The Wanted Children Foundation is no longer the baby faced organization it used to be.
And neither is its founder.
Eight years ago, when Courtney Anderson first rolled out her dreams for changing the lives of orphaned Nigerians, she was wide-eyed and admittedly naive.
Her foundation has endured years of stumbling blocks, empty promises, people with ulterior motives and swindlers.
Anderson had had enough.
After a family visit in Chilliwack last spring, she went back to Nigeria with a plan: Things get done her way or she, and her organization, walk away.
“I was tired of hearing encouragements, and nothing happening,” said Anderson, 31, who’s currently back in Chilliwack. “We really went back to give it one last shot. If it didn’t start going the way we intended all along, we were ready to step away.
“I had to become much more diplomatic in a fierce way.”
The Wanted Children Foundation was officially registered in Nigeria last July, which means it can now legally house orphaned children. By September, it was reviewing child files, and shortly after taking over guardianship of local children.
It currently has nine children in its care, with several others in the wing.
“What we’re doing now has always been the goal,” said Anderson. “Rescuing and caring for orphaned and vulnerable children.”
The Wanted Children Foundation was established in 2006 after Anderson saw the need first hand on a mission’s trip to the country. Children in the streets, no home, no parents, no food, many without even clothes on their back.
The goal from day one was to provide a safe and nurturing environment for orphaned Nigerians to learn and grow and be given opportunity for a future.
The foundation is not an orphanage.
The children in Anderson’s care are not being poised for adoption. Quite the opposite. They are being brought up in a home full of love, compassion, education, and equality with the intent of them spreading that beyond the foundation’s walls.
“We are raising these children in their country to become the next leaders of their country,” said Anderson. “We are working with little kids, working from the bottom up, in the hope they will make a difference down the road … that they will help change their country and not succumb to how the country is now.”
Anderson recognizes it won’t be easy.
In the last year, her role has evolved from founder and employer to mom, teacher, and counsellor multiple times over.
The children coming into her care range from one to 10 years old; many coming from horrific living conditions.
None of them have seen toilets or bathtubs. They have no social skills. They can’t even eat properly.
“They eat so fast and end up puking because they think the food will be taken from them,” said Anderson.
“These kids have been living in survival mode for so long … when they first come to us, they don’t smile, they don’t laugh, their eyes are dark, they have no emotion, they’re internally dead.”
But within months, they’re laughing, and playing, and running into Anderson’s arms for regular snuggles.
“Children are so resilient, no matter the horrible things that have happened to them, and we really tap into that,” said Anderson.
Now is not the time to slow down.
When Anderson returns to Nigeria next month, she is going to be actively seeking another house and more land to enable the foundation to care for even more children. She also intends to have a drilling rig set up by Christmas to produce much-needed clean water.
Her efforts are not going unnoticed.
Anderson has been approached by high ranking officials in other Nigerian cities, as well as India and nearby African countries, asking her to set up homes in their areas.
She couldn’t have done it, she said, without Chilliwack’s continued support.
Anderson will be speaking at Chilliwack secondary on April 29, a special presentation hosted by the school’s African Relief Club. The free presentation starts at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Hall and is open to the public.
For more information on The Wanted Children Foundation visit the website www.thewantedchildren.com.