Where Are The Angels of Hope?

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

Around 2007, alongside my wife, we organized an event dubbed “Angel of Hope Christmas Children Concert”…where the privileged from all strata of life could attend with their children (or young siblings). We encouraged each child to bring a gift of his or her own choice… to give willingly and happily to someone less fortunate. We basically invited hundreds of children from orphanages, charity homes and special schools to perform and participate at the concert. 

The overarching thrust was to teach our children, at their tender ages, that God loves and blesses a cheerful giver – and that His commandment cuts across all faiths: Love your neighbours, irrespective of their circumstances.

  Usually, proceeds from fund-raising efforts, and other gifts, were given directly (100%) to the beneficiaries (and homes).  We simply acted as facilitators; the conveyors ‘driving’ willing and able traffic to the doorsteps of the needy.           Yet there are innumerably more of such needy people around us (the World Bank in conjunction with United Nations Children’s Fund released a report in September 2023, called ‘Global Trends in Child Monetary Poverty According to International Poverty Lines’). It stated that “40 million children in Nigeria (37.9 per cent) (were) living in extremely poor households”. Our children are still suffering in silence, and threatened by our indifference. 

 Consequently, we have tried to help a number of Nigerian children get medical treatment by urging kindhearted Nigerians to form a safety net in cushioning the choke of pediatric ailments amid suffocating impoverishment.

Fast forward to 2017, the peculiar case of a barely five year old boy, David Adewale Oni was brought to our attention.  Over seven years ago (March 2017), we shared with fellow Nigerians the eye-watering story and plight of the Abiodun Oni’s family. The story of little David Adewale Oni is simple, almost common. But the anguish, fears and helplessness of his parents are far from simple, and certainly uncommon.

  David was five years old on 8 June, 2017. But since he was 37 days old, the joy of the first-time parents (Oluwatosin and Abiodun) turned to sawdust when he was diagnosed with a “hole in the heart” condition. Unfortunately,  David’s dad, Abiodun, is a tricycle operator (Keke NAPEP). And the mother, Tosin, was a petty trader!

  And for over four years, it was a massive struggle keeping the boy alive with expensive drugs and tests, seeking funds for a corrective surgery in India (for millions of naira) in our harsh economic climate! One could hardly imagine how hapless the parents were.

  We were informed that a Nigerian specialist hospital, Tristate Cardiovascular Associates (affiliated to Babcock University, Eruwon) had offered to conduct the surgery and other logistics with at least ₦3m (instead of ₦5-₦7m needed for the Indian option).

  Well, miracles still happen on this side of the world. It was with great cheer we announced on 12 April, 2017 that we had raised ₦1.165 million in a dedicated UBA account. Of course, the parents were ecstatic and thankful – they could only raise about ₦90,000 in the four years they had been carrying their cross with the support of organisations and people they could access. 

  Five months later (mid August of 2017), their only child, accompanied by his mother, was on his way to Bangalore, India for the corrective surgery. Interestingly, we were able to raise only ₦1,379,000. It was by the inscrutable will of God that brought us in contact with the Down Syndrome Federation Nigeria, DSFN, founded by Mrs. Roseline Mordi. Our partnership with DSFN was a tremendous masterstroke as it enabled us to take advantage of their network of support mainframe to cover the huge cash balance needed; the several pre-surgery tests and other logistics, including travel expenses – before the trip to Bangalore was possible. We gave kudos to the DSFN’s founder, Mrs. Mordi; the then Administrator, Mr. Muyiwa Majekodunmi; Mrs. Feyikemi  Niyi-Olayinka of Owurọ Lawa (a popular Yoruba programme on LTV); and Femi ‘Kwame’ Aderibigbe of Sound City. We didn’t forget the pioneering efforts of the men and women of the ‘Voice of Change’ and ‘Project Help A Child’ who started the drive for the bedraggled family (raising ₦88,000).

 Then, we had a small stumble when David’s condition relapsed somewhat shortly after he returned cheerfully from India late on Thursday, August 17, with his mother. And all looked well. A few days later, he was taken to Ikeja General Hospital, Lagos (now Lagos State University Teaching Hospital) when the parents observed he had a slight but sustained temperature.

He was however admitted with doctors apparently worried about post-surgery infections! He spent a few days at the hospital, with attendant costs of medicare and expensive drugs. Along with DSFN, we once again rallied for more funds to meet with the new challenge. By 13 September, 2017, David had fully recovered, and was able to go back to school healthier than ever. 

  All of that is to say this: Today, David Oni is a strapping 12 year old (next month), and now needs a follow-up constructive surgery. Simply put, what was done seven years ago has now suffered the natural abrasion otherwise known as wear and tear: the hole in his heart has reopened! However, like his biblical namesake, David appears as one with a great future whose pathways are dotted by formidable challenges. His doting mother, Oluwatosin passed away almost two years ago of an indeterminate ailment! And the fortune of his father has not changed positively.

  In the intervening years, the management of DSFN has been bearing the costs of regular ultra-sensitive tests and medications. But the funds and other expenses to correct the heart defect are now astronomical, and virtually impossible for the incredibly motivated private organisation to deal with alone. We are however excited to note that the surgery can now be effectively done in Nigeria, but the cost for both surgery and post surgery care is about ₦15m!

  With the unrelenting support and proactive activation of Mrs. Mordi, the DSFN, through its “Save-A-Life Initiative”, has secured, after considerable medical assessment, a comprehensive “Cost Estimate Sheet” from the Lekki, Lagos based Evercare Hospital Lekki Limited. The challenge is to raise ₦15m in under two months so as to save David (12) from a perforated heart threatening to stop working at any moment. 

Just as we did seven years ago; our cry returns: We appeal on behalf of David Oni and his father… Please, join us to form a strong cord of palpable support that will bring succour, hope and love in saving this boy’s life. Be an Angel of Hope NOW!

  You can send your donation to the following account: Bank: First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) –  Account No.: 3102783147

Account Name: Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.

  As usual, details of the funding and surgery processes will be updated regularly on our social media platforms. God bless you exponentially as you do your part gracefully. It shall be well.

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