Mission Trip: West Africa - Edo State, Nigeria
July 29th – August 14th, 2017 (17 days)
From the perspective of Diana Bridges
Our Mission Trip to West Africa – Edo State, Nigeria was a success. After a year and a half of planning and many hours spent in coordination with the logistics of travel, we were finally ready to undertake the trip of anticipation.
Sunny and I went over first. We were meeting our additional team a few days later. We left the states on July 29th, 2017 and arrived in Lagos, Nigeria on July 30th. The flight is long, and it is always welcoming when we arrive. Once there, the challenge begins. The trips are rewarding, and we must keep our mindset on the purpose, or there is a tendency of getting depressed, just from the lack of the amenities in Nigeria compared to that of the US, which has all things in abundance.
When we visited in 2016, Sunny made a promise that the Principal and teachers, would not be forgotten and that he would bring back material to help them prosper and to help the children in the school with academics. When we returned to the States, the planning began. It was then that we decided to formulate our foundation, and hence, A Boy and His Dream Foundation was born.
Our team of 6 arrived on August 3rd. Once we gathered together to map out our next steps for the following days travel, the others from the area community met us. Sunny’s Uncle, who is also an Attorney in Nigeria, was on hand. We had Sunny’s brother, Moses who lives in Nigeria, available as well as a few securities which we hired to secure our position while there.
The next morning, we were off. We traveled in a caravan of three vans. Each van had an armed police official, the driver and us. One of the vans had our luggage and the police who carried AK 57’s loaded at all times.
We had to have security, to secure our position as the journey was to deliver materials that needed the extra security to assure it was delivered to the appropriate destination and in good condition. We traveled the entire day and stayed at a local hotel that was close to our destination. We had dinner near Edo State and settled into our accommodation for the night.
Next morning, we were on the road by 6:00 a.m. It took us another 6 hours to reach the Ohordua Village Primary Elementary School, which was the honorary school that was chosen, due to this school being the very one that Sunny attended as a small child growing up.
Before we got started, we stopped at the Nigerian Embassy to meet with the Assistant Governor to announce our intentions and to receive their blessings. We introduced all of us from America and we then signed the books to officially be placed on the books as a host of the playground and giving’s of charitable goods from the US. Once the ceremony was over, we were on our way.
During the 2016-2017 year we spent many hours in preparation, collaborating fundraisers, food drives and efforts with so many who were a part of making this happen. The Rice family was a huge entity in our endeavors. It was decided through other mutual doings with the Rice Family, that the Rice children would announce that they had chosen the foundation, A Boy and His Dream, to be the recipient of the Food Drive they participated in during previous years, and there would be package 75,000 packages of rice/vegetables donated.
This was enough food to feed a family of 4 for 6 months. In Nigeria in the remote villages, food is scarce, as Sunny can attest to, as his belly was empty many a night when he went to sleep.
We were honored that Jack and Georgia Rice, chose A Boy and His Dream Foundation to be awarded such a magnificent blessing. With this came many months of preparation and planning. We had to raise the monies that it would take to purchase the rice and it was also decided, at the same time, that we would raise money not only to take the food to the children but also a refurbished playground. As we brain stormed the list grew.
At the end of our inventory list, not only did we have the rice for 75,000 packages but also the playground, school supplies, drums, (our goals were one, but we ended up with an additional one through a generous sponsor). We took clothing and tooth paste, along with tooth brushes and back packet.
Georgia Rice, organized her school friends and began to collect monies from family and friends. This magnificent 13-year-old was able to raise over $30,000.00 by herself. She also was the force behind the book bags supplied as gifts to the children and the school supplies.
The Rice family organized a food drive where close to 200 people came on a Saturday and volunteered their time at the Boys and Girls Club in Chesterton, Indiana. Once the rice/vegetables were packaged they were taken to a storage sight where the boxes were stored to ready for the 30-day trip, via a cargo container, across the Ocean to Lagos, Nigeria. We were able to ship in the 40-foot container the playground, book bags, rice/vegetables, clothing, toothbrushes and tooth paste, stuffed animals, footballs, basket balls, soccer balls and the school supplies.
Everything went seamless. When we all arrived, the items were stored in a safe location. To move the many items from the storage to the school area took many hours of manual labor. There are no lift trucks or electronic devices to bring it to us. We literally took wheel barrels and brought the many items from the storage area back down the small two-lane road to the school, where the deep ravine separated the road from the school yard, a piece of plywood formed a homemade ramp that was made to gain access to the other side.
Each morning the children of the local Village would greet us with smiling faces. It was a joy to see the children stay with us the entire day. The parents were absent as they had to work the farms in the area to gather firewood or food for dinner that evening. They would walk miles one way to capture their food and firewood. It was a given that the older children would watch the younger children while the parents worked. (The old analogy, it takes a village to raise a child, hit close to home as I saw it first hand). I was amazed when I saw an 8-year-old with a 9-11-month-old strapped to her back. The wrap is called just that, a wrap. The babies in the wrap had no diaper on. Just their bare butts. The older children would unwrap them and somehow systematically the babies would pee, and they would wrap them again. So precious.
During the day the teens would help the men, after receiving instructions from Tim DeLong, the volunteer from the organization who rebuilt the playground Kid’s Around the World Organization, and they would work diligently in the 100-degree sun and bursts of rain clouds. Once it rained the sun would come out and dry things out immediately. It was the rainy season, so it rained almost every day.
Each day we finalized our project at 5:00 p.m. and the children would walk the long roads home to join their families. Food was withheld all day until we returned to our motel to clean up, socialize and then sleep as we were on the road at 6:00 a.m. Many evenings we would return to the motel, covered with the red dirt, which was a clay formation, after the rains. Along with sweat mixed with clothing and shoes that had been rained on all day. We all couldn’t wait to hit the shower. We were greeted more than once upon returning, to find there was no water in the motel due to rations. The powers that be, would not prime the wells to allow the water to run, so they were without, as were we.
At times the lights were off for hours, meaning the air conditioning units in the wall were also off. (We all would gather on the steps of the motel and visit and made the best of it). These times are memories that will be with us for a lifetime. When the water did come on, it was cold. We would all shower in our motel units and then off to bed. At least we were clean, even if we froze while bathing. We were thankful we had water.
It took us 3 days to finish the project. On the closing day we had a ceremony where we were honored. It was a joyous occasion and we were able to witness blessings flowing on the final day. In attendance were the area Village Elders, government officials, parents and the children. They came in their finest clothing. We made a paper ring chain of colorful paper and we were able to circle the entire playground. This was the official ribbon we used for when the children came rushing through us to the playground to swing and go down the slides for the first time.
The local Priest blessed the entire project with Holy Water and prayed over us for working so hard to complete the project.
We were honored and humbled by so many area residents, who have no water, food, electricity or general goods to live on. GOD still blesses them with a sense of happiness and joy.
Our next Mission Trip will be announced during the 2 quarter. Stay tuned. We will be going sometime in 2019. If you haven’t been on a mission trip, place it on your TO Do LIST. Your life will never be the same.