Wish for Africa Foundation


Monday, 11 October 2010

Saturday 9th October 2010 - Miss Nubian 2010

Miss Nubian 2010 Beauty Pageant in support of Wish For Africa.

Let me begin and take you back to Wednesday (6th Oct) around 08.30 as I was arriving at work, as I went to put my phone on silent I noticed a message from Femi. It went along the line of ‘ just received message from Jacqueline asking if I was boarding a plane to judge Miss Nubian beauty pageant, as I’m not hope your free Saturday night’. To tell you the truth I was in shock I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Me? Judging a beauty pageant, not my usual Saturday night, or any night come to that. It certainly gave everyone at work a laugh, seeing my panic….put me on a plane to Nigeria and that’s fine but expect me to have anything to do with a beauty pageant and I’m out of my comfort zone.

Blackberry messenger was busy that day with Femi reassuring me that I would be fine and to relax and enjoy it. That evening I rushed to Bluewater to find an outfit, fit for the occasion and thankfully found it. Just preparation for a speech and updating of our display board to be completed and I’d be ready, well as ready as I could be for something to which I had no idea what to expect.

Saturday here and yes it was really happening, I was expected to attend and judge a beauty pageant it hadn’t been a dream and no one ‘more suitable’ had been asked to do the job. I guess I need more of that Nigerian spirit of I can do anything and stop being so British in thinking I can’t.

I arrived at the luxurious Thistle hotel just off Oxford St with Folakemi both in evening wear and heels lugging our huge bag with the display board to show information about Wish For Africa. As we entered the foyer without asking we were pointed into the direction we required. We took the long escalator to the second floor to the Hyde Park suite. We set up our stand and chatted with those that came to enquire, including the handsome Mr Charles Emeka who was one of tonight’s hosts, I just have to add that he recognised me as his Facebook friend and shamefully I had to ask who he was (sorry Charles!). Eventually we went into the event suite, by which time Lola Atkins another trustee for WFA had arrived to support us.

The show was meant to start at 7.00 but unfortunately unforeseen circumstances caused problems and the show didn’t commence until 8.30, African time O! The audience was beginning to get agitated but our host Mr Emeka soon managed to draw them back with the help of his beautiful co-host Glorianne Francis.

Jacqueline Wabara the CEO of Miss Nubian foundation introduced me as representing Wish For Africa, I was asked to speak about our charities work. I always get nervous with public speaking and again not at all confident but I thanked Jacquie for supporting WFA and gave apologies for Dr Femi Olaleye’s absence and mentioned the amazing things that our charity is doing for improving healthcare in the deprived area’s of Lagos and how we hope to expand to all areas of need in Africa in the future.
We were entertained though out the evening by a talented array of acts including Stomp and Shout a children’s dance group, Tony Fernandez a poet and performances by singers Lander Khandel and BabyBoy.

The judges were all introduced and we made our way to our seats. The other judges included Mark Walters, former Aston Villa, Liverpool and England football player. Des O Conner, speaker and black date coach/agency CEO. Sporah Njau, presenter of Sporah TV show. Ngozi Nwaim, CEO of Posh Lady International.

The 13 contestants made their way onto the stage representing many countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Barbados, Jamaica, Angola and Ghana. They all looked stunning and bursting with confidence. It was difficult to judge between them they were all beautiful yet varied. We judged on several categories including traditional, swimwear, talent and evening wear. They walked the cat walk in their various outfits that they had chosen and in the most amazing heels.

The talent was wide-ranging from singers, dancers, photography to poetry and a make-over including a haircut (or at least a wig cut!). I have to add that some were more ‘talented’ than others but they all tried and kudos for that. There was a few technical problems with music for the girls which I’m sure gave them added stress but they remained fairly composed and carried on.

Once all the categories had been completed the judges added up our individual scores and chose our top six which were then put together to decide the overall winner. A close contest but the prize went to Miss Sierra Leon, Bianca, who was then crowned Miss Nubian 2010.

I started the evening feeling nervous and unsure of what was to happen, but as usual the familiar quaintness that I love about Lagos came through. Although things didn’t go exactly to plan, times went to pot, entertainers didn’t arrive, judges weren’t fed, everyone kept smiling and the atmosphere remained positive. Well done Jacquie for all the effort and hard work that you and your team put into the event. I must say it was an experience and I enjoyed it. And thankfully NEPA never went down!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Walk4WISH 2010

Today for the third year running that supporters of Wish For Africa united together to champion, celebrate and shout out loud their loyalty to the cause.
I picked up Femi and we drove to Thamesmead to prepare for the walk. We had already been blessed the sun was shining after a week of rain. Folakemi and Lola were already there so we began to set out the publicity banners and prepared the T-shirts ready for the arrival of the walkers.

Soon everyone started to arrive and adorn their Wish For Africa, a sight that Morrison shoppers could hardly ignore. The photo shoot began to capture to excitement and mood of the day.

At round 10.15 the first cluster of walkers set off for the 5 mile walk along the Thames Path. Letting them go ahead the second group set off by 10.30 at a steady pace. We were a mass of red, white and blue strolling along by the Thames with sounds of talking and laughter.

I was in the second group which also included Dayo Olumo, Obonjo Comedian, among many others. The children on bikes and scooters were surging ahead excited and happy. As soon as we got to the Thames Path Danni Cooper set off to run the course, we sent her off with a cheer.

As we got to about the half way mark Danni came running back past us. When we approached the Woolwich skateboard park once again we could see the dominant red of the walkers awaiting our arrival.

Everyone was in a buoyant mood and it was so nice to gather and meet with many of your Facebook friends. Crisps, chocolates, Chin chin (a Nigerian sweet biscuit that I had not had before), drinks were handed out to all that had walked at the refreshment stop.

Femi then took centre stage and reminded everyone the importance of the day. He talked about the struggles and issues of health care in Nigeria and how backing Wish For Africa can help make a world of difference to those that can’t even afford to eat let-a-loan purchase health care. How Wish For Africa wants to make health care local to those that need it, so the poor don’t need to travel miles to see a doctor. After Femi’s inspirational talk Mr Dayo Olumo also motivated us to believe that as individuals, all different, all unique, yet each in our own way can make a difference.

On a lighter note Mr Obonjo Comdian of the Lafta republic made us all smile with his unique style of humour. Jacqueline Wabara then spoke about her support through fashion shows. I then spoke about the good work that I had seen for myself that Femi and his staff do back in Nigeria with the support of Wish For Africa and how I have been so impressed that I have now self funded 2 trips to Lagos and also become a trustee of the charity. A few more words of praise and encouragement were shared and then we all headed back.
The whole group left together on the return leg of the walk, although we naturally went at different paces with some ahead while others strolled behind. A number of people along the way asked us what we were doing and we were able to share about the charity. Several of us in the front half were so engrossed in chat that we completely missed the turning back to Morrison’s. Soon we received a phone call from the others informing us of our mistake. It felt like we had walked an extra mile as we turned around to retrace our steps.

At the slope we should have gone up everyone was waiting for us which made a nice ending to the walk and meant we all arrived at the car park together, united.

The amazing thing about this walk is that friends, from many African countries, from all over the UK from Nottingham, Hertfordshire, Surrey, London, Kent, both black and white, Christian and Muslim all together with no prejudices, all happily enjoying each others company in support of the same thing. Everyone in agreement that things several hundred miles away need improving and in the belief that together we can help make a difference. By supporting Wish For Africa we can help make changes happen.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Saturday 5th June 2010

My last sleep in Lagos was a good one. NEPA appeared to be kind to me and to my knowledge remained on all night. NEPA’s favour lasted until about 1.30, so I was blessed with air con and light all morning. This gave me the luxury of dry hair, light to pack by and even the internet was working well and fast. I could almost have forgotten its inconvenience over the past two weeks (but only almost).

Angela gave me the beautiful outfits she had made for me and I tried them on. Not being an expert at tying a Gele (head tie) Angela came to my rescue and showed me how it should be done. They look so stunning when you know what you’re doing and just from a simple piece of material. I unfortunately can’t carry it off as well as the Nigerians they always look stunning in them.

Femi came mid afternoon and I was able to complete my packing with the missing suitcase recovered. I said my goodbyes and thank yous to Angela, Damola and family for their kindness in hosting me, making me feel part of their family and for their generosity of gifts.

We headed to Surulere to meet with Aderemi in her showroom, where she displays her talents for design for prospective clients to view. We then headed though the Lagos streets back to Mafoluku to pick up the clothes that the staff had made for me, taking in the sights and sounds for the last time.

We then headed to Ikeja to a restaurant called the Orchid Bistro that is run by a Doctor that opened this little oasis in Lagos. Nigerian food is hardly featured on the menu, the food was great and the coffee (for one of the world fussiest coffee drinkers) was perfect, hot, strong, not bitter. The décor which Aderemi had designed was clean and modern, I could have been in the UK, it was simple yet effective and classy. Not the cheapest place to eat but somewhere I would certainly recommend and like to return to.

