By Enuma Chigbo
“My name is Abigail and I play the violin. I have no one to look after me so I roam the streets of Cross River, Perhaps someone out there will help me. If they don’t, my destiny will be cut short, my talents wasted and I may never get to play the violin.”
But for the intervention of Obioma, Liyel -Imoke, Wife of the Cross River State Governor, this would have been Abigail’s fate as well as over 100 children, who roamed the streets of Cross River without a future.
October 11 2009, marked a transition – an exodus of at least 54 despondent street children, in Calabar, the State’s capital, to a much more comfortable environment where they would finally fulfill purpose. Their name was changed from Street Children to Destiny Children.
But it did not stop there. That same year, a fashion show was realized, again by Obioma, whose name incidentally means, “Heart of Gold.”
The fashion show, tagged The Destiny Child Charity (DCC) Fashion show, which combines the best of music, culture, talent and fashion serves as a fundraiser for the upkeep of the Destiny Children. Here the children of destiny get to parade alongside professional models and artistes. It is against this backdrop that the Destiny Child initiative was taken all the way to Atlanta, where the Wife of the Governor was the special guest of honour.”
“We key into this vision,” says Geoffrey Teneilabe, Nigeria’s Consul General to Atlanta. “What Obioma Liyel-Imoke is doing is innovative; she’s taking the rejected and downtrodden in our society and giving them life again. This is the first of its kind in Nigeria. We will encourage her every step of the way, and the Good Lord will give her the strength. We also pray for the means to sustain this laudable project.”
The Consul-General also went on to commend the Liyel Imoke led administration, which he describes as having attained great heights with very little resources.
“Our special guest has tirelessly served women and children in her community over the years. She is ably represented here this evening hoping to mobilize others
to rise to the challenge of helping in our individual communities and communities worldwide,” said Norma Jean Martin, Founder, A Fashion Affair inc, organizers of this landmark event.
The Wife of the Governor, represented by the State’s Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development, Patricia Endeley, in her presentation, gave insights into the child abandonment situation in Cross River State and in Nigeria as a whole, calling on all concerned to work together in order for it to be a thing of the past.
“Child abuse is not only on the rise but gradually assuming epidemic proportions. It has also been described by experts in the field as a hidden epidemic because most cases are largely unaccounted for.”[eap_ad_2]
“In Cross River state, two peculiar dimensions that are linked with a high incidence of child abuse are unwanted adolescent/teenage pregnancies and the child-witch phenomenon (a.k.a. the child-witch syndrome).”
A number of the ‘street children’ found in Cross River State are products of the negative voices echoed by society, due to no fault of theirs.”
Though giant strides have been made in alleviating this menace, Obioma acknowledges that the obstacles are huge. “We all will agree that running a charity organization and projects of this magnitude are not devoid of challenges. Some include highly capital intensive and specialized nature of the residential care services for the DCC housemates; few skills options given to the beneficiaries of DCC due to inadequate funding; inability to purchase equipments/tools for DCC housemates trained on vocational skills to begin their small businesses and thus reduce level of poverty in their families; inadequate/lack of information about families of some DCC kids to enable family integration for existing housemates.”
She expressed profound gratitude to Norma Jean Martin for putting together an event of this magnitude. “My path crossed with that of Norma’s in 2011. A Fashion Affair was invited to produce both shows – The Carnival Queen Pageant, another initiative of mine and the Destiny Child Charity Fashion Show. It is heartwarming to see Norma key into the vision with such undiluted passion. This indeed speaks volumes and from Norma’s selfless and sacrificial gesture, it is crystal clear that the issue of abandoned babies and street children is a global one; therefore, all hands must be on deck to fully eradicate this situation,” said Obioma in a separate interview.
The DCC initiative is also garnering momentum with other stakeholders in the State of Georgia. Present at the event was Abby Ebodaghe, President of the Nigerian Women’s Association of Georgia (NWAG), who has expressed interest in collaborations. “We’ve been in existence since April 2000. Our purpose is to empower women, youth and children in Atlanta and in Nigeria. We support 10 orphanages in 10 states in Nigeria including the FCT, and hope to extend this to two more, which may include the DCC.”
The event, tagged Afro Caribbean Splendour, which held recently at the prestigious Holiday Inn Dunwoody Atlanta, could be best described as a combination of the finest of Nigerian and Caribbean talent. It featured internationally acclaimed professional models as well as celebrities such as: musician and song writer Kenny Gilkes, jazz artist Andrew Lawrence, Adaeze Eluke, Carnival Calabar Queen 2010 and the current Carnival Calabar Queen Nancy-Olive Aisaghonhi.
“We have faith that because MACA’S steps have been ordered to meet the right people here, we will collectively mitigate these challenges with your support, said the Wife of the Governor.”
“I am proud to be associated with this event, I remain forever grateful to A Fashion Affair for taking our campaign to the next level and look forward to forging stronger links ahead,” she concluded.[eap_ad_3]
By Enuma Chigbo