Mrs. Solayinka Agboola
To break the cycle of Child Poverty and provide a foundation for sustainable development through the implementation of various programmes, the Inner City Mission of Christ Embassy, a faith-based non-governmental organisation, is assisting to communicate the divine life to the deprived, distressed and excluded children in the remote areas of the society. The organisation, which focuses on supporting the less-privileged in the society was recently adopted by SuperScreen TV as her charity of choice during which Mary Ekah spoke with its Director, Mrs. Solayinka Agboola, on the mission and goal of the organisation
What does Inner City Mission have in connection with Christ Embassy Church?
The Inner City Mission of the Christ Embassy is non-governmental organisation fully registered and fully functional but affiliated to the Christ Embassy Church. We are not a church outreach but our affiliation to Christ Embassy Church shows that it is message of Christ Embassy that we preach. Now, poverty is more than the lack of a required necessity. Poverty is a mindset and you will agree with me that you need more than just providing necessities to deal with poverty. You need to approach it from that man that is not visible. So, Inner City Mission is a faith-based organisation that deals with that aspect in man. In NGOs circle, there is a niche for faith-based NGOs because they recognise that because of our faith, there are certain things we can accomplish that other NGOs may not be able to accomplish. And here once we say it is of Christ Embassy – you know Christ Embassy, we don’t have to go through the pains of defining our message to you.
So how did the Inner City Mission come to be?
It all started in 2004 during a live television broadcast by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome when he was talking to a worldwide audience and he said “Remember, every Child is your Child” and he charged his listeners then to do something about children. I took it a bit personal along with those who were involved together to start the NGO and so we were inspired by those words to start work in 2005 with the first director being Pastor Christine Davidson Eke after which I took over from him.
And these words by Pastor Oyakhilome have become our mantra and the driving force in our bid to reach the most vulnerable segment of our society – the indigent child. When you think about it, every child is your child really, and that spoke volume and changed our outlook to things. At Inner City Mission we deliver a sustainable solution to the problem of urban and rural child poverty in the communities where we have our partners. So far, Inner City Mission has gone through different phases and stages and now we are fully registered with the government and other various bodies that coordinate and monitor the functions of an NGO. So we have been on for about seven years now.
What have been your achievements so far?
In our schools, Inner Mission Nursery and Primary School, Lagos, we have about 300 children while we have over 100 in our school in Aba. We also have over 30 in the home with a minimum awaiting list. We just wanted to expand our facilities a bit more before we take more people into the Home. Then in our outreaches, we have over 4000. Because we don’t want to wait until we can take them into a home, so we go into the inner cities- we are always scavenging in the poor communities where we engage the families and children with a vision to take the divine presence of God to the deprived, excluded and vulnerable children living in the “inner cities” of our world, to give them a hope and a future. That has formed a major platform for what we do because it is through interaction with the children and their families at that grassroots level that we find our beneficiaries. So, our beneficiaries are really people we actually discovered on our own.
Who is qualified to be a beneficiary?
In a recent study commissioned by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and conducted by the University of Bristol and the London School of Economics, child poverty was identified and measured by focusing on children’s access to the following basket of basic goods and services: Clean water, food, sanitation, health service, shelter, formal education and information. Poverty is first of transient and some people become permanently poor because nobody steeped in at the right time and when children are brought up in such poor conditions, those children will continue to live a life of poverty because what they mirror to them is what they grow up to be and so we continue to have a people living in a cycle of poverty.
This shows that poverty is more than not having something in your possession – it is that the person’s mindset is altered and he is angry at the society because he thinks somebody has what he does not have. For the moment when they only know themselves, they are not angry but by the time they grow up enough to come out of that world and suddenly they see that there is a world different from theirs, they are angry and they feel you are the one that took what should belong to them. So when we meet these people ourselves during our visits to the rural areas, without waiting for somebody to come and tell us about them, we know whose case is genuine and so we give them the required assistance.
Now the family support programme is not just about giving of food but we actually hold classes where we bring people in to teach them on cleanliness, dressing the way they want to be addressed and most time we focus on the care givers, which are the mothers because when help them, we are helping the children. So for the sake of the children we have now embraced the family. We go to school and find out children that dropped out and right form the school we track you and this is how we find the genuine cases and those that qualify for our assistance.
What has been the challenge in trying to achieve your goals?
My biggest challenge is that we want to do more but it has not been easy getting so much done because we are limited financially. If you feed 300 children every day with two meals, you know what that involves and when you do that for one month that is a lot of money. I wish I could extend it to other schools because you see a lot of children that trek to school, some didn’t eat the night before and you tell them to learn.
How would they learn? You have only raised them in poverty – perpetuating it. So you ate talking to the average schoolgirl and she cannot speak good English, how would they compete with their peers? So they are already excluded. We go schools where children sit on the sandy floors and you think these children will every dream of being governors? We can go into these schools and help. So my main challenge is the lack of resources to do more we need sponsors to assist us to do more.
What would you tell those who are in a position to help?
Every child is your child. Don’t ignore the children. Take it personal and become responsible for the future because the future we are going into is not only for that child you are taking care of at home.