While there we happened to meet Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, the commissioner for tourism, who appeared to be a very pleasant gentleman. He was enjoying the atmosphere with his sons. I chatted briefly and said what an enjoyable time I had had in Lagos.

Then Chief Dele Momodu came in and I was introduced to him. This gentleman is the publisher of the Ovation Magazine and was the kind donator of 1 million Naira (£4500) to Wish for Africa at the Ovation Red Carol event in 2009. It is also said that he has aspirations to be a future President, never one to be too in awe of people, I just said nice to meet him and commented on how nice his aftershave was (I’m sure Femi despairs of me sometimes).

The meal over we made our way to the airport, where Femi drove to the departures drop off, said a quick farewell and left. Lagos airport is not as organized or as updated as UK airports and unless you know what you’re doing, it’s not obvious. Anxiously, I made my way to the check in area and gave the helpless blonde white woman look, until someone pointed me in the direction of where to go. I had to then manage my two heavy suitcases, pull along cabin bag, laptop bag and handbag single handedly as the trolley had to be abandoned. The suitcases had to be placed on weighing scales then I had to drag them over to the next person who writes your name in a book, then to someone who opens and looks through each bag, then finally to the check in.

Once this was over I joined the long queue through to departures. With no air conditioning and no computer system it is a long and sweaty process. The queue crept forward slowly and I found myself standing next to a Nigerian woman with a little boy Casey, who were on their way to Germany. He chatted to everyone and he at least gave everyone around him some amusement as we waited for our turn. Eventually it was my turn to go before the two different people that check your papers, then for my stuff to be scanned and me to be frisked, which everyone is, but I wonder if the detector thing you walk through even works?

Finally through, I made my way to my gate, where I sat down with the crowds waiting to board. We were then called in and made our way to our seats and waited for take off. The plane left on time and as we rose over Lagos, I looked at the areas of light and darkness thinking I will miss the uncertainty of NEPA in a funny sort of way. I wondered if or when I will ever return.

Lagos like us humans is full of faults and inadequacies but has something about it that is appealing, exciting and addictive. There is so much room for improvement, so many areas it falls short in but it also appears to be genuinely making progress. So much of Lagos is hard to understand and difficult to comprehend, yet it is vibrant and welcoming. Its people can be selfish, greedy, corrupt, yet they can be warm, generous and inspiring. Lagos has a long way to go and much to do before it can become appealing to holiday makers but it has the potential, it has the beaches, the sun and the atmosphere, but it has to work on its roads, electricity, beaches, safety etc. Lagos can and will be great, health care will improve, it will be a mega city, but people will have to have long term vision and not just a desire to fill their own pockets, once the people in charge take control for the right reasons Lagos and Nigeria will be great.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Friday 4th June 2010

Heavy storms throughout the night again meant another hot and sweaty night without NEPA. This lack of power continued all morning and after my shower my hair was still damp two hours later. I really fancied my rolls toasted for breakfast but no power, no toaster, no toasted rolls.

The rain outside was persistent and heavy, yet it was still hot. The driver came for me around noon and I made a quick dash for the car, still managing to get wet in the torrential downpour.

We drove along and as well as the roads of rivers, where understandably the drains were finding it hard to cope, there were thousands of umbrellas of all shapes and sizes. Okadas (motorbike taxis) were carrying passengers with umbrellas up. Those that didn’t have umbrellas used a multitude of things to prevent themselves from getting wet, bags, sheets of plastic, upturned bowls and buckets. I have also noticed that many of the Okada drivers that wear coats seem to wear them the wrong way round, some still done up and some open. I can’t quite see the benefit from this but today in the rain there was even more doing it (I guess to reduce the rain getting to their fronts). As buses and cars drove along huge tides of water were sprayed and shot out indiscriminately, hitting whoever got in their way.

Once at Mafoluku I was welcomed by Mr Dee and his handsome little boy. They looked stunning in their matching tie and dye suits. Unfortunately I was not wearing my clothes that had been made as they were a little too big and although I had the skirt altered I hadn’t brought the top with me, Femi was disappointed.

I had to pick up my suitcases from the clinic today so that I could pack ready for my return home tomorrow. I had come to Mafoluku with these bags full of donations and gifts and very sadly someone had decided to take my bag for themselves. It is not the value of the item but the fact that I had come with gifts for the staff and someone decided that it was their right to just take what was not theirs.

Soon we had a group meeting and prayers of thanks we said for the success of the stay. Then each member of staff said their own words of thanks for my visit, which was very touching. Finally Femi spoke and after discussing all that had been achieved with the Children’s party and the delivery etc, he pointed out how disappointing it is that someone had taken the bag without permission. He also said that he hoped that it had been a mistake and that the person hadn’t realised that it wasn’t a donation as well, and that they would return it before I left. With the formal talking over we had crisps, crackers and drinks and photos were taken. Soon after we had gone into the office one of the girls came up to speak to Femi, and said a member of staff had said she had taken the bag and would return in to me.

In the afternoon the Mother, Father and baby that was delivered here on the 1st June came back to see us. Due to the kindness of two donors from the UK, we were able to bless them and their baby. They were handed enough to pay their medical expenses and more to give them a start with their new baby. They were so happy with the donations, it has made a huge difference to them not to have to think about their bill, even though it was much smaller than they would have been charged at other hospitals. We had our photos taken and the father requested that they have a copy so they can show the baby as it grows up, to remind her how blessed she was the day she was born and how the Oyibo was there too from the UK.

Femi and I then made our way to visit Abimbola and her husband Yemi who had very kindly asked us to dinner at their house. We were warmly received and had a lovely dinner of Jollof, chicken, beans and plantain served with red wine and juice, a huge feast.

We talked business and discussed the future of Wish for Africa and Femi spoke of his dreams of healthcare in Nigeria and our role in that. Abimbola and Yemi were very receptive and encouraging, and hopefully will be a part of the future growth of this healthcare vision. We praised God for all he has done and that He will use us like a snowball, that we will grow and affect many needy people in the areas that have been neglected for far too long.

We left there and made our way home not quite managing to miss every pot hole in the darkness of night. The use of car headlights is another thing obviously not discussed at the driving test. Many cars at night spend all the time on full beam so completely blinding on coming traffic, maybe a ploy so they keep out of your way, giving you rule of the road. Other car drivers even have their fog lights on even though fog is not really an issue here, well certainly not in the times I’ve been here. Femi received a call from the staff nurse on duty who informed us that the bag had been returned by the person that took it.

I arrived home and thankfully it was ‘up NEPA’ which meant I could sit peacefully without the generator screaming and in the coolness of my air conditioned room. Where I could begin to pack and get ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Thursday 3rd June 2010

In the middle of the night I woke up and as I opened my eyes I couldn’t see, oh no I thought I’m blind, then I remembered I was in Lagos and NEPA was down. I scrambled to the end of the bed to find the table and my phone as I pressed it there was light! Not blind at all just dark.

Today was going to be a girl’s day out with Angela and she had gone to work till lunch time so I had a lazy start to my day. I laid in my bed checking out the internet and chatting with Tony, then Michelle back home on skype.

Angela came for me at midday and we headed for Victoria Island over the Third Mainland Bridge, past the fat fish and houses on stilts and eventually to the huge impressive buildings, the other side of Lagos. We were headed for the UBA bank that Damola works in to swap drivers so that Angela’s driver could go and pick the children up from school.

This meant the usual thing of sitting in Lagos traffic, which although would drive me mad back home, I do get pleasure in watching Lagos go by. The Okada drivers and their passengers, although most of them on Victoria Island only had one passenger, many carry two or more and the things you see people carrying whilst on them can be amazing. Huge panes of glass, long lengths of pipes or wood, heavy bags on their heads and often babies strapped to the backs of mothers. Although it is law to have a helmet, like most laws here it is not followed too well. Often if the Okada rider has a helmet it is in his hand or often it is a hard hat from a building site.

As we headed from inner town to the edge heading for Shoprite, we passed along a road that is currently under construction. I had passed this way last year and it was good to see the progress that was being made. A toll had been built which I’m sure I saw the foundations for last year and couldn’t see what it was, although it had not yet started to take money.

This part of town has some of the most expensive hotels about and they look very grand and obviously cost a fortune to stay in. I would imagine most of the visitors to these are business men/women and there must be many as there are loads of hotels and they must make money to survive. There are also more under construction so the need must be about. The oil industry here is very big and a lot of business comes from that I guess.

This is when you see the extremes of wealth side by side grand beautiful buildings and outside the cooking pots and sellers in their shacks. The stop and shop sellers making the money in the chaos of the traffic.

