The first time Dr. Tony Rapu and his Freedom Foundation team intimated the press on their rehabilitation project was last year at a private screening in FilmHouse IMAX Cinema, Lekki, Lagos. The selected media personalities caught a glimpse of the docu-series which chronicles a 12-year journey by the team to highlight the myriad struggles of residents of Lagos’ poorest communities. Titled “My Lagos Diaries’, the audience saw the heart-breaking lifestyles of drug addicts and prostitutes who are forced into this kind of lifestyle by peer pressure, indiscipline, financial struggles and depression. There is no age limit as both the young and old are caught up in this world of crime and drug abuse. What the Freedom Foundation however does is to bring hope to victims of such harsh situations by providing medical, financial, and emotional support. At times, there is a happy ending for these vagrants, other times, it’s a tragedy. Each episode is always an emotional roller-coaster, as every step towards recovery is a painstaking one. It stirs up raw feelings that question our roles in our society: what are we doing to help the helpless in the society? What measures are taken to ensure lives are not lost on the streets of Lagos?
That same gamut of emotions was replicated at a recent screening of ‘My Lagos Diaries’. This time the focus was on Fatima, a young lady whose parents’ rejection of her spouse led her to the streets. She eventually ended up in a den of drug addicts in Ipodo area of Ikeja, Lagos. Fatima was introduced to all manner of hard substances which she injected into her body with pride. When there is no more money to buy more drugs, her body comes to the rescue. Though years of recklessly consuming drugs have aged her drastically, with make-up and some revealing clothes, she still appeared eye-candy to some. Any money obtained was channeled into purchasing of drugs to keep her high.
By the time the Freedom Foundation found her, Fatima was willing to go into rehabilitation. Her escape from the hellhole was planned at night. Carrying a small bag with the little belonging she had, Fatima left with the team with words of determination to turn into a new leaf. Checked into a hospital, Fatima had to go through the process of detoxification which was followed by the horrendous trauma of withdrawal syndrome. Nevertheless, her determination held her through and within weeks, she was out of the hospital and sent to Genesis house, an empowering home for women. There, she learnt to interact with others, improve her communication skills, leant and honed her hidden talents, even rose to the position of Assistant Matron of the organisation. Her transformation was so astonishing that gasps of surprise escaped the lips of the viewers. The skinny and haggard looking woman was no more, rather a very beautiful and plump woman stared at the audience from the gigantic screens.
However, the moment of euphoria was short-lived as Fatima experienced a relapse. She went back to her pld lifestyle and her condition deteriorated badly. It was very heartbreaking to see her looking paler and thinner. Dr. Tony Rapu and his team were able to track her down and again, she displayed astounding tenacity to give up drugs completely, cursing profusely at the devil who wants to ruin her destiny. The process of rehabilitation was repeated and Fatima bounced back to her feet. Again, she suffered a relapse. At this juncture, members of the audience were already frutrsrated at her weakness to succumb to drugs easily. Yet again, Freedom Foundation came to the rescue. This time, Fatima was victorious.
More similar stories like Fatima’s make up the 13-episode documentary series, which began airing on Nigerian TV yesterday on these channels: TVC, EbonyLife, AIT and Silverbird TV. It will tell some of the real stories of rehabilitated prostitutes, armed robbers, drug addicts, beggars and other neglected individuals in the society.
My Lagos Diaries’ ultimate goal is to sensitize the general public about the struggles of these underprivileged persons while providing an opportunity for interested individuals and organizations to support Freedom Foundation’s vision via donations and funding.
Recent findings by the non-profit organisation showed that one out of five youths is a victim of drug abuse.
The pastor and social reformer emphasised on the need for individuals and organisations to come to the aid of these individuals who are plagued by social and economic challenges.
“It is easy to take for granted the privileges we enjoy often forgetting that the difference between us and many of these poor people is just the exposure to education and opportunities we have been blessed with. That’s why it becomes a responsibility for those of us who have these privileges to create lasting opportunities for others, however small.”