Boko Haram Crisis: Shape Our Future Now
Organized by: Peyi Soyinka-Airewele
Update: Donations and Resources Provided as Material Solidarity for the Support of Young Victims of Boko Haram
This is a brief update following my trip to Nigeria in July and a note of heartfelt thanks for your generous support for the victims of the Boko Haram terrorists.
As the chaos of terrorism intensifies in Nigeria and around the world, true solidarity is more crucial than ever. Systems are collapsing with horrendous consequences, and it is tragically too easy to lose sight of the thousands of individuals who are strengthened by our decision to stand with them.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to visit the Stephen’s center in July, with an initial gift of $1000 from your donated monies and numerous boxes of school supplies. Stephen’s is a home and school that has been caring for over four hundred and fifty (450) orphaned children relocated from Northern Nigeria to rebuild their lives in the relative security of the South. I remain stunned by the enormity of the task undertaken by the passionate director of the center, Rev. Isaac Wusu, an indigenous northerner and survivor of violence and persecution.
The goal of caring for so many traumatized kids, helping them find healing and safety, and successfully educating them is a powerful active vision that counters the terrorists’ violent anti-schooling violence. The needs are enormous, but so is the determination of the Stephen center staff.
I could not hold back my tears when I met a few of the abducted schoolgirls who had managed to escape the camps of Boko Haram. I could only hold their hands and tenderly touch their faces with disbelief.
I repeatedly ask myself this crucial question: ”What happens after our traumatized children are brought back? What is next for them in a country lacking the barest social welfare system? Who is there to support their new struggle to survive in the aftermath?
We must continue to pressurize politicians and religious leaders for committed, positive and strategic action to stop the continued assaults by Boko Haram on vulnerable communities and to rescue our precious abducted children, male and female. Nigeria is truly battling to survive and our voices and actions have an impact, often small yet significant.
The reality is not promising: at the last count about a dozen parents of the abducted girls had died, some from grief, others from the continued assaults by the terrorists. Chibok, Gwoza, Michika, Mubi and numerous other towns have been attacked, razed and devastated by more terrorist attacks; Boko Haram has embarked on a new terrifying political take-over war strategy that emulates Iraq’s ISIS systematic tactics of attack, overwhelm and take-over; intelligence reports warn that Boko Haram is ready to launch attacks on Nigeria’s southern cities; and some militant regional organizations in the country have issued ultimatums for a complete fracture of Southern and Northern regions. As I have repeatedly stated, I believe Nigeria faces the terrifying possibility of genocidal war.
Faced with my inability to personally launch a military counterinsurgency, I treasure the opportunity to embrace and support the young survivors of violence at the Stephen’s Center, and to convey evidence of our material solidarity- that people are thinking about them, praying and fighting for them in diverse ways.
Read Out Terror:
One of the most urgent needs at the center is the need to provide Books for the children. ‘Boko’, as you might know is a corruption of “Books”. While the terrorists have decided that books (secular education) are an abomination, we are determined to help the children fulfill their dreams and their parents’ desire that they be educated to reach their full potential. The library at the orphanage and school is virtually empty and after discussions with the director, we have initiated a Read Out Terror drive to collect approximately 1000 excellent children’s books and learning resources that will bring laughter, comfort, hope, confidence and a renewed passion for education for these young survivors. We will also send educational materials focused on the basics – arithmetic, writing, reading skills, and sciences. By the end of 2014, I hope to have returned to the center and helped to equip the library to serve as a comforting supportive space for the children’s growth.
1. Local volunteers for collection, inspection, review, cataloging etc.
2. Pre-K to Grade 12 literature in new, excellent or very good condition. No unwarranted sex or violence. Books that bring comfort, laughter, support healing, faith, inspire love for books, including good old classical kids favorites. We will also include some outstanding youth books that deal with difficult themes, catalogued in special guided reading sections.
3. Pre K to Grade12 non-fiction books: focus on mathematics, sciences, reading and writing skills development, practice books, flashcards, teaching books, UK English books very welcome.
4. We particularly welcome innovative educational games that teach mathematics and language skills in a manner that is fun and engaging. Electricity cuts are frequent so donations that require electricity should be accompanied by solar powering options.
5. Shipping and packing costs are approximately $3.50 per pound weight and we hope to encourage book donors to consider donating toward shipping cost of their items.
Donating Learning Resources: Locations etc.