We finally arrived at Shoprite which is a large Asda type shop near Lekki that also has smaller outlet shops and another big warehouse type shop called Game within the complex. In these you can pretty much buy anything and there were lots of familiar brands and food I haven’t seen since I was in the UK. This was the first time in this visit that I didn’t feel as though I stood out so much, as there were several non-Africans doing their shopping there.

I excitedly got crusty bread rolls, camembert cheese, salt and vinegar crisps and of course chocolate! If I ever lived here in Lagos as long as I was near Shoprite I could survive. We walked around and looked at the shops but shortly had to head back to the car. By the time I got back in the car the chocolate was started, very nice too.

We then made our way to the Silverbird cinema. I have been there before on my last visit but not to go to the cinema. We had a look around and then grabbed some lunch at a Nando’s type restaurant, once we had finished there we had time to spare before the film, so we walked around the shops and I got a couple of small gifts to take home.

We then went and purchased popcorn and then Angela insisted on us having ice cream too which was a really nice treat and thoroughly enjoyable. The Silverbird complex was really nice, well decorated certainly by Nigerian standards and the toilets were spotless, the cleanest I have been in, in Nigeria. There was even nice toilet paper (this matters to a girl), even the public toilets in the Hilton Abuja were disappointing. The film we saw was Robin Hood and very good that was too. The only thing was it was running to African time and we were meant to go in at 5.30 and we were told to wait as the previous showing had yet to finish it was 5.50 before it started. Well, when I say started, we sat and watched the end credits before the start of our showing (only in Nigeria).

When it had finished we made our way to the driver outside and he took us home. The traffic was not too bad and we passed over third mainland quite quickly the stilted houses almost invisible in the darkness of night. The busy night time trade was under way and the streets as always were busy with people going about their business. When we got home the children greeted us with excitement, and I gave them the popcorn I hadn’t eaten and retreated to my room (to eat chocolate!).

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Wednesday 2nd June 2010

I woke up after a fairly good night with the remains of stomach cramps, I had these all day yesterday and ate very little as a consequence, but they hadn’t gone. The power was off so I lay dozing for a while but soon thought I had best be ready as Mr Dee and the driver were meeting me here and one may be early.

I was going on a radio programme, Talk Nigeria with Ify Onyegbule, and had to be there for the start at 11 to speak at 11.30. Mr Dee turned up on time but we had not heard from the driver. Eventually we got hold of him and he was only at the Third Mainland Bridge, it didn’t look like we would be on time. The driver rang and said he was round the corner, so we went outside to wait he got to us by 11.05.

Typically whenever you’re late the traffic is bad, and I could feel myself becoming anxious, but what was the point, I either made it or I didn’t, it wasn’t life threatening, so I just relaxed. We arrived at the studio gates at 11.30, the man at the first set of gates must have recognised me from before as he was about to check us and then smiled at me and opened them. We stopped at the second set where you have to sign in and get ID, no one was there. We blow the horn (of course) and again, then the gate man came running round from behind the hut, obviously just been for a wee, still doing himself up. He caught my eye as I laughed and he realised what he was doing and turned away to prevent my blushes!

Nigerian men, I must say, wee anywhere and everywhere, with no shame whatsoever. I lose count in a day of how many times you see a man with a stream of urine being expelled. There are even signs painted in a lot of areas stating do not urinate here. I even saw a public toilet and a man going outside. Mind you, you probably have to be brave to use public toilets here as they are not the best toilets even in the nicest of places. I will also add that children and women can also be seen squatting regularly.

I rushed into the studio at 11.35 as Ify introduced me and asked why I was late. I apologised and blamed Wyhid the driver. The programme was fairly short with me and another lady on it, a bit of small talk about why I was here, then the dreaded question of how does health care here compare with the UK. This is difficult to answer without sounding like “we are great and you are not”, but I do my best at being diplomatic. Ify was really pleasant and I thanked her for asking me onto the show. We had the usual photo shot and I was on my way.

We then went to the Ketu clinic to see all the staff there. I had bought enough gifts so they would have something too, but when I gave them to the girls at Mafoluku, in my naivety, I’d said one thing each as the gifts had to go around, but they went like wild fire. I turned around and nothing was left (if there is a next time I will be less trusting). The Ketu staff said hello and I went in to see the lovely Dr Yussef, we had a good discussion about health issues and how things were going there. He had also visited his sister in England since my last visit and had stayed fairly near me, he even had to attend A&E in the hospital that I work in. I said next time he was to contact me and he assured me he would.

The head nurse then came in and asked if I had bought gifts for them, Nigerians are very big on giving which is really generous of them but they are also very loud in asking. I had to apologise that I had not got anything and explained what happened. I don’t think they were too impressed with me.

Dr Yussef told me about a recent birth they had there. A baby had been born an extended frank breech (basically bum first with legs up by its ears). It also had a myelomeningocele (a growth on the base of the spine associated with Spina bifida, formed due to the spinal canal not closing before birth), this burst at delivery. The baby born weighing 2.3kg (5lb) also had talipes (club foot) and a bowed leg. This in the UK would have been picked up on scan and been delivered somewhere appropriate for its additional care. This baby was transferred to a General hospital and to my knowledge has survived so far. The government will I understand pay for the operations for the baby but any drugs required will have to be paid by the parents. The reason this family didn’t have a suggested scan was that they couldn’t afford one, they too are unlikely to be able to keep up with the cost of medication should this baby survive. Arguably what life is there ahead for this child when you see the streets full of disabled beggars because there is no welfare system to support them?

The afternoon was taken up with resting. I was going to Nando’s this evening, Aderemi the very beautiful and considerate lady that kindly gave me the use of her driver for my stay had offered to catch up with me and take me out. I was intrigued to see if Nando’s was the same as in the UK. The décor was definitely reminiscent of the ones back home but disappointingly there were no olives (Nando’s do the best olives ever but I guess that’s not to Nigerians taste as a rule) or nuts etc and no salads.

Although the menu gave the different heat strengths this was not offered so Nigerian hot it was then. I had a wrap which was certainly different mainly because of the lack of salad, and fries were smaller in portion size. The rice that Aderemi and Femi had however looked loads nicer than the packet style savoury rice they serve at home, Nigerians can certainly do rice. No refill on drinks just your usual bottle choice but I guess the water here can’t be used to be mixed on the premises like in the UK, and Femi joked that Nigerians would sit here all day and drink it. I was surprised to see that they shut at nine here, which is apparently usual and allows staff to get home securely.

The evening ended with my own little fashion show, Angela had a beautiful embroidered buba made for me with a head tie (I think I need practice at that one). Also the material that Eniola kindly gave me on my last visit had been made into a long skirt and top by Fumni the lady who had the caesarean last time. Not my usual attire for home but it will make me stand out as much there as I do here!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tuesday 1st June 2010 (A baby is born)

Happy Birthday Angela who has been blessed with 40 years, a great husband and 3 gorgeous children, congratulations!

Well after the heaviest rains I can remember and a storm that was relentless, the generator went off at midnight and darkness fell. Ok any one in England rarely experiences total black out, not being able to see your hand in front of your face, but that’s what it was. Although I couldn’t see I could however feel (maybe my imagination in part) the gnats were biting even though I sprayed my room and could hardly breathe myself, they still came.

After a pretty hot, sweaty sleepless night with no NEPA I received a text at 7.30 to say I will be picked up at nine. Not wanting to fall back asleep I got up and showered in an attempt to wake up. The driver on African time turned up at 10.30, NEPA turned up at 10.15, just in time for me to leave. I gratefully sat in an air conditioned car and the traffic was light and we arrived at Mafoluku within about 15 minutes, to a NEPA free clinic. I am certainly being forced to experience true Nigeria whether I want to or not.

I thought the roads would be bad after last night’s downpour but the areas we drove through were fairly clear of water. The one area that was affected slightly had LAWMA scooping up the mud from the drain sites in the road in an attempt to drain the water away. All credit to the people, most of whom appear to be women, they work hard by the road sides with brooms, dust pan and brushes to improve the look of Lagos, hard work and probably not much pay.

We arrived at Mafoluku and all was quiet, I sat in the office and sorted out some things with Femi and Mr Dee. Femi and I then went to the UBA (United Bank of Africa) to draw out money for wages to pay the staff. Femi prides himself that no matter what, the girls always get paid monthly, regardless of his own finances, a rare thing it seems here. The bank is very different to what I’m used to seeing. Firstly you enter the building via a tardis type doorway one at a time, as the door behind closes the door in front opens, to prevent robberies I assume. Inside there is organised (I’m sure) chaos, cheques are still the norm, lots of paper is still used, broken filing cabinets crammed with files, extension leads and hanging wire everywhere that is typical from the streets to shops to homes. The queue was long and I sat and watched while waiting, finished we entered the tardis again to get out.

