John Shiklam writes on the recent conferment of a traditional title on an 18-year-old British student, Seth Thomas, who raised about £50,000 and built a health center for the Asso Community in the Southern part of Kaduna State, thus bringing some sort of succor to a people battling with inccessant herdsmen attack
Asso Village (one of the communities in Southern Kaduna), Kagoma Chiefdom in Jama’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, is no stranger to herdsmen attack. In fact, they have been countlessly weighed down by the burden of the incessant attacks. So any good news for them is a plus that must be celebrated.
Thus, on a certain Friday, it was a rich display of culture as the community trooped out garbed in their cultural wears and danced to the tunes of traditional music as various cultural dances thrilled guests alike. In fact, the entire village was agog with celebration.
For the community, comprising men and women, youths and school children, it was a joyous occasion worth celebrating. The occasion was the commissioning of a health centre built for the community by 18-year-old British school boy, Seth Thomas, from the United Kingdom.
To show how much they appreciate the gesture by the teenager, community leaders, prominent sons and daughters of the community, as well as government officials graced the occasion.
“Our happiness knows no bounds”, Jacob Polde, secretary of Asso District, said excitedly. “As you can you see all sons and daughters of this community are here for the commissioning of this hospital. We are so happy because it will address the challenges our community is facing when it comes to health issues” he said.
Although a government Primary Health Centre is located in the community, Polde said the government health centre lacks adequate facilities and cannot handle serious cases, adding that sometimes those managing it are nowhere to be found, especially during emergencies.
“Most times if somebody is sick we have to carry the person to Kafanchan General Hospital or Jagindi or Kwoi and before we get to these places, the person would have died. So with this newly constructed hospital by this boy from the UK, our problem is solved” he said.
The Kagoma Chiefdom headed by the paramount ruler, the Kpop, Col. Paul Zakka Wyom (rtd), conferred a traditional title of “Byeh Gwong” (Helper of Kagoma), on Thomas in appreciation for contributing to the wellbeing of the village.
The facility which costs about £50,000 (about N22 million)
has a maternity room, two admission rooms, theatre, pharmacy, laboratory, a consulting room and two toilets.
A two bedroom apartment and a mini guest house were also constructed for health workers who will manage the facility.
Since the centre was handed over to the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) to manage, the General Secretary of ECWA, Rev. Inusa Madu, commended Seth for raising such a huge amount to build.
Madu who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)-Nigeria further commended the community for their support and cooperation in the execution of the project. He said after Seth visited the village, which suffered several attacks by gunmen, he saw the need for building the health centre and raised such an enormous amount for the project.
“He has opened a new vista for the work of CSW. The CEO of CSW-UK has always resisted getting into aid work, saying that we must focus on advocacy alone. I have had serious arguments with him (on this issue) some years back, but as God will have it, his own son has ventured into the business of aid.
“Having seen the overwhelming crowd here for the commissioning of the hospital, I am sure Mr. Thomas Marvin will agree with me that, with persecuted community, advocacy is not enough. It must be advocacy plus aid”, Madu said.
The story of the construction of the health centre dates back to 2017, when Seth, then 17, and his father Marvin Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Christian Solidarity World Wide – United Kingdom (CSW- UK), a faith based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), in the UK visited the community in the heat of persistent attacks on southern Kaduna communities by herdsmen.
About 14 people were said to have been killed during one of the attacks on Asso village in April 2017. Upon the visit to the village, Seth was touched by the pathetic condition of a boy in the community, Jude Bartholomew, whose leg
was deteriorating as a result of the bullet in the leg and who could not afford medical treatment.
Speaking at the event, Seth said he was inspired to initiate the project by the terrible condition of Bartholomew, who he met during the visit. He said he was touched that Bartholomew leg was badly infected by the bullet wound because he couldn’t afford proper medication.
“As I left you that day and drove out of the village, I couldn’t get out of my mind the image of poor Bartholomew with his badly infected leg, due to the bullet lodged in it. I asked our host, Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, why Bartholomew couldn’t have had proper medical attention.
“He told me that it was because the nearest hospital was many miles away. At that very moment I determined in my heart that with God’s help I would raise the money to build you your own hospital here in Asso” he said.
