Monday, May 19, 2014
newi, a bustling industrial town in Anambra state of Nigeria, is known for the many industries that dot the landscape, helping to provide employment for Nigeria’s teeming youth. Despite that and just like any other town anywhere in the world, the town has her own share of motherless babies in an orphanage that need assistance from the citizenry.
Currently, the town has just one facility dedicated to the housing and welfare of motherless babies. The orphanage building was donated some years ago by the Red Cross in a spirited attempt to provide a home and succor for motherless babies in the town. It is manned by volunteer staff that provides 24 hour service to the children. Today, the building that doubles as the staff quarters for the orphanage, which was built before the civil war, is in need of rehabilitation. It needs to be made more habitable and comfortable for the good Samaritans that donate their service to the orphanage.
On May 3, 2014, members of Nnewi Community, Washington DC Area (NCOWA), their friends and well-wishers, gathered for a gala night outing. The gathering was in response to a clarion call to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the staff quarters of the orphanage in Nnewi. The fun filled event was held at the Loft Ballroom on Washington Blvd, in Laurel Maryland United States.
A little after the appointed time, guests and well-wishers, elegantly decked out in native and western outfits, began to stroll into the hall. The cheerfulness and boisterous exchange of pleasantries amongst the guests and their contemporaries, as they ambled into the hall in pairs and groups, was a testament to the enthusiasm with which they had come to support a cause they saw as worthy and noble. The DJ sustained the tempo of the already super-charged atmosphere, in the ball room, with familiar and contemporary tunes from Osadebe through P-Square and Tuface Idibia.
The event was declared open by the co-masters’ of ceremony, Dr Nnadike and Mrs Ify Enendu. Just after some of the special guests were introduced and took their places on the high table, the activities of the night began in earnest.
In his welcome message, the president of NCOWA, Mr. Nwabufo Ojukwu, noted that in 2006, his organization held a fundraising event “to benefit the same orphanage” in Nnewi. Through the funds raised, they were “able to provide cribs, mattresses, beddings and gave the building [orphanage] the much needed facelift”. He said that the staff quarters for the orphanage, which was built before the civil war, was crumbling and uninhabitable and asked for financial support from benevolent guests to enable the organization complete the staff quarters.
Later, Maryland Senator, Sen. Jim Rosapepe addressed the audience, noting the impressive and notable achievements Nigerians have made in the United States. He presented a certificate of appreciation to the organization.
The highlight of the event was the speech by the chairman of the occasion, Dr. Ndubueze Okonkwo, a nephrologist. He hailed the fundraising event as a good initiative but added that if everyone did their part and pulled their weight, “there should be no such thing as motherless babies anywhere”. He argued that if people opened their hearts and homes to motherless babies by way of adoption, thereby providing the children with the love, identity and sense of belonging that they so much need, the scourge of motherlessness would be tamed completely. Dr Okonkwo opined that people should imbibe the attitude of giving back to the community in appreciation for what God does for them. He posited that rather than amassing wealth with which to build mansions in Nnewi and Nigeria, people who are fortunate to have been blessed by God should use their wealth to glorify him by helping the less fortunate like the motherless babies. He added, as the audience listened with rapt attention, that any one that disputes the presence of God only needs to hold or close their nostrils for a small amount of time and see how they feel without air.
To underscore the transient nature of wealth and the need to gainfully use it to help others, Dr Okonkwo cited the case of the man that wrote the famous song, "It is well with my soul". Horatio Spafford was a wealthy man in Chicago, in the late 1800s who lost his only son to scarlet fever and his vast real estate to the great Chicago fire of 1871. Spafford later planned a trip overseas with the remaining members of his family, Dr Okonkwo narrated, but because of a last minute change in plan, his family, four daughters and his wife, left ahead of him. Not long after his family left, he received a devastating message that all the members of his family, except his wife, had perished in the high seas due to a mishap. Later, when he travelled to meet up with his grief-stricken wife and got to the location where all his four daughters had perished, he was moved to write the song, “It is well with my soul”. Dr Okonkwo’ s point was to emphasize the transient nature of wealth and affluence and the need to do kind and lasting deeds with wealth, if one is blessed with it, because no one could predict the future.
To applause from the audience, the kidney specialist signaled his willingness to adopt as much as four of the motherless babies in Nnewi and stated the willingness of some of his colleagues to do same. He urged all present and beyond to open their hearts to adoption to help stem the tide of motherlessness. He concluded by pledging, to a rousing applause and adulation, that he and his colleagues were donating the sum of $10,000 in support of the event of the night. He also noted that there may not be further need for fund raising for the night since someone, from Nnewi, had already called him earlier and pledged to singlehandedly complete the construction of the motherless babies’ staff quarters. The money he and his colleagues donated, he said, was for the construction and commissioning of a borehole for the orphanage. Many other guests and well-wishers made donations toward the project.
Guests were later treated to a traditional dance display by the NCOWA women and later the children, led by Police Officer Ijeoma Enendu, captivated the guests with their dance steps that showcased near acrobatic displays and synchronized footworks.
By the time the event wound down, in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, the Nnewi Community of Washington DC was well on its way to meeting its goal geared towards a noble cause.
Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, Author of Surviving in Biafra - The Story of the Nigerian Civil War