After exchanging more pounds for Naira with my airport friend we received a call from Mr Dee saying someone had turned up at the clinic in labour. So we made our way back. On arrival back it became apparent that this woman only spoke French (my poor French was better than everyone else’s). She had just arrived from Niger Republic (a French speaking country just above Nigeria) into the country and had only one episode of antenatal care at 23 weeks which included a scan report (scrap of paper, this ironically is all too often how we see Nigerians in the UK). From the scan we deduced she was around 41 weeks and 4 days and her observations (BP, urine, pulse, fetal heart rate) were all ok. Femi examined her and she was certainly in labour (around 6-7cm to those that understand). She is the sister-in-law of the woman whose son Femi delivered on his return to Nigeria and also a second child recently.

We admitted her to the upstairs ward and I observed whilst a lot of people ran around. The last time I was here I wrote protocols for delivery far less in depth than those back in the UK but trying to improve what the Nurses and assistants already do. To my surprise they all needed constant reminders on what to do. They only monitored contractions and didn’t record strength or length of each one. They were asked to record the fetal heart rate every half an hour and I had to constantly remind them to listen in with the sonic aid. Thankfully all was going well. I encouraged the woman to get up and mobilise and to drink fluids, Femi said to them to give her water at least every 15 minutes as it was so hot with NEPA down.

Suddenly the nurses called out and we went in grabbed our gloves and the baby's head was descending beautifully. Although the woman's pushing was erratic and she was doing her own thing, it worked and the head crowned and seconds later a beautiful baby girl was delivered, no pain relief, no tears, she did very well. The baby was taken to another bed where we dried her off and I prevented them from routinely suctioning the baby’s nose and throat, although later she was a little snuffly and Femi asked that her nose was cleared.

Here they oil the baby pretty much immediately, then after measuring head and length (by holding the baby by the legs and hanging her upside down to my horror), they weighed her (3.1kg about 6lb 8oz). After this they then bathed her in soapy water, welcome to Lagos little one! The baby wasn’t encouraged to have skin to skin contact or breast feed, this probably will not happen for a while, they were not that keen to attach baby too soon the last time I was here. Practices here are so very different to what I am used to and it is very difficult to watch and not want to jump in and change so much, but we had a safe delivery and all was well. I was able to watch over and guide towards change in some areas, but at the end of the day I go back to the UK and they stay here and do what they think is best. It was great to have the delivery but it also saddens me to see how outdated and under trained they are. This is why help is needed to bring healthcare up to developed countries standards.

Shortly after this I had to make my way home, through the rush hour in the lovely Mr Dee’s car. So after being in the heat all night then all day, then in the car whose window won’t open and has no air con for a slow hour’s drive, I was disappointed to find no electric at home. I smiled and asked Mama to put on the generator as it was getting dark and I needed a cool shower like never before.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday 31st May 2010

Today is a public holiday here in Lagos as well as back in the UK. It was a slow start all round today, even the children didn’t rise so early, and no knocks on the door. I got up, showered, had my cornflakes and mango, and eventually when the children realised I was up they all came in one by one. They clamber all over my bed and seem to enjoy wrapping themselves in my cover (especially Sola). The other thing they want is to press buttons on my computer, this I have had to be strict about as they do just press which is a pain when I’m in the middle of anything, so my rules are Do Not Touch!

As distraction from my netbook I went outside with them and watched them crash on their bikes for a while, they seem to get the most fun by taking the bikes indoors and then falling down the large front step and crashing into the car. Bolu was wearing her new Hello Kitty bow in her hair that she proudly told she received from the children’s party at church.

The family all then went out and I sat outside with Nike (the dog) who was now tied up as punishment for the bin episode yesterday. I watched as the red faced lizard ran along the top of the wall dodging the barbed wire and I flapped to get the flies off me, there are so many here. I am feeling quite homesick today and wishing I was going home to see my family, now the children’s day party is over, and with nothing major now planned, the clinic seems quiet, and there seems little reason for me to be here.

Soon Femi arrived with his assistant Fumni, as we were going to Festac to pay another visit to Gloria before I leave. The traffic was slightly reduced again today due to the holiday I guess. As we drove along we suddenly passed a taxi (one of the yellow mini buses built to carry about 8 people usually seen with several more crammed in). It had stopped in the middle of the road with its wheel literally fallen off (don’t think it had passed an MOT recently). All the women passengers were standing on the blocks in centre of the roads, obviously paid for their ride but going nowhere. There seems to be quite a lot of burnt out or smashed vehicles dotted along the road sides, cars, taxis and lorries.

I can’t help but notice people’s shoes as we drive along especially the men’s, I don’t think they worry too much about shoe sizes as a rule here. Many I notice are either too small and their feet hang over the edges whether sandals or even sometimes actual shoes with the back worn over, whilst others are too big and they look like flippers. I guess money dictates what they have and what’s available to them, the ‘shoe shops’ as with most shops tend to be small stalls with a selection of several items, not a cellar full of different sizes.

We arrived at Gloria’s house where the neighbour’s chickens were running around with the pigeons all pecking for food. It appears that chickens and goats run around Lagos much like they would in a farm, they just roam about, I assume people know which ones belong to whom. We stayed and had drinks, chatted for a while then made our way back, I was glad to see Gloria before heading back to the UK.

As we were going we grabbed a snack from a street seller, fried yam and akara with a dollop of a salsa type dressing and a nice bit of chewy goat skin thrown in. I declined the goat skin as when I say chewy, I mean really rubbery, Femi enjoyed it though.

There is a river that is crossed to get to Festac and on the opposite bank I noticed as we were heading back were loads of tin roofed huts/houses all looking precariously like they were about to fall into the river. Many of the rivers that we pass (and there are many in Lagos as its built around lagoons) are sadly full of rubbish and must be extremely polluted. It seems that although Lagos State is making a noticeable effort in clearing up the streets, it has yet to look at the waterways, some are certainly loads worse than others but all are affected. This in turn must affect the health of people as well as wildlife.

On our drive back we witnessed another victim of poor vehicle maintenance. A huge lorry laden with its goods had completely snapped in half down the centre, the middle of it was touching the floor. These things very rarely just happen and not if they have been well maintained and not over loaded. We looked in amazement and both just laughed ‘only in Nigeria’.

I returned home and when the others got in Angela prepared food, fried chicken and turkey (which is always chopped into small potions never cooked whole and sliced). Angela also prepared Amala, which I finally saw how it was made, from yam flour and water stirred and stirred into play dough consistency and turns a grey colour (there may have been more to it than that). This was served with a bean sauce and another hot sauce all of which I can’t remember the names of.

The whole of the evening was filled with the sound of torrential rain, I came in from the garden about five o’clock because it started to spit. By eight we had thunder, lightning and this continued on and on. I wonder what the roads will be like tomorrow as many were flooded today with just showers. Many of the roads have been laid without much if any drainage, it’s a good job the cars seem to be diesel and not petrol, at least they stand half a chance through the roads of river. I also wonder how it affects all those people in those poorly put together buildings, the disabled men scooting around on those skateboards, and all the street workers trying to make their living.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sunday 30th May 2010

Today everyone left the house early by 6.00 for church (except me). I stayed in bed a bit longer and got up at a more sensible time. I went to get breakfast and couldn’t find any milk powder, when Angela came back to get me at 10.00 she immediately said she had realised after leaving and gave me several packets to last the week. I think she was more worried than I was but we both quickly had cornflakes before heading back to church.

Sundays traffic again was pleasantly calm, a tenth of the usual amount, so driving is pretty much stress free, and we got to church in about 15 minutes. They were having a children’s day celebration in church today and many of the groups put on shows. Worship was led by the youth choir and they got straight into it and had typical big gospel voices, the young girl really took the lead with no nervousness or shyness.

First of the groups was the smallest ones who came and recited bible verses, all but the two tiniest ones that went all shy and wouldn’t speak. Next was a group of about ten little ones about 4 years old and they did a dance routine, they were so good it brought tears to your eyes, so cute and such natural movers. Then was a drama group that did a sketch that was funny, followed by Bolu’s group that also danced a routine with her in the lead and very well she did too. Last were the older teenagers they also danced and were very professional. It really stands out that for whatever reason Africans definitely have natural rhythm, even the youngest dance well and have natural timing with music. Even the sermon was preached by one of the youth, a young man about 17 with confidence and flair.

The church has about 250 children attend there and they provide food, breakfast and dinner for all of them. Many of these children don’t even have parents at the church and are local poor children that probably struggle to get a decent meal the rest of the week. It has grown so much that another building has to house them, and the food bill keeps growing. They are really working with their community and blessing them.

I was dropped off home by Angela before she headed back to church, and given jollof rice for lunch which was really lovely, it just finished heating in the microwave when NEPA gave up for its afternoon nap. So I sat outside with the dog who had decided to empty the contents of the bin over the garden (he must be wanting that stick again) and waited for Dr Abimbola De-Silva who had kindly offered to look after me for the afternoon. She arrived early, which I never expect as there is on time and African time.

