Skills Acquisition Centers help widows and orphans

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali is the Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). Her Non-profit runs three Skills Acquisition Centers in Jos, Yola, and Michika. They specialize in training widows and orphans by teaching them for 3-6 months in either sewing, knitting or computers.

As part of the computer training, the students worked on vivid Power Point presentations about their own lives. After giving the presentations to the other students, they discussed their stories; this sharing of trauma is an important part of healing.

Sewing practice

In the sewing section, students work on mastering the manual treadle and are learning to sew various dress styles. Knitting students are making baby sweaters and caps which will be used during the “cold” season in December and January.

Another group learned to make women’s purses. A widow named, Lella, said for the first time in three years her life was beginning to have meaning and it brings her joy each time she learns and makes something new.

Lella learning to make a purse

Knitted garment

Keep Dr. Rebecca and each team of workers in your prayers as each center faces its own challenges. Some do not have enough chairs, others have no camera to document the work, transportation to and from the center is challenging, and there are always more who need help than the centers can accommodate.

 

Reflections on the August Fellowship Tour (Part 2)

by Pat Krabacher

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Aug 3, 2016 – “Care for the Widows and Orphans”

I awoke at 4 am this second day in Nigeria and my mind wandered to the next time that we would interact with children at an IDP camp. A hot breakfast was ably prepared by William in the Abuja Guest House. We finished packing for the one-hour trek south to Lafia, Nassarawa and then the 4-hour trek northeast to Jos, Plateau state.

Our opportunity to serve this day was at the CCEPI Widows Intake & Distribution – Lafia, Nassarawa state. Dr. Rebecca Dali has managed her NGO helping widows and orphans for 25 years. Dr. Rebecca anticipated 240 widows would come for the assistance in Lafia (which means ‘wellness’ or ‘good health’). We drove over roads that were “typical for Nigeria”, i.e. very bumpy with lots of pot holes to miss.

Arriving in Lafia we embarked from the van and were greeted by Dr. Rebecca and her CCEPI staff. Seeing my “non-identical twin” Sister, Dr. Rebecca was one of the sweet highlights for this writer. We have been friends for 4 years now and she is one of my dearest sisters in Christ.

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

We were provided a CCEPI vest and ball cap to wear while doing intake and distribution to the widows. It was overwhelming seeing the several hundred widows who needed to register to receive the assistance. Doing the intake was a bit challenging since many of the widows did not speak much English. What was special was being able to spend some one-on-one time with, and hugging the widows or otherwise encouraging them.  Many were young and typically had 4 or 5 children. After intake we each took a job in the distribution line giving each widow an item, e.g. bucket, a blanket, Maggi spice cubes, cooking oil, dish soap, salt, 10lb beans, and 50 lb corn. This resulted in the women walking home with the beans and corn on their heads and often with a baby on their backs!

The Lafia’s pastor’s wife and a few friends served us a very satisfying lunch of chicken, rice, watermelon and beverages. The 4 course lunch provided by the host church was typical of the “sacrificial generosity” we experienced all along our trek thru Nigeria.

Team at the Unity House in Jos

Team at the Unity House in Jos

After lunch we departed in the rain drops for Jos, Plateau state. The 4-hour. trek to Jos, brought us to the EYN Compound and ‘Unity House’ our ‘home away from home’. We stopped along the road to buy treats, bananas, and oranges from the roadside vendors. Arriving around 6 pm we were glad to have an opportunity to cook for ourselves at the EYN Jos Unity House. We had many of the comforts of home and wonderful space for the FT to relax in at Unity House. It had been a morning of service to the Widows and the two treks to Lafia, Nassarawa and then to Jos, Plateau.

