Yesterday's weekly UK-Nigeria online meeting was a truly global affair, involving no fewer than three continents and nine people! John Dada was travelling in Asia, Pam and Nikki were in Europe (UK) and, of course, we were joined by our six Fantsuam participants in rural Nigeria, Africa.
Despite a minor problem accessing some links, we were able to cover in some depth topics ranging from witchcraft in rural Nigeria to the inclusion in the community of those with disabilities - and the building of links with NITEL to provide local affordable phone and internet connectivity.
We also discussed microfinance and funding Business Development Services. Phew! All in all, not bad for an hour's work. Though a few of us did remain to chat after the official hour ended . . .
Victims of Witchcraft
I was very interested to learn from John more details about the current situation at Fantsuam regarding this disturbing issue. As I have referred to briefly in my previous two blogs, the Foundation has just literally saved the lives of three local children who were under threat of imminent lynching by their communities after they were falsely accused of being witches.
John, who has been at the centre of this rescue mission, told us: "There is a widespread abuse of children; Fantsuam Foundation can only do so much. It is now working with a children's home that has accepted temporary custody of two of the children." We have been made aware that the children are all siblings. Two brothers are in the home, while their sister is in a safe-house.
John continued: "We are interested in in Community-based paediatric psychiatric support for children traumatised from witchcraft accusations. We need to help these kids get over the trauma and we need research on the scope of the problem and best methods of intervention."
There are some social protection studies at the University of Jos, John says, but this is not community-based. There is serious theoretical work, but Fantsuam Foundation wants to do more to intervene when necessary - although obviously only on a properly-informed basis.
John added: "When kids are in danger, they need to be taken away from such environments immediately. Although we don't have many choices of where to take them." One of the greatest needs is for "half-way" safety shelter, he told us.
Last Monday saw the broadcast of a television programme on this subject, which tackles this issue in more detail. It was in the Dispatches series and titled Return to Africa's Witch Children
My hope is that the work of Gary Foxcroft of Lancaster-based charity Stepping Stones Nigeria and, of course, individuals like John will be recognised and given the support and resources it requires. This will enable good ideas and practice to be shared and replicated.
John was obliged to leave the meeting early, telling us he was about to be interviewed by a journalist. He had earlier impressed us all by revealing that Fantsuam had recently been mentioned in leading French newspaper Le Monde. We look forward very much to seeing details of the article. I just hope my O Level French is up to it!