Biodun Bamgboye is the founder and lead facilitator at the Satus Dignus Child Rescue Initiative (SDCRI); a nongovernmental organisation operating a home in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital. The home since 2017 has seen the reformation and reintegration of erstwhile street children some of who are back to their original families and some who have grown to be responsible adults. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, Bamgboye who runs the home from her Belgium base narrated the challenges and the support SDCRI has attracted from family and friends. She also narrated how her boys have become chess champions representing Oyo State on the national stage severally. Excerpts:
Three years of Satus Dignus, can you recap these 36 months?
It has been a learning and growing experience.
Can you describe the acceptance so far by the government, the police and identified parents?
The acceptance has been improving. We have a better working relationship with the police, the civil defence corps, the ministry of women affairs, and the community at large. In the past, we had a tough time getting things done with these government bodies, but we are now able to make a head way.
It must have been three years of groundbreaking, challenges and sometimes uncertainties may be. What gives you the hope to move on?
It certainly has. Our greatest motivation is to see the transformation in the lives of the children who stay in the center. This gives us the hope to move on.
What’s your family’s response to this seemingly ‘thankless’ project?
They have gotten used to it now. Those who can support do so as often as they can. My siblings support, my children also have given their games, clothing etc for the project.
How do you finance the project?
I have amazing friends on Facebook and family members. More than 50% of expenses are financed by gifts and donations of family and friends – especially my Facebook friends who have become like a family to me. The rest has been financed by personal funds.
There are more children out of school in Nigeria when we compare to previous years. How do you advise the Federal Government on the implications?
The out-of-school situation is in itself not an issue if the children can be placed in vocational study centers so that they can learn a skill or two.
The issue is that there are no particular agencies that monitor school attendance, not to talk of monitoring children enough to the level of placing them in vocational centres when they drop out of school.
Those that end up on the streets are the biggest issues because they become targets for violence, ritual killings, used as thugs, drug couriers and other dangers.
We, as an organisation would be willing to partner with government in running temporary shelters to start taking these children off the streets.
How do you motivate and relate with your workers? Any challenge from their end?
We have weekly meetings and daily communication on our internal WhatsApp groups, so I am kept informed about activities.
Our staff turnover in the past three years is really high. We have had an issue with finding the right kind of staff to work with us in the past. We have also had child abuse issues from a few staff who we had to hand over to the police.
We now have just two full time staff and we have resolved to working with youth corp members. We got our first batch of corp members last year and they have been amazing. The motivation among the staff is really high. I am impressed with what they are able to achieve with very little. The project Manager is doing a good job keeping morale high.
How do you assess the children in terms of their progress at learning, character etc?
The progress of the children differs from child to child. Some have made rapid progress and some are slower. We have to recognise that the background of each child affects their growth greatly. However, the willingness to grow and learn is shared among the children.
Let us talk about life after Satus Dignus for these children. What is on your mind after they might have outgrown this formative stage into adulthood?
We already have three children who have officially left our care. The first one learnt a skill, and we equipped him with work instruments and materials. He is now working and lives on his own.
The second and third children were released to their families. One of them was because he became unmanageable for the caregivers in the center and had grown older than our mandate. The second one was at his own request. We were glad because it means that our efforts to reconcile the children to their families were successful. We monitor those children for six months to one year after they have left the center.
I remember they have access to freedom of worship. Any contribution, positive impact from the churches they attend?
Yes, the church that we work with has been most helpful. They pick up the children for Sunday service and bring them back to the center. They also have contributed food items to the center many times.
During the Muslim fasts, we have had support from Muslim friends who donate so we can get the children whatever they need to facilitate their fasting.
We also have other NGOs which have supported us in different ways; Helping Hands Initiative, Pyramid of Hearts, Girls Grow International, among others.
Tell us about their exploits at the chess championships over the years; how they learnt fast, how they fared at competitions.
Chess has been a part of the programme from the beginning thanks to having a caregiver, now the program Manager, who is a chess coach. The children learnt really fast and after just six months in the center, they qualified to represent Oyo State U16 team at the National Chess Championship. They have done this every year for the last three years. The crowning glory was last year. The four member male team had three of our boys in it and they won the silver medal for Oyo State.