. His secret talent was cooking and matching with every mood. He is currently 19 years old and early this year, he completed his apprenticeship training in repairing generators. He uses part of his earnings to cater for his five younger ones (let’s not forget he’s a great Cook), another part of his earnings goes into saving up for his University Matriculation Examination (UME) (remember he still wants to be an accountant) and I’m still encouraging him to keep visualizing himself as one of Nigeria’s foremost Disc Jockeys too – for he also has a flair for it.
Chinenye Udenna, on the other hand, is another miracle story. She had just turned 13 years old when I found her and was already giving up on her dreams of ever becoming a super-model. The first of 5 children raised almost single-handedly by a strong Mother and an absentee Father, ‘Nenye nwam as we fondly call her knew the meaning of determination and tenacity at a very early age as I never encouraged her to entertain thoughts of her ever giving up on her dreams. With the help of a few of my purpose-driven professional friends, just days before her 18th birthday, I was able to help create a proper portfolio for her and started peaching her for jobs immediately. 2 years and very many photo and video shoots later, she’s a successful 20-year-old music video and runway model who’s a devoted worker in Church (David’s Christian Centre) and who God willing, will commence her studies in Business administration at the Nnamdi Azikwe University someday soon.
Yes! You can say I’ve come a long way from when I was badly treated by the uninformed parents of the very children I was trying to transform so that they (both parents and children) could take a shot at a better tomorrow. I’m still a very long way from where I want it to be. My 12 and I dream of one day seeing Project H.E.L.L.P centres in as many notorious ghettos across the length and breadth of our great country Nigeria. Fully equipped with all the faculties needed for fully functional centres that will successfully produce global influencers and world leaders from totally transformed lives that Nigeria can be proud of. I do have very big dreams for these precious little ones.
For the better part of six and a half years, I’ve pretty much championed this cause almost single-handedly and it’s not been a walk in the park at all! Sometimes, it could get so bad that my kids miss school for days and we have no idea where the next meal is coming from.
Come the 10th of December, #Project H.E.L.L.P will be 7 years old. What will give me the greatest joy is to have a network of *Earth Angels* who cut across every walk of life, profession and ethnicity. *Earth Angels* who are prepared to stand with us all the way! Against all odds and join us in seeing to it that the big dreams I have for these little ones will come into actualization like yesterday. Knock…! Knock… Is there anyone out there willing to be one of these *Earth Angels*? We are great when we work as a team. We change ripples to waves when we work together.
When the LR team met Wome Uyeye we knew for a fact that it is not always *cheaper by the dozen*. The selflessness of this lady especially during the current economic and financial weather in Nigeria is beyond commendable. How are you impacting your immediate environment? What have you done to help the child you see loitering when others are in school? Are you inspired to become an *Earth Angel*?
Well, Wome Uyeye is doing something. Are you led to join or support her? If you are, she is willing and waiting for you. If you are not, that too is not a problem but just remember to say a prayer irrespective of your race or religion for this mother of many and her many children. Changing societies is not for the faint-hearted and at LR, the team stands with Wome and her renewed children for we are not faint at heart. Meanwhile irrespective of your heart strength, let your comments roll in – now we all know the mother of many.
**Many thanks to our LR team of editors led by Erhyo Obodo for preparing this work for your motivational e-space delight**