Harsh, Extremely difficult, Gut-wrenching. These are not very palatable words to read at the beginning of an article, especially early in a new year. But maybe they aptly describe the economic situation and life in general that a special group in Nigeria is experiencing at the moment.
If economic conditions are tough for you with a spouse, family or network of other people you can turn to, consider underprivileged widows. Left to their fate by the families of their late husbands after being stripped of everything except the children that they now have to care for all by themselves, these widows and their vulnerable children are at the bottom of the food chain.
Imagine what life is like to them at these most trying of times when even the most optimistic of us have their hope buffeted left, right and centre. How do these underprivileged widows manage to cope? How are they even able to survive? These are the constant questions in the heart of the president / founder of CBA Foundation – Chinwe Bode-Akinwande
These concerns and putting oneself in the shoes of such widows have inspired public-spirited individuals and organisations, which have made it their business to try to support underprivileged widows. In spite of limited resources, these individuals and organisations have never wavered in their commitment to ensuring that underprivileged widows and their children receive help and a fair chance to get their lives back on an upward trajectory.
In December 2022, one such organisation that has been in the trenches supporting underprivileged widows since 2015, embarked on massive interventions across three states in Nigeria in their bid to bring succour to widows. Over 360 widows across Lagos and Ogun States in the South West as well as Anambra State in the South East experienced the touch of kindness of the Chinwe Bode-Akinwande Foundation (CBA Foundation).
Ogun State witnessed the first of the interventions. With the help and coordination of the Baales and Olota of Ota, as many as 160 widows were assembled from far and near on 10th December. They were hosted and catered for at Sango-Ota.
Whatever may have been their story before that day, being gathered with people in similar situations and hosted by people who were determined to help as much as they could, would have planted in the widows hope and a sense that their story could change. The joy that flowed as the widows received the support the Foundation distributed freely is the kind you would want captured by a cinematic camera for continuous display in our mind’s eye.
Badore, Ajah was the location for the intervention in Lagos State which followed on 17th December. The 102 widows who were supported came from six different communities around the location. The Lagos intervention also delivered in terms of giving the widows hope.
On 22nd December, Anambra State took its turn. St Cletus Catholic Church, Otolo, Nnewi was the location where the 100 underprivileged widows from five different communities converged to receive much-needed support. From the choice of location to the support distributed among the widows, everything spoke of hope and the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Announced a month ahead, in November 2022, by the President and Founder of CBA Foundation, Mrs Chinwe Bode-Akinwande, the interventions were designed to “support Nigerian widows and put smiles on their faces ahead of the 2022 Christmas and the 2023 New Year…celebrations.” And that is what the interventions delivered, restoring hope in the widows to boot.
In all the three states the interventions delivered free medical outreach, provision of free clothing and free food distribution. Other lines of support extended to the widows included one-on-one counselling and business support.
The ecstatic joy on the faces of the women at the intervention locations may have made people who were around to witness the events forget, albeit temporarily, the biting economic hardship in Nigeria. For even people in government and those with access to people in government would readily admit that things are very tough for most people in Nigeria.
But while the challenging economic environment has made living very difficult for most Nigerians with many going to bed hungry every night, it has created a Nigeria-based hell for many an underprivileged widow and their vulnerable children. And so, many of such widows, given the hell they go through, would have quit trying to survive and given up living but for interventions by individuals and organisations such as CBA Foundation.
For many of these widows, CBA Foundation has been the hope that has kept them going. The Foundation, along with others which share the same goal as it, has been the only support structure these widows know. This support structure has been critical in making the widows will to remain on this side of the life and death divide each time things move from downhill to that state of hopelessness where ending it all is the only message that rings in their heads.
It is gratifying that Mrs Bode-Akinwande understands this crucial role her Foundation and others like it play. Theirs is a mission that not only caters to the welfare of vulnerable widows but could also save lives or pull such widows back from that place where taking their lives is all that they think about.
As important as this mission is, Mrs Bode-Akinwande does not let the work of restoring hope and saving lives that her Foundation is involved in go to her head. She is very humble about it and modest about their achievements.
If anything, she is immensely grateful for the opportunity to even be involved in the mission. She would have felt a strong sense of fulfilment if she were to be invited to volunteer on such a mission. But to be the one driving it is more than fulfilment and reward to her.
Fully sold out to the mission, Mrs Bode-Akinwande used the Sango-Ota event to restate her commitment to the noble cause of supporting vulnerable widows. She promised that her Foundation would continue to assist such widows across Nigeria as much as the Foundation is able to, with the kind support of donors.
The beneficiaries were equally grateful. Expressing gladness and appreciation for the multifaceted support the Foundation extended to them in their hundreds, the widows stated that they were deeply touched by the magnitude of the Foundation’s kindness. They observed that the support received would go a long way in helping them care for themselves and their children during and long after the yuletide.
Thanks to CBA Foundation, the 362 widows that were beneficiaries during the Foundation’s December interventions will not be describing their lives or situations with any of the unsavoury descriptive terms this article opened with, any time soon. With hope restored, the widows would now be eagerly looking to the future with optimism, believing the best about humanity, looking on the bright side of life and more confident that it would all end in praise even if it does not seem like that at the moment.
Today, the widows may not be where they should or could be. But they are not and will not, with the generous donations that public-spirited and kind people (like you reading) to give to the CBA Foundation to continue to support such widows, be allowed to descend back to where their lives could still be described as: Harsh. Extremely difficult. Gut-wrenching.
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