As Dammy and I walked through liquid, solid, organic recyclable and hazardous rubbish, trying to locate the Baale’s house, we could barely come-to-terms with the actual reality of people living, eating and bearing children in this … this… this place. No, you don’t understand – every single step that drew us closer to the Baale’s courtyard, had us going into more intense debris.
The entire landscape was covered in all forms of waste and every further step we took was more calculated than the last, as we desperately tried to avoid getting our feet into dung. I fought the urge to puke so bad and almost wished we could run back to Sogunro community of Clothe-The-Clotheless-2018, it was definitely not this bad. *Deep sigh*
Over a month before this, we had commenced planning and had been in search of the perfect community for Clothe-The-Clotheless-2019. After visiting and carrying-out a thorough survey on about three (3) communities on Lagos mainland, we finally found the Mosafejo Community — a slum inhabited by people that lack fundamental resources and capabilities such as adequate sanitation, improved water supply, durable living space and decent clothing.
Our goal for Clothe-The-Clotheless-2019 was straightforward, “Make these under-served children realize that they matter, by giving them a tiny-weeny bit of the Christmas they deserve through the gifts of Christmas dresses and a decent lunch”.
Finally, we got to the baale’s residence and met with Baale Koja who was very receptive and expressed how deeply-touched he was that we even thought of reaching-out to their community. Baale Koja prayed for us and with warmth and much enthusiasm, offered to let us make use of his courtyard for the event on the 21st of December.
We went about purchasing rolls and rolls of fabric for the dresses and we commenced sewing almost immediately. The figure we set out to reach-out to in December 2019, was triple of what we did in 2018 – thus the plan was to clothe and feed two-fifty (250) under-privileged children! Did it seem like we were biting more than we could chew? Oh yes! But guess what? – Your kind souls made it absolutely achievable! Goodness gracious!! The Folabomi Foundation received donations from one-hundred-and-three (103) individuals and brands combined. We were blown-away by your support! Thank you! Thank youu so much!!!
Weeks were counted down to days, the Folabomi House of Fashion tailors delivered 100% on the clothes, Martins and Anu came through 100%, Onyiye helped-out and soon enough all the bags were ready for delivery. Drinks, safe drinking water, goodies, party-jollof and chicken, buses to convey the clothes were all sorted-out. Everything seemed to be falling in place nicely.
Suddenly, the evening just before the D-DAY, Dammy called to share the most heartbreaking news: “Tolu, I am currently at Mosafejo for final checks and arrangement and I have just been informed that the Baale lost his daughter today.” Dammy spoke in hush tones over the phone. I was struck. Confused and lost for words, I whispered a prayer to God and felt a calm! Dammy went further to explain that we are still much welcome to make their children happy, however, we wouldn’t be able to use the courtyard anymore as the Baale’s household was mourning.
Dammy went ahead to finalize and secure the new spot we would use which was a safe-distance from the courtyard. Couldn’t have been more thankful for the most proactive team-players.
The 21st of December finally swung-in and it was an absolute rush of adrenaline, as the past three (3) months of planning were about to become three (3) hours of execution. As soon as it was daybreak, Phresh Treats Nigeria sent in the most mouth-watering cupcakes for the children. The drivers were already outside with their buses before 8:00am. Volunteers started arriving, with Ebenezer leading the way. Shortly after, Ifunanya arrived bearing cartons and cartons of goodies for the children. James and Daniel went ahead to collect the packs of rice and before long, Zino, Laolu, Ayobami, Ayodeji, Jumoke, David, Olushola, Ademola, Mary, Titilayo, Pelumi, Busola, Christy, Esther, Daniel, Onyiye and Ireti were all ready to be of service. With a convoy of two (2) buses and three (3) cars, we were enroute Mosafejo community.
We had left the usual express roads we were used to and had veered off the Gbagada–Oworonshoki express into the suburban communities. The drive-through suddenly became narrow, a skilled driver would still need some expertise to navigate the road well. Fam! We started off on what seemed like a straight path until we got to the high pavement. Our Coaster buses revved and revved till their bumpers couldn’t take the pressure. Thankfully, we had a kind Army of young men that decided to become soldiers, driving instructors, all things and everything for Folabomi Foundation.
At last, one of the volunteer’s brave car successfully went over the pavement. Car loaded, bags in hand, we pulled-through with all of the goodies we could muster into the heart of Mosafejo community. We got to the venue that was already laden with a canopy, chairs and a waiting crowd. We initially thought we would have to announce our arrival but I guess good news spreads faster than wildfire. Our volunteering MC swung into action as soon as we got there; a little boy no less than four (4) years old whispered a sincere heartfelt prayer and set #ClotheTheClotheless’19 officially in motion.
The minute the little boy who successfully sang the second stanza of the national anthem received his Folabomi Branded Tee Shirt, was the minute our drafted-program came to an end. It went from 0 to 100 really quick!
Within seconds, the population increased from one-hundred to five-hundred and then we lost count. It was a fast and furious showdown. These little fellows and their parents might look calm here in these pictures, but they were everything except that – calm. We began to dress the little children with their brand-new Christmas dresses and it was such a joy see that each child would have something decent to proudly wear on the 25th of December.
The excitement on the faces of the children was second to none. There was a little boy who got only one item. As soon as the volunteer was done dressing him up in his Tee-shirt, we literally watched his smile walk from the depth of his heart till it completely lit up his face. He looked like he just got the whole world. That was all the gratitude we needed. His Smile was full and genuine. Nothing could have compared to that little boy’s warmth.
To think that there are a group of people who do not care for phones and laptops and all the complex stuff but are most grateful for basic shelter and a decent meal? That was stunning to watch. It was simply Magical!
After about three (3) hours of the twenty-two (22) volunteers being pulled and tugged-at while draping the little girls, giving out Tee shirts and joggers to the boys, sharing plates of firewood party-Jollof, sweets, biscuits, noodles, drinks, caprisonne, lollipop, safe drinking water, everything we came with; we were ready to go.
However, our Omo-Onile brothers were not quite ready to let us go. Not that they were displeased at all the beautiful gifts we had to share to the children in their community o, they just didn’t understand why they shouldn’t also be classified as children and thus settled. We seem to be getting better in “The Art of handling Omo-Oniles” as we were able to wiggle our way out without much damage happening to our wallets. Truth be told, some of them were really helpful. They made distribution and decorum almost easy. 😂😂😂
As if our day wasn’t already a pot full; the tyre of one of the buses got punctured in the process of skillful reversing. Aha!!!! There was now no way we were leaving without settling our make shift mechanics.
Clothe-The-Clothless-2019 was intense. It definitely wasn’t all fun and games because these children gave us a run for our money goodies, but it was the most fulfilling experience!
Do you realize that because of you, over two-fifty (250) children in Mosafejo community were decently clothed and fed? Folabomi Foundation says a massive massive ‘Thank You’ to you all – our volunteers, online and offline support systems, angels in Human clothing, our donors, cash and kind sponsors – for making Clothe-The-Clotheless-2019 an immense success. May the good Lord bless you and satisfy you with the best gifts this new decade.
It really was a world-wide effort and in every spoken and unspoken way, the children were beyond grateful. We, on the other hand, were just honored to have served them.
Already looking forward to Clothe-The-Clothless-2020 but till then, will like to end this by quoting Ifunanya, one of the volunteers, who said “People are suffering, do not take your present situation for granted, you are living someone’s dream”.
Very very very special thanks to our volunteer-photographers capturing these priceless moments: