Fourteen Nigerian children adopted by a Chilliwack-based charity now have a new place to call home.
The Wanted Children Foundation (TWCF) helps orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria by providing them with a safe family-centred home in which to live, attend school and grow.
Many of the 14 children have been living at their current adopted home for the past six years, said Steve Anderson of the foundation, which his daughter Courtney founded in 2005.
It was a long road to get to where they are today because for the first nine years they had to redo all of the paperwork, time and time again, in order to be able to legally house orphaned children. Every time a new government came into power, they had to start back at square one.
But in 2014, the Canadian charity was finally recognized by the Nigerian government as an international agency.
TWCF grew from there, so much so that they’ve now outgrown their current home in the village of Amaba. They recently found a new, bigger piece of land 20 minutes away in the village of Eluama.
Soon after securing the location, another big thing happened.
A well-known Nigerian businessman by the name of Emmanuel Mbaka paid for two of the four buildings at their new site – one was the girls’ dorm and the other was the trauma counselling centre called Homestead Alternative Academy.
“Emmanuel is very wealthy, very successful,” Anderson said, adding he is an engineer, owns several banks, and is the largest developer of residential properties in all of Africa.
This wasn’t the first gift Mbaka had given them, but with a price tag of $250,000 USD it was certainly the biggest.
Previously he had gifted them items like $6,000 to help pay for a pickup truck, and a live cow for food.
“He believes in altruism and he believes in service,” Anderson said.
The new TWCF complex was designed by Craven Huston Powers Architects of Chilliwack, and last spring construction started on the two buildings which Mbaka paid for.
They move quickly in Nigeria, Anderson said. They don’t wait to have the full amount of money before starting a project – as soon as any cash comes in, construction begins.
They moved so quickly, errors were made. The girls’ dorm was backwards and the doorways weren’t wide enough for wheelchairs to go through. Fortunately, Anderson caught the mistakes fairly early on.
By the end of the year both buildings were complete. The other two weren’t though (the boys’ dorm was half finished, and construction had yet to start on the security/admin office).
But that didn’t matter. Mbaka’s two projects were complete. It was time to celebrate.
On Christmas day, Mbaka flew Anderson to Nigeria to be part of the huge ceremony on Jan. 1 recognizing the completion of the girls’ dorm and Homestead Alternative Academy.
It began with a mass in the village’s Catholic church where 700 people attended. Following that they drove five minutes to the new site for the ceremony. About 400 people were there to tour the buildings and officially open them.
That was followed by a big festival in the evening where 1,500 people attended.
The ceremony was even broadcast on national TV where Anderson spoke about the foundation.
The whole thing was a huge deal, Anderson recalled. Important people were there including bishops, religious leaders, the governor, the king of the region, local chiefs, and the staff and 14 kids from TWCF.
“The place was buzzing,” he said.
People had heard great things about the foundation which, over the years, has fed countless children on a regular basis, brought clean water to various communities and provided academics to children, teachers and villagers.
Homestead Alternative Academy itself was recognized in Nigeria as the first-of-its-kind alternative education school.
It teaches people that “you need to treat the trauma before you can educate the child,” Anderson said. They are now working on raising the $60,000 USD needed to complete the boys’ dorm. Once it is finished, they will be able to adopt six more children as their capacity will grow to 20 kids.
They won’t move into their new site until July though, when the other two buildings are expected to be complete. They currently still live in the house at the smaller site which is not owned by them. But the new one is owned by TWCF, and that’s very important for the children.
“In Nigerian culture, the children need to know that they come from somewhere, that they have land somewhere that’s theirs,” Anderson said. “When these kids grow up and get married and come home, they have to have a home to come to. But we didn’t have land – now we have land. This will be home for them.”
To help The Wanted Children Foundation, you can donate online at thewantedchildrenfoundation.org, or call 604-792-9292.