Take-Away Thought – We had the honor to meet the widows and do the intake interview by filling out the CCEPI form for each widow served. Meeting IDPs that have lost everything makes violence “real’ and puts a life into the pain. A reminder that we are to care for widows and orphans as commanded in James 1:27. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress –

Help for widows and their children

 

EYN Director of Women's Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

EYN Director of Women’s Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

The Women’s Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) is beginning a special project for the many widows that are the result of the Boko Haram violence in Northeast Nigeria. The project is funded by Nigeria Crisis Funds. Over 5000 widows have been identified in the EYN church. Being a widow is very difficult in Nigeria; and since many of the widows are young; they do not have children who can support them. In fact most of them have young children of their own that they are struggling to provide for.

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

The project will teach 50 widows a skill so that they can start their own business. Also 35 of their children will be given scholarships for school fees. The director of a relief organization in Nigeria reported the following about education, “611 teachers have died as a result of the terrorism in the north east; 19,000 teachers have been displaced, 1500 schools have closed down, and 950,000 children have been denied the opportunity of accessing education.”

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

 

The problem is so big and there are so many widows to help, it may seem like we are not doing much, but like the story of the starfish, we are making an incredible difference for some. Imagine hearing the stories of so many and having to select only 50 to help.

 

 

Here are some facts about a few of the women chosen.

Rejoice David from DCC Gwoza, a widow at camp in Maiduguri. Her husband was taken away by Boko Haram to Sambiza, but was slaughtered there when he refused to deny his faith. He left behind 6 children 4 girls and 2 boys as follows:                                     Emmanuel David 18 years, Elizabeth David 15 years, James David 13 years, Sarah David 11 years, Juliana David 8 years, Lilian David 4 years                                                 Rejoice was selected for training in sewing and Elizabeth was chosen for assistance in payment of school fees

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Sarah John a 27 years old widow at DCC Maiduguri was a Muslim convert who was married to a Christian named John. Her husband was killed after 6 years of marriage by Boko Haram leaving her with 2 children, a boy and a girl. She has been in camp for some years now. Both her parents and that of the husband refused to take care of her because their faith is not the same. We considered her case as special so her two children, (Ayuba John 5 years old and Rifkatu John 3 years old) were selected for scholarship and Sarah requested to join training for sewing, which was granted.

Hannatu Haruna 9 years and Racheal Haruna 7 years are complete orphans. Boko Haram killed both parents and they are now staying with their old grandmother at Kiffi. They were selected for school fees scholarships.

 

Widow’s Oven Provides Income

Special Oven at Gurku

Special Oven at Gurku

While visiting the Interfaith Camp at Gurku, I met Esther. She is a widow with five children; two of which are living with her at the camp. A special oven was built with funds donated from Germany. The widows in the camp make muffins daily to sell to others at the camp and in the neighboring town. I bought 10 muffins and shared them with our group. They were a tasty snack and held us over between breakfast and lunch. This gift of the oven gives widows a way to work together and provides independence for life under difficult circumstances.

 

 

Esther( a widow)

Esther (a widow)

Julie Heisey enjoys a muffin

Julie Heisey enjoys a muffin

 

The Leftovers – Widows and Children

By Janet Crago

Many Nigerian widows and children are having a very difficult time adjusting to their new family situation, and “moving on” with their lives.  They’re often left feeling like “leftovers”.  But, let me explain.  Like widows in many places, they often don’t know what to do to survive, and in Nigeria, they often find themselves begging for help with their living situation and/or begging for money for the education of their remaining children.  Many of the men and boys have been killed.  Boko Haram doesn’t kidnap men.  The men are slaughtered (i.e., throats cut).  Sometimes they’ll even slaughter small boys.  They only kidnap women and children.  They’re the “leftovers” in this conflict.

