Frances, from the Fantsuam Foundation Leeds office, has just returned from a visit to Nigeria and has generously agreed to sharing her reflections of her trip with us.
"The weather was lovely. Much cooler than I thought it would be but we did have torrential thunder storms as well. The rain on the metal roof of the main house was deafening. I just wished it would stop! The doorway to the
bathroom in the big mud hut started to collapse as the rain soaked through
the walls. Fortunately we had decided to decamp to the house next door in
time. Other people were not so lucky and we could see collapsed houses in
the villages. Another expense for people who are already poor.
Fantsuam seemed quieter than when I have been before. The number of staff
has had to be reduced due to financial constraints as a result of the violence
last year. For example, there are no staff solely attached to the Gaiya project
(which recruited and trained volunteers) but volunteers will be recruited for
any specific activity that is planned. In addition staff who have benefited from
the experience and training they have received at Fantsuam have also left
to take up jobs in major organisations who can afford to pay salaries far in
excess of what Fantsuam can afford.
There are also fewer clients of the microfinance service and the numbers
will probably be maintained at this lower level rather than expand again.
Adashe is still popular and staff promote this service ie - people saving with
Fantsuam for major or unexpected expenses rather than borrowing to develop
a business. Their savings money is safe with Fantsuam. Some people have
invested their money with organisations that promise fantastic rates of return
and find that the organisation cannot be traced and their money has been
effectively stolen. Money has been withdrawn from Fantsuam against the
recommendation of its staff and the person is left with nothing and Fantsuam
has lost one of its clients.
On a more positive note, we went out to a meal at a restaurant in Kafanchan
owned by a microfinance client. She had borrowed money to expand the
restaurant which we could see did a roaring trade, selling among other
things pepper soup and an Igbo meat delicacy which has become popular.
People who live and work in Abuja often come home to their local villages at
the weekend especially after they have received their monthly salary. They
sometimes stay in the hotels in Kafanchan and eat in local restaurants so
there is a thriving market for the food.
The three children who were placed with a foster mother on my last visit
in 2011 are thriving. The youngest boy who showed some very disturbed
behaviour at the beginning is now calm and settled. The children have lost
both their parents to AIDS and were accused of being witches by the relatives
that cared for them. Fantsuam was alerted to their danger by another family
member and staff from the HIV Department actually pursued them on a
motorbike as the children were taken further and further into the bush. John
used to say to the staff that if they had done nothing else but save these
children, their time at Fantsuam had been worthwhile. The two boys were
placed in a childrens’ home while the girl who is the youngest stayed in John’s
house. John and Comfort got in touch with Naomi who lives near by and she
agreed to provide a home for them alongside her three youngest children.
It’s amazing how ell they all get on together. One of Naomi’s older daughters
was at home when we were there helping her mother with her growing family.
Naomi herself not only has a full time job with the railway but is also studying
for her GCEs alongside her older daughter!
As an interesting aside Naomi told me that it is the Chinese who are investing
in Nigeria’s defunct railway and there is a small Chinese community in Bayan
Loco near to Fantsuam who make use of their inter-net services
As you may remember I spent some of my time helping John and other staff
develop their work-plans for the various departments. This is not something
I had ever done before. Lori had introduced this practice as part of her
organisational development programme but unfortunately some of the staff
who were there when she did the training have now left. Comfort had also
been on a training programme run by VSO and understands the process that
sets out the plans/priorities for each department for the following year. I think I
helped to focus people’s minds on the task rather than anything else.
We drove past the site of the old market that was burned down after
the violence of last year. Not surprisingly with all the rain the site is now
completely overgrown but at the other end of town another thriving market site
has now developed.
Another place that has blossomed in a good way is Attachab. I was amazed
by how much of the land is cultivated. John also pointed out the culverts that
had been dug on the road through the village on the way to the site to ensure
that the road is passable during the rainy season. This is a benefit to the
community. We saw the fish ponds but the fish had just been fed so didn’t
jump up for the food that was thrown for them! There has been training in
making fish feed rather than purchasing food that is already processed that is
(Photo above taken in August 2010, shortly after their rescue shows the children with Nicholas a VSO volunteer)