Idoko with the kids of Little Saints Orphanage

Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that for 14 long years, Bethia Idoko, a model-cum-philanthropist, has kept her love affair with the orphans of Little Saints Orphanage burning

Driving into Ayinla Street at the Akowonjo area of Lagos, cheers and giggles rang out into the brightness of the day, welcoming guests to the Little Saints Orphanage. Contrary to the perception of a gloomy atmosphere that orphanages are supposed to wear, this one was quite the opposite.

Tucked somewhere in the Egbeda suburb of Lagos, the home where orphans are being taken care of by caregivers under the able leadership of Mrs. Dele George, was established since June 4, 1994. At the home, they take care of orphaned, abused and abandoned children and it is one of the first licensed private orphanages in Nigeria.

The home was filled with laughter on Saturday, February 17, 2018. The occasion was none other than the annual love affair with about 200 kids as organised by Bethia Idoko.

The love affair

For 14 consecutive years, Idoko, a renowned international model and public relations officer for the popular GidiTraffic, a real estate mogul, keeps championing the cause of the Little Saints Orphanage through her annual get together at the home.

This year was no different as she brought her bags of fun along for the kids. From water guns to bouncing castles, entertainment by clowns, dances and performances from artistes like King Josh and Sly.

Best known for her warm and bubbly personality, Idoko’s laugh rang out as she was chased around the orphanage by the kids with their water guns drenching her with water. The cheers, the laughs, the infectious joy from the kids made it all worth it for her at the end of the day.

Although the home has four branches; at Palm Groove, Ojodu and Abule Egba for the boys hostel, girls hostel and physically challenged kids respectively, each year, all the kids in the different homes are brought for the party.

With support from her mum, Mrs. Idoko, who said the opening prayers; her siblings, Josh, Kaptain and Lord Sky and friends, as well as Dominoes Pizza (who donated packs of pizza) and Guaranty Trust Bank, this year’s get together happened without hitches.

Call her a public relations expert, a real estate mogul and an international model and you won’t be wrong on all three counts, but perhaps what really makes Bethia Idoko tick is her passion and empathy for the less-privileged ones and orphans, whom she constantly touches either with her annual get together or with Slum to School (S2S), a social advocacy group championing the overall development of less-privileged school children first in Makoko, Lagos community and beyond.

In the beginning

For Bethia Idoko, her interaction with the home all started as a one off thing sometime in 2005. It was supposed to be a small gathering to herald her birthday but the result was stunning even for her.

According to her, when she stepped foot into the home, she went as a giver but by the time the party was over, all she felt was gratitude for the opportunity to give, adding that she also received love in leaps and bounds.

For her that was it. The joy on the faces of the children sealed it for her. She was sold for life and for 14 long years, she kept coming back and even in her absence kept tabs on the kids.

Although at that point she was not sure how the money would come for another edition, one thing was certain in her heart, she was going back to that home.

And for 14 consecutive years, she bore the burden of raising money for the party, which includes catering for their food, drinks, bringing in clowns as well as preparing rich party bags for the children. All these she did obscurely without seeking media attention.

A chance meeting with her in 2013 at the Future Awards Africa awards in Port Harcourt, of which this THISDAY reporter was a nominee changed all that. After bonding over lunch and another chance meeting at S2S, THISDAY was invited for that edition merely to support and help create fun for the kids.

The words of praise lavished on Idoko by both the caregivers and the children of the home necessitated a report in THISDAY that year, the first ever report showcasing her efforts.

With each year though the publicity began to grow so much so, that friends began to ask for what to contribute to the shindig. And so mightily grew the annual event held every February, to celebrate the love month. This year, her annual event clocked 14 years with much fanfare.

Inspiring Teenage Orphans

Although Idoko is first and foremost a model, she is also a business enthusiast. The graduate of English Language, would like to be described as an advent lover of charity.

Despite the fact that her modelling career has taken her to over 30 countries across all continents, she still finds out time to keep to the promise she made to herself 14 years ago to make the gathering an annual event. For 14 years she had watched them grow and she practically regards them as family now.

One of the kids who spoke on anonymity described Idoko as an inspiration to other young teenage females in the home, adding that this has spurred her to vow to make other people’s dreams come through when she succeeds in life.

Asked to describe the celebrant, one of the children succinctly said thus, “Bethia Idoko has a heart of gold. For 14years, her annual visit has become a focal point for us. It’s one of the highlights of our year in the home.

“Don’t get me wrong, people come here to support us but Aunty Bethia’s different. At each of her get-together, she organises the most awesome show ever with plenty to eat and drink.

“Whatever happens, we are most secured in the knowledge that she would always turn up for us each year. And she is never alone, she always turns up with her family and they play with us despite the age gap.”

Passion for the less-privileged

In one of the past interviews with THISDAY, Idoko had opined that she doesn’t need to have a non-governmental organisation or foundation to touch lives, an opinion she still believes in as she has continually done her part to better the society without floating any organisation or umbrella body.

Giving her reasons she said everyone must not set up an NGO, rather, they can contribute to take care of those already in homes, stressing that it is important to encourage those in the field, both financially and physically, since taking care of such children are usually tasking.

“We don’t all have to start our own foundations and orphanages and still impact lives by supporting those that have the courage to start. I encourage other members of the society to do likewise to the children and be a blessing to them, put a smile on their faces. Let them be expectant and let them know that society cares for them.”

On her passion for the less-privileged and orphans, she said she targets the Valentine period because it symbolises love. She said, ” I mean, they are orphans and those of us thankfully or luckily that are not orphans have people to show us love all over, but for these young kids here, they basically don’t have as much love as they should because they didn’t grow up with physical mother-father -family kind of life.

“So, every year I gather family and friends to the Little Saints Orphanage, Akowonjo, because it makes them very happy and it leaves me satisfied. It is such a blessing to give to these kids. I see them beyond their immediate environment. In them I see the future.

“I just really love to help in any way that is possible for me and this is a very easy avenue and I just think it’s a worthy course because if people like me and you don’t come out to do this thing for the kids, nobody will. When I see such less-privileged and orphaned children, one thing I can certainly say is that the future lies with them that won’t be actualised if enough attention is not being paid to them.”

Calling on other public-spirited members of the public she said all they need do to harness the immense potential inherent in these kids and help to nurture them, is to contribute to the homes.

She said, “When I see such kids, I see huge potential that are not being tapped and it spurs me to do better. Everybody can do this because this is one of the best things ever.

“The feeling is just second to none. After each occasion, it’s a guarantee; I would sleep very well that night because of the absolute satisfaction that you indeed ministered to their needs. However, I have been successful with my passion because my family believes in my vision and they push me more.”

For many of her friends who graced the occasion, they testified that she has always been passionate about making an impact in the lives of children who are not so privileged. In the end, the elated kids and their minders said words of passionate prayers for her.

Thus, when the curtain drew close on the Valentine party at about 7.30p.m., it was happy and satisfied children of the home that bid the guests farewell as they retired. Whilst many will think the kids are blessed to have been hosted, Bethia would like to think otherwise. According to her, it’s more of a blessing to the giver to give than the receiver.