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali

As I talked to Rebecca Dali, who started the non-profit organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment and Peace Initiatives), she told me that she’s recorded the names of over 10,000 widows who are the result of the Boko Haram insurgency.  Many of them are very young, and almost all of them have multiple children, with very few boys still living.  So, what are some of the problems faced by those newly widowed? —

  • Virtually all of them live in poverty, and struggle daily to have enough to eat.
  • Many have inadequate shelter.  If they’re still living in their home area, most houses have been burned.  If they’re displaced, they might need to go to a refugee camp or live with relatives.  Traditional culture in Nigeria dictates that when a man dies his property becomes the property of the deceased man’s family, so the widow often cannot go back to the house she was living in even if it is still standing.  Also, if a widow remarries, her children that were born from the marriage with her late husband now become the “property” of her deceased husband’s family.  Unfortunately, children inherited in this way are sometimes abused, treated as house servants, and get very little education.
  • If a woman manages to escape from Boko Haram and returns to her husband, she is sometimes rejected even by him.  He can refuse to allow her back into her previous home.  Even if he allows her to come back, sometimes his family will reject her and make her life miserable (i.e., she is now a “spoiled” woman!).
  • Physically, the women who manage to escape from their Boko Haram kidnappers frequently come back home savaged and very thin.  If they refused to convert to Islam, they were not allowed to eat until everyone else had their fill, which meant they very often went away hungry.  The food and supplies furnished in the Boko Haram camps were stolen from villages they’ve invaded and destroyed.  But, the women of the Boko Haram will not even share the necessary products for cleanliness, so any woman who escapes will come back very dirty.

The purpose of CCEPI is to assist women who became widows because of Boko Haram.  CCEPI helps them learn skills to be able to live on their own, and operates a livelihood center where they teach knitting, sewing, livestock farming, and computer skills.  They also have a department that assists widows who have been the target of gender based violence, an education department which assists widows and their children with school fees for the primary or secondary school of their choice, and a child protection department that takes care of orphans and displaced children.  The children are assigned a guardian who ensures that they’re taken care of.  CCEPI also has a Health department where widows can purchase common drugs.  CCEPI also teaches sanitation skills and helps to provide shelter for the shelter-less.

ZME - Women's Ministry

ZME – Women’s Ministry

But, CCEPI is not alone in these efforts.  Widows are also getting help from the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (known as the EYN).  EYN now has a Director of Women’s Ministry, Suzan Mark Zira, who has started a very important ministry for the assistance of widows.  Each DCC Secretary (District Church Council), and the Women’s Leader in that district, make a list of the widows in their district who need assistance.  When this is done, the Women’s Ministry has planned a four-step process to help them.  This four-step process is:

  1. Provide emergency relief assistance as needed
  2. Conduct Trauma Healing Workshops where needed
  3. Enable Skill Acquisition – The purpose is to enable them to earn enough money to live on their own.  The Women’s Leader in each district is first trained in how to make the following products:  liquid soap, Vaseline, room deodorizer, perfume, shampoo, Dettol (liquid antiseptic), and Izal (bleach).  She then teaches the widows in her district how to make these products.  Each are taught a different product so they don’t need to compete against each other.
  4. Provide money to start their businesses – Each widow is given just 2,000 Naira ($10) to start their business.  They are also given the first products that they will sell.  This gives each of them a start for their business.

To ensure that the money given to the women reaches its destination, the Women’s Leader from the district must sign for the money she will give to the widows in her district.  Then the individual widows must sign when they receive it from the Women’s Leader of her district.

Widows (picture courtesy of EYN)

Widows (picture courtesy of EYN)

The Women’s Ministry has also given a very important Project Management workshop.  They call the Women’s Leader, the Women’s Secretary, and the Women’s Treasurer from each district to come to a training workshop to teach them how to write reports so the Women’s Ministry can receive regular updates on what’s happening in each DCC.  They’re also being trained on accountability and transparency, leadership and mentoring, and the ministry guidelines for a woman ministering to others.

This Women’s Ministry Program was established in the last six months.  There are currently two women serving full-time in this ministry.  They’re facing the following challenges:

  • They don’t have a vehicle to transport the various ingredients they need to take to leaders who will then train others to make the products mentioned earlier.
  • They don’t have adequate staff to accomplish their goals.
  • They lack a stove for the preparation of their products.
  • They need dedicated paid Women’s Ministry staff at the DCC level.