We headed over the Third Mainland Bridge with the houses standing on stilts on one side (where they catch fat fish) and the saw mills which were all featured on the BBC programme ‘Welcome to Lagos’. I had forgotten quite how long it seemed as we travelled across it, about 10 kilometres long if my memory serves me right. Even on here the traffic was light and we sped across with ease.

We headed to the E-centre at Yaba to the cinema where we decided on Sex in the City 2. The cinema was pretty much equal to those back home and certainly in better order than the one in Abuja on my last visit where the chairs were unbolted and they tilted back as you sat down. The film was funny and we sat eating popcorn and when it finished we got wraps from Chicken Republic (like KFC). A chicken wrap which of course has to have a kick in it.

We drove back over the bridge and popped into Abimbola’s house which is on another private estate with guarded entry for security. Large looking houses all with the same Lagos feel but each designed individually, this is a second stage development the first being in Oloworo were I was this week looking at the potential new clinic. Abimbola’s husband wasn’t home so we said a quick hello to her boys that I met at the children’s day party. Then we headed back home and she dropped me off. Another really nice day, people have blessed me so much on my trips.

The children were asleep as I returned so I think I got into my room un-noticed. Everyone else was getting things to eat but I declined all except the mangoes again. Angela pointed out that I don’t eat them properly because I peel them and she eats it all including the skin with exception of the stone. I did try the skin and it was edible but tough so I still declined. When you see what Nigerians eat, you suddenly realise how much many of us waste (except the Gray’s… sorry in-joke). If I eat with Femi he can always find more meat and finishes the gristle, fat and I’m sure even some of the bones!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday 29th May 2010 - The trip to Olumo Rock

Today I was woken early by a combination of NEPA going down and the heavens opening with the loudest downpour ever. I lay in the humidity of the early morning thinking about getting up, excited about my trip out of town to Olumo rock. I laid there hoping the electricity would soon return as it’s nicer to come out of the shower with the air con giving a coolness to the air allowing you to dry.

The kids had been given bikes and were all outside excited trying to ride them, Sola and Nimi deciding standing on them was mush more fun. Angela then did a cooked breakfast of sausage and eggs. Of course this was not an English fry up it was Nigerian style, frankfurters with a spicy scrambled eggs with onions, pepper and chilli, very nice too.

Today being the last Saturday of the month was environmental day, everyone is expected to clean and tidy around their homes in an attempt to make Lagos a cleaner place. Mr Dee went to get the car from Femi once this allowed him and picked me up at around 12.30. We (Mr Dee, a Nigerian lady also called Jo and myself) were travelling out of town to Ogun state to visit Abeokuta which is home to a Yoruba heritage sight called Olumo rock.

We left Ogba and headed through Ketu and Egege and out of Lagos state into Ogun state. This was not the quickest of journeys as there was heavy traffic at times. Once in Ogun state I suddenly realised how clean Lagos is and how it must have been just a few years ago. Although the further we got in the greener it became and not so crammed with buildings, but the rubbish on the sides of the road was incredible and at times it was like mini dumps, fly tipping would be an understatement. This must have been how Lagos was before the road sweepers were employed to clean it daily. Just as we got into Ogun state the roads became even worse and a huge bottleneck had appeared, horns were being blown even more than usual. For those who have never been to Lagos horns are used to say I’m coming, get out of the way, have you seen me, why are you not moving, as well as just because I feel like it. I think the only law of the road is you must have a horn and that really is the only rule.

There was one town that we drove through (or rather took an hour to travel the mile or so through) that had built an overpass, a well-constructed dual carriageway that for some reason that I cannot for the life of me see was blocked off to traffic and had never yet been used only as a very expensive foot bridge! The road had a huge hole even by Lagos standards and was in part more like a river than a road.

Once through this the roads for the most were fast, fairly well maintained and had relatively little traffic. The views were more of trees, cornfields and luscious green which is stunning against the beautiful brick red of the ground. We went past Aro the biggest Mental hospital you could imagine, the wall must have spread for 2-3 miles and from the outside it looked like it should have been a nature reserve. We then passed Ewekoro and its huge cement factory that is run by Lafarge and Blue Circle and is in the process of expanding.

Eventually we reached Abeokuta home of Olumo Rock and as we arrived I suddenly realised all the taxis had changed from the yellow of Lagos taxis to green. This is meant to be one of the first towns that welcomed missionaries and has a reputation of its people being very friendly. We then travelled past a market that specialised in Nigerian clothes, there were stalls and stalls with every colour of the rainbow and every pattern imaginable. We also went over the Ogu River where Ogun State derives its name, it looked beautiful with the mass of vegetation that surrounded it,

We got to Olumo Rock about 3 hours after leaving this was for about a 65 kilometre journey (40 miles). We entered through the huge gates after paying our entrance fee and there before us was the famous granite rock. We had the choice of a lift (which was a bit of an eyesore against the natural granite rock) or climbing and decided that climbing would be more fun, we had a guide to take us around and inform us of the history and he took my camera and took photos too.

It is not the highest place in the world at around 137m but certainly was a fair climb in the humid heat of Nigeria. First was the main Olumo shrine where once a year only 2 people can enter, they used to sacrifice people but thankfully now just animals. There was a low cave where families would shelter in times of war, there were bowls carved into the floor. We went up this crevice which started with stairs and soon turned into boulders which we had to stretch across and anyone that knows me would have been proud of how I managed without fear and trepidation! The ‘safety measures’ were brown lines saying do not cross, every time I went within two feet of these Mr Dee panicked and pulled me back ( I think the fear of Femi’s wrath if I had slipped was his main concern). There appears sadly not a huge amount of well kept history in Nigeria probably not always realising its importance for future generations. This sight is of great importance to the Yoruba tribe which is predominately the main culture I have seen here.

We descended down on the inside staircase and made our way back to the car. We had dinner in a local ‘café’, the woman had run this place for forty years and governors and allsorts have eaten there. We had amala, Ogbono, goat and fish which was really lovely. Everyone was making a fuss of the ‘Oyibo’ and women would come in and say welcome. I then had the photo shot with the women handing me their babies, just as I handed one baby back it weed all over the floor and its mother, I would not have been so happy if it hadn’t waited those vital few seconds!

We then made our way back leaving at around 5.30 and again hitting the traffic in both Ogun and Lagos states I got in about 8.30. Femi was relieved to hear I was home (he was concerned as to whether I would be safe and not altogether happy with me going, so I thank him for letting me and lending us his car). Angela also rang to make sure I was OK, and when I came in she offered to make me dinner but even though it was jollof rice I had to decline as I was full. As I was sitting writing my blog I could hear Julie Andrews and the hills are alive, I went into the front room and just laughed as Angela and her sister in-law was watching The Sound Of Music. My favourite! Thanks Mr Dee for a great day and a memory that will last.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Friday 28th May 2010

Today was to be a day for resting. I was not that keen to spend the day at home to be honest. I didn’t rush to get up, showered, it must have been about 9.45 and followed by breakfast, cornflakes and toast with jam today about 10.30. NEPA was kind and the air con stayed on keeping me cool. I was also blessed with good internet access (not as slow as it normally can be here) so I was able to upload photos and do bits and pieces there.

At around 1.30 I decided that rather than go completely stir crazy in my room, I would sit outside. It’s not so much a garden as a paved side way. The family has a dog, white fluffy about the size of my dog back home (albeit slimmer and younger) that up until now has never been keen on me or rather it has liked my ankles and gone for them every time it saw me. It often had to be seen off by the children, whenever I came in from outside, or shouted at by Mama. Today I decided I was going to sit out and we would get on. As he ran up to me I showed him I was not afraid and was in charge (I thought that’s meant to work). He sat glaring at me and I offered my hand, after a while he came over eventually giving his paw to me and I stroked him. At last we were friends and I was able to enjoy sitting out, but as I went in to grab my phone he still went for my ankles, a playful thing I’m sure!

Emma (my older daughter) skyped me and we had a chat whilst the dog who is now very friendly kept nudging me and jumping up to get my attention. That was until Mama shouted at him and showed him a stick, he then laid down quietly. When the children came home, the driver took me to meet Angela at her work place.

The evening traffic was bad, we arrived and waited for Angela to finish work. Angela had generously offered to buy me material and have me and my daughters something made. So when she was out we went to a shop to buy material, this was where Angela has her hair done, and I chose three patterns from about six. We than went to the tailors, not a grand shop as it might be in the UK, there are many tailors here as many people have their clothes made by hand especially traditional clothes and they are far cheaper than in the UK, which is why I bought my material back to be cut and made. There were children running around barely clothed themselves in an area similar to that of Mafoluku. They may be poor but the clothes they make are beautiful and they are very good seamstresses.