We would like to be as cost efficient as possible, so we are requesting materials only from donors based locally within Ithaca, NY and its immediate environs. For interested supporters outside the region, please consider supporting shipment costs or the local purchase of child size chairs for library spaces.
With very warm regards and many thanks for your support.
BACKGROUND TO THE CRISIS:
The world has recently been shaken by the horrendous abduction of almost 300 teenaged schoolgirls from a boarding school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria. Some of these children were studying to become doctors, lawyers and engineers. Despite an outpouring of “Bring Back our Girls” mobilizations in Nigeria and globally, attacks have intensified on resistant communities.
The April 14 abductions were merely an abhorrent twist in ongoing devastating terrorist assaults on villages, churches and schools in northern Nigeria and the capital city of Abuja. Three states in the region have declared a State of Emergency and a floundering government has called for external assistance.
The ‘Shape our Future Now’ humanitarian response project is led by a team of African scholars, activists and professionals in the Diaspora and Continent seeking to respond in solidarity to the desperation of those who have been injured, displaced, widowed or orphaned as a result of the crisis.
Friends and Supporters: You will never singlehandedly stop Boko Haram, neither can you reverse the unbearable trauma that the 300 school girls of Chibok boarding school have suffered while in continued terrorist captivity.
You cannot bring the dead victims of bombings in Abuja, Jos, Maiduguri etc. back to life or restore limbs and skin to those severely injured in terrorist attacks and burnings.
But if you feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the growing crisis and have become paralyzed by helplessness, there is much more that we can do beyond merely sitting on the sidelines, analyzing the turbulence in Sudan, Nigeria and Congo or presenting endless papers at conferences.
“Shape our Future Now” is a collective Diaspora-Continent humanitarian initiative with a difference.
- We believe that we can actively resist the power of terror and its intent to degrade, reduce, disempower and create an environment of paralyzing fear and loneliness.
- We stand against abuse and violence by state and non-state actors.
- We believe we can challenge the apathy and violence of the state by providing support in solidarity with those in the front lines. We can serve as their supply lines of resources, materials, treatment and encouragement as they survive and fight against both a terrorist army and a state, military and police force that often disempowers them, ignores and silences their voices and suffering.
- We can work in solidarity with those who seek to compel the state to be accountable to its citizens and provide the infrastructure and leadership needed for a secure future.
- Our approach to strategic humanitarian action focuses on the need for healing, rebuilding, trauma recovery, food, shelter, mobility, economic empowerment and political engagement.
- More important, as we help fund the education of children orphaned by terrorists or driven out of their schools and communities, we therefore actively stand alongside the millions of community members in Nigeria who are resisting, even at the risk of death, the unwanted philosophy of a violent organization that insists that education is an abomination, punishable by death, torture and kidnappings.
NETWORK OF SUPPORTERS
‘Shape our Future Now’ encourages us all, in the diaspora, continent and our global community of supporters, to make a deliberate and thoughtful commitment of our collective material resources to help support beleaguered activists who are fearlessly putting pressure on their own government to act urgently, progressively, responsibly and effectively to rescue the abducted, protect our citizens and provide socioeconomic infrastructure for a secure future.
We cannot build a secure future for Nigerian and African children merely by our words, debates and tears. We need a network of eyes and hands in the Diaspora and continent who will stand and act in true solidarity to encourage and anchor the battle of those in the front lines of an undesired war.
Your commitment will mean that the future of a child in the war zone is not ultimately determined simply by the immoral violent dictates of those whose vision is shaped by the trigger of an AK 47. Join us to Shape our Future Now! Please donate as best you can.
THE WORK ON GROUND
Funds from this particular fundraiser will go to a number of local organizations directly involved in supporting victims of the crisis, such as:
- The Stephen's Center Home and Group of Schools, is an inspiring project of the VOCM ministry that currently cares for approximately 400 children orphaned or left in desperate straits following religious attacks in their community. http://www.stephensng.org
- The "Women Economic Emancipation Initiative" (WEEI) located in Jalingo not far from the Chibok area where school girls were abducted. The organization is run by an incrediblly passionate scholar-activist from Taraba state, Dr. Mrs Paninga who provides training for economic independence and survival. The pressure on the organization has increased greatly as violence and displacement have affected the area. www.weeinitia.org
- Development of disaster relief response structures in universities in selected buffer states, with training of volunteers by professionals with many years of disaster relief and emergency response training.
- For more about the team, please go to our website