The photo above: The most recent picture of little Maria – Nov 09, 2019
The Christmas season is upon us again. This is typically the season where we splurge on ourselves and our loved ones. As we indulge in the excess of the season, let us spare a thought for the less fortunate among us, typified by little Maria Musa. Hopefully, this will move us to do an act of kindness that can make a whole difference to someone in dire need.
This is the story of little Maria Musa, a small girl who could be your daughter or mine, and who for no fault of hers, was born with virtually no fighting chance. Maria was born tiny, perhaps from acute malnutrition of her mother during pregnancy. Not much is known about her mother, other than the fact that she was a teenage girl displaced from her village, Badrissa in Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State. Adamawa is one of the North-East States in Nigeria that bore the brunt of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. Maria’s mother managed to escape the carnage along with her own mother, having lost her father in the attacks by Boko haram. They were now displaced people in their own country. Feeling unsafe and vulnerable, they joined others who were making their way to neighbouring Yola town to seek refuge. Alas! It was not to be for her. The teenager that she was, she had been impregnated under circumstances which were quite unclear, was it rape? Did a man simply take advantage of her and disappear? The long and short of it was that she died during childbirth, leaving little Maria to an old grandmother. Maria’s Grandmother could barely take care of herself, not to mention the additional burden of a grandchild. But she did her best nonetheless.
Photo of Little Maria Musa at the St. Theresa’s Catholic IDP Camp in Yola – April 04, 2017
Little Maria was very anaemic and quite ill when Fr. Maurice Kwairanga, the coordinator of the Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) at the Saint Theresa’s Cathedral, Yola reached out for help. Little Maria has now been adopted by a Good Samaritan.
There are indeed many ‘little Marias’ out there who also urgently need help. There are over 2m displaced people who need to be in school or learning a skill. Education is the sure way to invest in them and secure our collective future. Imagine ‘turning to lose’ two million people with no education or skills to fend for themselves into an emptiness that overshadows any possible hope for sustainability. They could become our nemesis.
If we have indeed defeated Boko Haram as is claimed, then this is where the real work of winning the peace starts. It is up to you and me, and all Nigerians. We have to be our brothers’ keeper. We have to show compassion and resettle all victims of the insurgency and rehabilitate the ones among the transgressors that can be redeemed. We need to be open-handed with our generosity.
Photo of Little Maria with Fr. Maurice, a marked improvement from a month earlier – May 18, 2017
The Fr. Maurice seemed yoked to the community and showed tremendous care towards the children within the limited resources available. Let us join hands during this yuletide season and sow seeds of kindness to reap a bountiful and secure future. Sponsor an IDP child today. Do not wait for the government or somebody else. You too can make a difference. If not you then who? if not now, then when?
If you are moved to take action, I have secured the permission of Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga to share his contact number (0706 133 5640). Donations can be made through the Catholic Diocese of Yola JDPC, Ecobank Nigeria Plc, Account number 1913003242. Thank you and God bless you, as you take action today.
Austin Okere is the Founder of CWG Plc, the largest ICT Company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange & Entrepreneur in Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network, and on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. Austin now runs the Ausso Leadership Academy focused on Business and Entrepreneurial Mentorship