We then made our way through the very busy rush hour traffic to a grocery shop that has a good reputation locally, run by a husband and wife with good service to its customers, which even Angela said was rare here. We grabbed some roasted corn from a street seller as a snack and then drove to the Chinese to grab some Singapore noodle to take away. As the driver and every other driver on the road drove from side to side dodging the huge pot holes, it made me think of the few back home after the bad weather that everyone complains of. Here they are everywhere from side roads to major roads some times you zig-zag along to avoid them.

As we made our way back home, an ambulance came along the road with lights and sirens going and no one moved it just sat in the traffic like the rest of us unable to make its way through. No one seemed to be thinking that this might be someone dying or that it was going to an accident. Femi only said yesterday that if you call an ambulance or fire engine they sometimes never even arrive or at best can take ages. This obviously is one of the reasons, no one sees it as a priority or urgent, something that could save lives, again I think this is down to education and ignorance. I would imagine the use of these emergency vehicles has been abused and so people don’t believe it is really urgent. They are not regulated and managed like our services. We in the UK know if we dial 999 whatever we need should be there within minutes wherever we are, and if it wasn’t we would want answers to why not.

Eventually we made it home it was now dark but only just seven o’clock, only one road I noticed had street lights, shops were often lit with single hanging bulbs. The roads were still bustling with people the evening trade goes on later here. When home I was welcomed by the children and sat in my room to enjoy my Singapore noodles followed by mango. I played online hangman with Beth and then Battleships with the help of the three musketeers here, which all got a little too excitable and our own battle commenced here for button pressing duties! Soon it was goodnight Beth and goodnight Bolu, Sola and Nimi and the peace and quiet of my room.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Thursday 27th May 2010 - Children's Day

The day of the Children’s Party was here. I was picked up by Mr Dee, an earlier start than usual as I had a radio interview with the lovely Mr Femi Sowoolu of Continental Radio. I had met him on my last visit here and had kept in touch via Facebook and he kindly invited me back again to discuss WFA and our Children’s Day party. The show went well, but I worry as although Femi has a very clear dialect, the show includes a phone in and I find it difficult to grasp what people are saying sometimes. Mr Dee and I always laugh as we can never get what each of us is saying. He says I talk fast, but I think Nigerians do but although it is English they do use words we don’t often use or mix it slightly with Yoruba.

The callers ended up being children saying thank you for my efforts and wishing me happy Children’s day. One young caller however asked if I could help his Mummy to put him though school and when Femi said I was already doing a lot, the boy insisted I helped him. This is typical of the desperation some children have here. The show finished and I thanked Femi for having me again and he tried to get me slotted into the morning TV show, but the schedule was full with children so I may be asked to return on another day.

When we got back to Mafoluku preparations were well under way. The crowds were gathering even though it didn’t start till midday and it wasn’t even 11, all eager to get a place at the party. The tables of toys were laid out, there were hundreds on display, party bags were filled with gifts for many of the children, and others would get smaller toys as well as clothes. So many had collected vouchers to attend and yet there were even more turning up. The children waited patiently in the heat of the day whilst we tried to be at least a bit organised, which always seems difficult with Nigerians. We handed out sweets but as there were so many children there was not enough to go around.

Eventually after the guests of honour (3 men from the CDC, CDA and the landlord of one of Mafoluku’s streets and Dr Abimbola Da-silva) had arrived and things were as organised as possible the party commenced. Mr Dee was the master of ceremonies and introduced us all then the national anthem was sung by two young children. Then the usual thing certainly for any Nigerian gathering, speeches from the guests of honour, that can go on a while. Then tickets were drawn and children were invited up to receive extra prizes.

Angela and the children turned up to support and join in. Eniola who I met on my last visit also came along to support the event and help out, as well as Femi’s younger sister. Then food and drinks were given out to all the guests, bags with sausage rolls and donuts, plates of puff-puff, spring rolls, samosas and plantain. After eating, children were invited up for dancing competitions, to tell jokes or riddles etc and won prizes. Then they were invited in to receive goodie bags that had sweets, crisps, toys etc in. Then they were ushered upstairs to choose clothes, to make this fair it was decided two items per person so that everyone would have the chance to have some and that only a few people at a time. The women were going mad, wanting several items, getting angry when not allowed to take more. One woman that had some items taken and thrown back flung herself with her baby strapped to her back over the hospital bed to retrieve them. Chaos ensued with nearly every group refusing to accept the rules, and not appearing grateful for what they had been given. I guess this is the side of poverty that isn’t so pleasant to observe. In their defence if you struggle to provide due to extreme poverty when an opportunity comes along you make the most of it. Others including Fumni (with the baby) were so grateful and happy to be given stuff.

The disco played on loudly and some went home whilst a few danced and played. Lola Adewole was a late comer but came laden with gifts, drinks, crisps, biscuits, lollies. We filled up a few more party bags and pulled in a few more children that hadn’t been lucky enough the first time. Then we went out into the street and handed out lollies and crisps even a few of the local men that hang about had some.

At the end when most was cleared up everyone was shattered we all sat around exhausted. It had been a manic, chaotic day, I think the kids had a great time, certainly the look on most of their faces gave that impression. It was the first event WFA had done just for children and on such a scale, I’m sure lessons would have been learned for the next such event. But given the circumstances and the environment in which this is done I feel it was a great success. Well done to all the staff, local people, friends of WFA and people back in the UK that donated money, toys, clothes etc. Without the effort that everyone put into this these children would not have had the memorable day and the gifts that they did have. Thank you, E-se.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Wednesday 26th May 2010

Woken up by the heat as NEPA was down, the kids sounded grumpy maybe they were hot too. Showered and dressed I got my breakfast from the kitchen, cornflakes with powdered milk, fresh milk doesn’t seem to be available here everyone mixes powder with water. I said good morning to Mama as she is fondly referred to, she is the house keeper. She often giggles at my attempts at Yoruba at her as I say E-se (thank you) & E-karo (good morning).

Mr Dee picked me up this morning, the traffic was bad again and we slowly crawled and weaved our way to Mafoluku. Without the luxury of air con in Mr Dee’s car when we stopped the heat soared, he kept apologising as the electric window is also faulty and wouldn’t fully open. I really didn’t mind his kindness at picking me up was far greater than my discomfort.

As we drove or rather sat in traffic I watched the Lagos world go by which never ceases to amaze me or make me laugh or cry. Such a mix of things that are so different to what I see as normal living in the UK. People are fetching water from communal taps and then walking with the heavy and full buckets and bowls of water on their heads. So many shack type shops selling pretty much anything you can imagine, it makes you wonder how they make any money when so many sell the same things. LAWMA, Road workers sweeping the roads in an attempt to keep Lagos clean. Men working hard digging the dirt and garbage from the large road side gutters, that separate the road and the shops to allow for drainage. At every entrance to the shop there are precarious boards to cross over like a draw bridge.

The disabled begging many seem to have these skateboard type things to sit on as their legs are withered and thin due to polio, they shoot around the traffic in hope of money, no wheelchairs for them. Many of these I understand from Femi came from the north where they refused vaccines as they fear it is something ‘Christians’ will give them to kill them. Improvement has been made in the area and fewer people now suffer from Polio. Still many can be seen in most areas along the roads begging.

Once at Mafoluku I took advantage of the fans to cool down and grabbed a sprite, all was quiet so I caught up on the internet. Femi made his breakfast which made me laugh, a pint glass filled with cornflakes, several sugar cubes, milk powder then water poured over the top (I spent five minutes making sure my power had dissolved before adding cornflakes! Only in Nigeria!).

Money was required to buy paint to freshen up the downstairs in preparation for the party. The staff hadn’t budgeted for this so I gave them money from the donations 2000 naira which is only about £9. They purchased paint and keenly commenced painting. It could be said a little too keenly as it was everywhere, no masking tape, no sheeting just rollers and paint, and once Femi had seen it and raised his voice (scary!) cloths were grabbed and light switches, tables, desks, floors and faces were wiped. We then had a quick African dance move session before I treated them to donuts for all their hard work.

After noon and the TV crew arrived from IMPC to shot a short documentary on Wish For Africa. They are behind a charity football match that is being held on 6th June with celebrity players and one of the teams will be playing for us. As we went from room to room for different shots one of the staff members were interviewed, then Femi, then myself. By the time it was my turn I was suitably hot and sweaty, being a celebrity certainly isn’t my thing, but all in a good cause.

Mr Dee then took me home borrowing Femi’s car as he didn’t want me sweating so much again, and we have to go straight for a radio station tomorrow. Poor Femi will have to slum it in Mr Dee’s car if he goes out, sorry! On the way home we drove through a different area of town, Mongoro Agege. It was the first time I had seen a railway, as with many things here it appeared to be work in progress some of the lines were being replaced, many were not properly joined. Further down the track I could see a train but it is obviously restricted on its destination. Apparently like many things that fail here, the people that were in government had no interest in railways but in haulage, so why put money into something that you personally won’t make money from? Plans are now set to improve the railway system and like all major cities they recognise the need for a better railway system if the dreams of a Mega city are to come to fruition.

