Takes a community to build a community

Chilliwack's Courtney Anderson, who founded The Wanted Children Foundation, plans to build an entire community within a Nigerian village

Courtney Anderson and Ifeanyi

Courtney Anderson and Ifeanyi

A locally founded charity that helps vulnerable children in Nigeria is taking its next step.

And it’s a big one.

Courtney Anderson, who founded The Wanted Children Foundation in 2006 when she was just 23 years old, moved to Nigeria on July 3 of this year with huge plans to build an entire community within the southeastern village of Amaba.

The Wanted Children Foundation feeds and clothes vulnerable children, cares for widows, and provides educational opportunities. The foundation currently owns a 10-bedroom, two-storey house that was given to them by a doctor who now lives in Nashville.

In order for her to take that next step and build a community, it will take a lot of time, space, and money.

For the past seven weeks, Anderson has been in Nigeria with her parents, Steve and Catherine, with three things on their plate.

First, they are completing the paperwork to obtain non-governmental organization status in Nigeria, a key to the foundation’s future success.

“By having NGO status in Nigeria, that means we are following the government’s rules,” Courtney says, making it easier to do the work they want to do there.

Secondly, they want to open up the home that was donated to them, for six children to come and live in permanently. To run and maintain the home, with the staff plus six kids, is about $5,000 a month. Currently, the house acts as a place for children and widows to come daily for food, clothing and school fees.

Finally, Anderson’s big dream is to build a walled community with several houses, a playground, gardens, a meeting hall, cafeteria, offices, medical clinic, and a school.

“We want it to be self sustaining. The [orphaned] children would be raised in the [donated] home and schooled so that when they come out, they can work with our program or within the community,” she adds.

The Andersons are currently looking at five parcels of land, all of which have been selected and donated by the local tribal council for projects like The Wanted Children Foundation’s. The tribal council will ultimately decide who gets which parcel of land.

Once they’ve been given a section of land, the Andersons will have to wall the boundaries with concrete blocks to claim it, otherwise squatters would move in.

Courtney Anderson has been travelling back and forth from Canada to Nigeria for the past seven years. During that time, there were a number of issues and struggles that she and the foundation experienced which put a pause on their most recent plans.

“Nigeria is a dangerous and difficult country. It became apparent to us that it was too dangerous and difficult and challenging to work there [at one point] which is why it has taken us so long to do the work that we want to do,” says Courtney.

“It takes, we figure, about six months for someone to go to Nigeria with all the proper paperwork,” she says.

But, “just because it’s hard to go in there, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be helped,” she adds.

Geographically, Nigeria is about the same size as B.C. With a population of 170 million, there are approximately 17.3 million orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria. The life expectancy is about 47 years of age, and one in 10 children die during childbirth.

The main causes of death are malaria, and drinking contaminated water.

Because Nigeria has no surface water that can be purified, clean water can only be found by going into the ground, which is why, two years ago, the foundation raised money to purchase a water rig.

“The rig is here in Chilliwack being refurbished, and the hope is some time this fall for it to be shipped to Nigeria,” says Courtney.

Once the water rig arrives in Nigeria, “we will put a well on our current site, and then one on our project site. We can eventually charge wealthy Nigerians, politicians and military for their wells, and that money would then go directly towards new wells for other villages that can’t afford them,” says Anderson.

All of the money to pay for The Wanted Children Foundation’s projects and day-to-day running costs has come from private donations from the people of Chilliwack. Chilliwackians have also donated items for the children to sell and make money from, such as tea and hand-knitted toques. But they constantly need more money.

“We can’t take in kids unless we have money to back us up. We need the money to speak a bit louder. In the end, it’s saving a life,” says Steve Anderson.

The Andersons are asking for private and corporate donations to help them reach their goal of building a community in Nigeria. Local architecture firm, Craven Huston Powers, is working on designing the project site pro bono.

To donate, go to www.thewantedchildren.com.

The Wanted Children Foundation is a registered charity, and charitable receipts are issued to those who donate.