Narrating how he raised £50,000 for the project, Seth said: “When I got back to my school, the first thing I did was to persuade them to
fundraise for the Asso clinic/hospital, and over the next six months, my school friends raised £15,000.
“My headmaster let me speak at a special service celebrating my school’s 150th anniversary, and the offering that day was over £2,500. But I was still a very long way from the target of £50,000 which I needed to build this hospital. Some people even told me that it was impossible, and that I should give up. But I couldn’t get the image of you, my brothers and sisters out of my mind.
“Then God gave me the verse from Luke 18:27 – ‘What is impossible for people is possible with God’. From that moment I had no doubt at all that God would provide. I wrote to many people telling them about your situation, and got many gifts, some large and some small.
“Then one day the breakthrough came when I emailed one of my Dad’s friends, who was the head of an organisation in Canada called Voice of the Martyrs. Within 30 minutes of sending that message, I had a reply, and it said said ‘whatever you raise, we will match, up to a total of £25,000’! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
In his remarks, Seth’s father, Marvin Thomas, said he never took his son seriously when he said we would build a hospital for the community.
“We have come from London, just for the commissioning ceremony of this centre. Like my son said when we came here over a year ago, you inspired me when I came and heard the stories of people who suffered persecution” he said.
He said though he could not do anything for the community, he has been able to tell the story of the Asso people to the world.
“I remember telling you that what I could promise you is that I will tell your story in the corridors of power around the world. I have kept that promised. I can tell you that I have told the story of Asso village on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
“I have told your story in Brussels in the European Union (EU). I have told your story in the British Parliament, I have told your story at the United Nations (UN). They all know Asso.
Just before Christmas, I told the foreign secretary of Great Britain about the situation here in Asso, so I have kept my promise to be a voice. And Proverbs 31, says speak out for those who are unable to speak for themselves.
“As we drove to the village Seth said to our host, Rev. Yunusa, why can’t we have a hospital here and Yunusa said because we need a lot of money.
“Seth asked him how much and Yunusa said about 50,000 British pounds. He said to Seth if you could raise that money, my denomination (ECWA) will take up the hospital and run it. Seth immediately said okay, I will raise the money. I said you got no idea how much it is! You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep…
“My prayers is that this facility will be an amazing help to you…As Christians, wherever we are in the world, we are family” Thomas said.
Expressing gratitude to Seth and his father, President of ECWA, Rev. Stephen Panya Baba, noted that one of the problems in Africa, is lack of maintenance culture. He urged the community to support and work with ECWA Community Health to ensure that the facility remains in good condition.
“We are extremely grateful for the building of the hospital. I call on this community to give careful attention to the management of this facility.
We have a very big problem in Africa, and that is poor maintenance culture.
I pray that you will manage this facility efficiently and maintained it to serve you well” the clergy man said.
Speaking on behalf of the community, the paramount ruler, the Kpop Gong, Col. Paul Zakka Wyom (rtd), said the people will forever remember Seth and his father for their love and magnanimity.
Recalling his encounter with the Thomases, the traditional ruler said on October 2017, he was invited to Abuja for a meeting of the CSW where he spoke on the attacks in Southern Kaduna.
He said in the course of the discussions at the meeting, he spoke about the massacre in Asso village.
Wyom said it never crossed his mind that after the Abuja meeting, a miracle was on the way.
“My comments at the meeting inspired the Thomases who were in attendance and they made up their minds to come to Asso and see things for themselves. We thank God and we thank Seth and his father. We lack words to show our appreciation” the traditional ruler said.
He called on the community to ensure proper maintenance of the facility so that it will serve them well.
He said: “When somebody come to help you to repair your house, you will be foolish if you allow dirts to accumulate in the house. You must realise that resources, time and energy were sacrificed by people to put these structures in place.
“In this country, we take a lot of things for granted. We are gradually getting to a point where we need to seat up and help communities that are less privileged. Must we continue to wait for somebody from the UK to come and help us? We must begin to look inward to help our communities.
He challenged wealthy people to emulate Seth, saying that rich Nigerians should help in providing basic amenities to rural communities in order to improve their living condition.”