On my return I was greeted by the children, all started calmly as they joined me in the room then they were full of excitement and came in jumping over me and the bed. After a while Mama came in and insisted they left the room to calm down. Any shyness from them has certainly gone. They have their moments but the are such beautiful children I am blessed to be staying with them (as long as the keep out of my bags :-)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tuesday 25th May 2010

NEPA was kind overnight and the air con stayed on without fail, even to the point of me leaving at about ten. I had the usual goodbye from the children on their way to school. Femi turned up around ten and we headed off to pick up Mr Dee before making our way to pay a visit to the build at Alagbado. Unfortunately progress has been delayed due to lack of finances and support, although the medical centre certainly had improved from my last visit. The outside had been rendered, roofing on and inside the floors and many of the walls had been tiled. The tiles looked great, not too clinical which is rare in a Nigerian hospital, a nice touch. A long way to go until completion but by Gods grace, sponsors and donations will allow its completion.

The Alagbado area has no local hospitals at all, the nearest we know of is about 3 miles away. This distance is just not practical for many to travel and with local herbalists and witch doctors on the doorsteps this is their first choice as its cheap and accessible. Many Nigerians have been brought up with this kind of medicine and believe it to be safe, which it often isn’t and at best doesn’t harm them but neither does it heal them. Another Doctor set up a local business nearby but found that turning the clinic into a brothel would be far more profitable. There is a huge need for help in this area and the local people deserve better.

We then made our way back via the airport, so I could change up some money for myself and some of the money donated from Beth’s school and friends to pay for the children’s party. We met ‘our man’ on his moped at the airport, bartered for a good price, then off he went to meet with his next client. No one uses banks to exchange money in Nigeria - another black market thing that is tolerated and accepted.

We then made our way back to Mafoluku and the clinic, passing though the back streets of Oshodi. At one point we were following the dustman as everyone runs out to chuck their rubbish in the back of the dustcart. As we arrived in the road of the clinic, Fumni (caesarean delivery last year) was sitting outside the tailors with the baby. With a huge smile she stood up with Rachel and I got out of the car, she handed me Rachel, who was not so pleased to see me and burst out crying. A strange Oyibo (white person) turning up and snatching you might be scary if you have never met one before.

Later Fumni came to the clinic to measure me up for an outfit to be made from some material that Eniola kindly gave me on my last visit. Femi hoped it would be ready for children’s day, so I could dress for the occasion. As soon as I walked into the room the baby cried again, I definitely have not made a good impression on her!

At the clinic we opened the suitcases everyone was amazed at generosity of people back in the UK and their thoughtfulness at wanting to send stuff to people they do not know. Their was also medical things that the staff in the gynae clinic back home sorted out which Femi was very pleased with, stuff that can be difficult to obtain and often very costly here. Everyone was very excited and wanted to look and touch everything, asking what some things were. The children’s day party should be a huge success and a big thank you to all those back home that helped make it happen.

Femi wanted to go to the local pool for a swim, so I accompanied him, although I didn’t have swimwear so I sat poolside and wrote my blog. I also enjoyed some suya a hot spiced meat which was tender and enjoyable. My only chance for a tan and it was overcast, typical. It made a nice change to be able to sit out & enjoy the warm weather. We went back to the clinic to eat rice and a spinach type dish with chicken. I find food here very filling and can never eat all I’m given, I guess because it’s so starchy.

The other bizarre thing that keeps happening (please tell me if it has happened to you) I keep getting repeated texts sent to me. Tony, Michelle and Femi all sent me a text on arrival in Nigeria and since then the same ones keep coming through not once or twice but several times a day (and night!) Again, ‘only in Nigeria’!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Monday 24th May 2010

A disturbed night, as not feeling my best (not quite sure why). The children knocked to say good morning before leaving for school, all looking smart in their uniforms. Nigerian school wear is different from what we are used to seeing in the UK. The children always appear smart for school even in the poorer areas. Bola, Sola and Nimi were no exception to this rule, I gave each one a kiss and they went on their way (home work in hand).

Femi texted to say the driver we have been lent very kindly for my stay by Aderemi Fagbemi was having car trouble and wasn’t sure when it would be ready (I could say this a hundred times a day ‘only in Nigeria’). So it was relax, chill and wait. NEPA off, I went back to bed, then NEPA on I decided to iron before it went off again.

The driver Waiha (I think that was his name) arrived, delayed in part by the very heavy Lagos traffic, but once we were on our way it was clear how busy it was. We passed though areas I had not been before, trying to avoid the busier roads to Mafoluku. As we drove up M M I Airport Rd the holes along the sides had been filled in, they are in the process of widening the road, realising that this is the main road that every one travels down from the airport and first impressions matter. Well that is unless you look too closely and notice the poverty at the edge of this road. I think that is the case as poverty is every where in Lagos. I have not seen one place that it isn’t in one extreme or another.

I arrived at the clinic and by the time the driver had turned the car around, all the staff were out of the building shouting and screaming with excitement. I got out the car and was attacked with hugs and kisses, what a welcome! We went inside as a meeting was in progress deciding on plans for the party on Thursday, which I joined in on. When the meeting was over I gave out presents to the girls of sunglasses and earrings which went down very well.

There is an exciting new project that Femi is getting involved with. Lagos Ministry of Health are setting up a community based healthcare prepayment scheme. The theory is that the poor pay a small but regular amount and when they need treatment it is free at source. We went to Oloworo another poor area near Magodo where a project has been up and running for nearly two years. Femi is in the process of potentially managing this in the near future. This means a regular income, support and being able to provide care in another poor area of Lagos.

We were shown around the hospital, it was purpose built bright and clean. The hospital contained two wards, male and female each with two beds, treatment room, consultant room, labour room & delivery room. It also has its own generator so not reliant on NEPA, and a water tank for constant water.

We went in and met representatives of the Ministry of Health and of the community scheme, discussing the details of the working relationship, our ideas and their restrictions. It was a very successful meeting and I look forward to my next trip to see this in progress. Lagos has certainly started to make changes and although much is long over due, it does appear to be making headway. It now needs the Diaspora to be catalysts of this change and people with long term vision, which arguably has often been one of Nigeria’s short comings. Enthusiasm, passion and ideas are many but seeing them through to the end seems to be the problem, often corruption gets in the way of the end goals.

I returned home and was greeted by the children back from school. NEPA was down so I thought I’d grab a nap as it was hot and dark inside. The children thought otherwise and decided my room would make the best playing area in the house. As I said earlier children are much the same where ever you go.

Angela who insists in spoiling me, cooked another delicious meal of fried rice and chicken. This was followed by fresh mangoes, which like most fruit here looks far less ‘attractive’ then in the UK but tastes so much nicer. I was joined once again by Bola who likes to come in and sit with me, she is lovely and reminds me of Beth, who I spoke to on the phone over dinner.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday 23rd May 2010

My first night sleep wasn’t too bad, disturbed only by the unfamiliar noise of the air con and the fact that the same two text messages came through about five times each. Angela and the children were up early to be at church for around seven. I was going to go to the second service and Angela would come back around ten to take me (the thought of rising at six for church was a little daunting).

As I laid on my bed thinking about getting up and ironing my clothes, NEPA (Nigeria’s electrical network) went down, so no electricity, no lights, no fans, no air con, no iron! I was able to have a warm shower although the power was low, but in the humid heat drying wasn’t a simple task, even my fine hair remained damp. Just about ten o’clock and NEPA was up, I turned on a fan (good job the house was empty as I danced in front of it drying my hair).

Angela came back to pick me up and we drove the 15 minutes to her church The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Life Spring. In comparison with other churches I have been to in Nigeria this was quiet small, but very friendly and I enjoyed the service. The theme was on having to give some things up so God can give us even more, like Noah, Abraham & Hannah. It also reminded me that Angela was giving up a lot to take me a stranger into her house and blessing me, so I in turn can bless others here in Lagos.

Whenever I have been to a church here, they always ask who has come for the first time, being that I have been to a different church every Sunday I always have to say yes (there is no way of hiding this fact as I’m the only white woman there). I then go off to a side room and get fed, this time a hot dog and fruit juice and also generous gifts, a mug, pen and a book. All we give at home is a cup of tea :-)

Returning home the children (Bola, Sola, Nimi) one by one join me in my room and ‘we’ do homework (they did it all by themselves really if Angela is reading this), it’s like being at home with Beth, trying to get them to concentrate on what they are doing. Children wherever they are, wherever they are from can be so similar in so many ways.

Femi came over in the afternoon and took me to see a friend, Gloria (Angela’s sister that showed me around on my previous visit). We drove to Festac, where I last went for Angela’s wedding. The okadas, taxis, buses, cars, people all jostling for spaces on the roads, I had to get back into non panic Nigerian mode. We stopped to buy fruit from the market - there were yams, carrots, tomatoes, pineapple, bananas, melons, mangos and some things I have never seen before. I just love the hustle and bustle that surrounds these places. The discarded fruit and rubbish was all in the open gutters and rotting, not the most pleasant of smells.

After our visit we headed back stopping to pick up some roasted corn by the road side, I also tried a fruit that I did not recognise, Femi also didn’t know it. It was mauve/ black and tasted like nothing I have had before, quite tart in taste but green like avocado in texture. We headed home past Oshodi and Mafoluku, can’t wait to get back there tomorrow.

When I got back Damola had returned home, Angela cooked dinner it was delicious. I asked what it was and she informed me it was egg and corned beef... well anyone that knows me knows I wouldn’t go near corned beef with a barge pole, I hate it! It was a good job I tasted how nice it was before being told. I will take the recipe home for Tony who is a fan! I was joined for dinner with a family of cockroaches in my bathroom, six in varying sizes and states of coma, Angela promptly sprayed them and swept them up, even though she was more bothered by them than me!

My return to Lagos 2010: May 22nd

I was taken to Heathrow terminal 5 by Tony, Beth and Michelle on this beautiful sunny day, summer had arrived and I’m leaving. The very nice man allowed my overweight suitcases though without cost and I headed though customs, a quick tearful goodbye and I was on my own.
This time I was not running with black men, it was much more relaxed and less stressed, having plenty of time to make my way down stairs, on the train to gate B45. Once boarded on the plane I found it to be half empty due I guess to the pending BA strikes, but this meant we had room to move. The flight went well with only the odd bit of turbulence and kept to time even though we left 20 minutes late.

The plane started to descend into Lagos and the green rural areas receded and the now familiar sight of the tin roofed buildings and the dusty roads take precedence. We land at the some what dated Murtala Mohammed Airport, and soon are making our way off the plane. Immediately the heat hits us, with very little in the way of air conditioning, the sweat soon takes over.

Once though arrivals I headed to get my bags, assuming Femi would be there to meet me as last time. Unfortunately he was unable to enter the building this time which meant I had to struggle alone with collecting 3 very heavy bags. Luckily I had some Naira and was able to obtain a trolley, and a nice gentleman assisted me with my final one lifting it on top. I made my way outside followed by a concerned female security guard, wanting to ensure I knew who was collecting me.

There was Femi with his huge handsome smile to greet me, along with Funmi, who I knew from my last visit. The hustle and bustle immediately hits as you step out of the airport, the sights and sounds of Lagos, I just love it! As you look around at the money men making deals on Naira, disabled people hoping to stir the conscience of the ‘wealthy’ and many others hoping to cash in on the travellers.

Once in the car we headed towards Ikeja and the house of my hosts Angela and Damola, a secured area with guard entry. We found the house and received a warm welcome from Angela and children.

A large open planned house, very different in style and feel to UK homes. I was shown to my room. The children were very keen to receive their gifts, so helped raid my suitcase in the hunt for jelly babies. I unpacked, spoke to home and then we ate delicious shrimp rice and a red hot sauce with chicken, I love the taste of Nigeria. Then off to write this blog and to go to bed, air con bellowing.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Returning to Lagos 2010

Preparing for Lagos

I had been thinking of returning to Lagos for a while but this is a costly event, flights, visa, hotels etc, so I had pretty much given up on it happening this year. Then out of the blue after receiving a very kind offer of accommodation with the lovely Angela Edewede Atanda (I went to their wedding on my last visit) and family in near by Ikeja and then checking out that she really meant the offer, I went into action. First Tony, he gave me his blessing, then Femi who seemed more than happy that I would pop over. Ideally I wanted to include National Children’s day May 27th, as a party was being planned for the local children in Mafoluku. I checked out that I was OK to take annual leave at this time and then booked my flights.

I planned to meet Folakemi Olaleye in London to go to the Nigerian High Commission and get my visa together (assuming she would know where to go and of course she was no wiser than me!). We met in Charing Cross station and then made our way to find an internet café as Femi had only just managed to email his passport details to me (usual problems rain stopping internet in Lagos) and I needed to print them. Then we headed for the NHC to obtain my visa.

We entered the building and went down stairs, there we grabbed our number and sat with the crowd. The closely packed seated area reminded me of Church in Nigeria, minus the dodgy sound system. Everyone was chatting as we patiently awaited our number to be called. After about an hour or so it was my turn, I went to the desk was greeted by a polite man, who then proceeded to look at my application quizzically, I wondered what I had done wrong or forgotten. He asked me to take a seat and disappeared without explanation, this hadn’t happened to others in front of me!

On his return he beckoned me over, and said could I return at 3.30 or tomorrow as the High commissioner wanted to see me. I asked was there something wrong, to which he said no they had received my email. Femi had said to me, email the NHC and mention that I was applying for a visa and tell them about my previous trip, he said they may be interested. The NHC hadn’t replied to this email so I assumed that they were not interested.

I agreed to return later that day, Folakemi and myself went off laughing at the thought of being asked to be seen by the High Commissioner. We had lunch in China town, went and sat in the sunshine of Trafalgar Sq wasting time until we could return. We made our way back into the NHC and went downstairs again. Someone came and got us and took us up stairs, we then followed two gentlemen at great speed up another couple of flights of stairs. Folakemi and myself were quiet breathless as we ran to keep up. We waited outside a room, where men in smart suits kept walking past and politely saying hello. Eventually the men came out and apologised that Dr Tafida was about to have a meeting.

We were then ushered down the stairs to another office, where we discussed with the two men (who’s name I am not sure of, Mr Mohammed I believe was one) the work and ethos of Wish For Africa, my personal experience of Nigeria, the BBC programme ‘Welcome to Lagos’. I was also asked what I thought I could do to improve the health system of Nigeria ( I felt a little out of my depth with this question I must say!). We were treated to green tea and biscuits, but time was getting on and over an hour had passed. We decided we had to go due to family commitments and thanked our guests. This was after we were informed I needed a special delivery envelope for them to return my passport/visa and we had run to the nearest post office just before it closed to obtain it.

So although excited at the chance of discussing 'Wish For Africa' with the High Commissioner and then the disappointment that it never happen, it felt an eventful start to my next Nigerian adventure. Although I was in London it all felt so very Nigerian in a familiar, comforting sort of way. :-)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Wish for Africa’s New Year’s celebration of 2009

As the day drew near the number of friends of Wish for Africa wishing to join the celebration at the 805 restaurant in the Old Kent Rd, London, surpassed the places we had booked. So the night before Femi was sweet talking Uncle James (owner of 805) to fit in a few more seats to accommodate everyone.

I arrived around 19.30 (as I was told 'no African time o') with Tony and Michelle, Femi was already there and setting things up. A steady flow of people with one common interest, all supporters, friends or champions of Wish for Africa started to arrive. The gentlemen were all looking smart and handsome, the women looking beautiful and stunning.

Greetings and welcomes were made and seats were taken, everyone chatting and getting to know each other. Photo time and everyone keen to be snapped next to each other, new and old friends alike. The food ordered, we sat to eat and what a Nigerian feast! Jollof, fried yam, pounded yam, amala, plantain, egusi, fish, the spread looked amazing. Everyone tucked in enjoying the food and the company.

Abby our very own 'Oprah' took the mike and got everyone to say how they are associated with Wish for Africa. Then myself, Doyo Olomu, Ola Olundegun, Olaitan, Abimbola, Bola and of course the master of ceremonies Dr Femi Olaleye spoke about our involvement with WFA over the past year and our hopes for its future. Speaking about medical missions, trips, support events etc (to find out more go to http://www.wishforafrica.org/ or visit the cause page on facebook).

An amazing evening and many thanks for the donations and words of encouragement and thanks that everyone shared with both myself, Femi and everyone that helps the cogs of WFA to run.

We have an amazing God that has blessed us with so much here in the UK, we have such wealth, we have running water and electricity, if we are hungry we eat, if we are ill we get treated, when someone in the UK dies its not usually because we can't get treated or haven't got the money to get treated. We live in a consumer throw away society that wastes more than many have.

We can all make a difference, not everyone can be a Dr Femi Olaleye or even a Jo Watts but we can all do something however small or big that can affect the life of those that have nothing or just far less than ourselves.

To help do your bit join the cause 'Wish for Africa' on facebook and invite your friends to give awareness to the good works being done.

Donate either a one off payment or set up a direct debit, the good works we do at WFA cannot happen without the financial support of its supporters.

Encourage employers to support the cause. Send items such as medical equipment etc. Whatever you can give or whatever you can do will make a huge difference to the people in the deprived areas of Mafoluku, Ketu, Alagbado and beyond.