With 250 pairs of donated spectacles and a collection of books for the school library in Abajah packed in our suitcases we took a 6 hr flight from Stuttgart to Lagos. Having passed through controls and customs without any problems Clifford Orjiako was already waiting for us. The first night and following day was to be spent in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city with 10 millionen inhabitants.
An internal flight from Lagos to Owerri, the capital of Imo State, approx. 800 km away. With police protection we drove into the city. The incidence of kidnappings in the south-eastern states of Nigeria is high at the moment for both locals and foreigners. As a consequence movement is restricted and caution always required.
On a walk close to the vicinity of the hotel we had the opportunity to visit the Anglican Cathedral Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord in Owerri. We were personally greeted by the pastor and given a detailed tour. The cathedral was built in the 1980s but was undergoing extension in preparation of the Bishops' Conference of the Anglican Church in Nigeria to be held in March.
Cathedral Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord in Owerri.
We also had the opportunity of visiting the international primary school on the cathedral grounds.
In the afternoon we took the 250 pairs of glasses which were donated in Nurtingen to St. Luke's Medical Referral Centre, where they were sorted and measured.
Full of anticipation we were able to take our first look at the transformation in the Community School in Abajah. Abajah is a 20 min car drive from Owerri. Die main school comprises 5 classroom blocks, of which one has been completely renovated by the African Work Group and one is being repaired by the state education department. The vice-principal was delighted to welcome us and show us around the school grounds, giving us some background and explaining some of the challenges they face.
School fees equate to approx. 100 € per year. Around 600 pupils are registered in the school, whereby numbers often sunk in the rain season as it was not possible to use the classrooms in such disrepair. The school must cope with just 9 members of staff, consequently many classes must be doubled up.
Palm fruits, for palm oil, are collected in the school grounds. Proceeds are invested in the school. Picture with Clifford Orjiako.
School refectory: mothers cook and procure food and sell it at lunchtime; open-air lessons in the dry season
We called in on the clinic to gain a picture of health care in the community. The clinic receives around 100 patients of all age groups per month. The most common symptoms are fever (malaria & typhoid). The clinic is not well supported and at the time of our visit the staff were still waiting for salary payments from summer 2009.
Abajah State Clinic - a few impressions
The obi at Clifford's home: a place of meeting, discussion and decision making.
Market in Abajah
Today a friend joined us: Sr. Chimogen - a family friend of Clifford Orjiako who has visited our parish in Nuertingen in 2009 whilst undergoing much-needed medical treatment in Germany. We visited the primary school in Abajah in which she had taught and we delighted the children by distributing colouring pencils.
The children are overjoyed by colouring pencils from Nuertingen.
A visit to Father Jude in the Parish of St. Aloysius, Abajah:
In the afternoon we visited the new parish priest (since summer 2010) of St. Aloysius, Abajah and extended greetings from Nuertingen.
Priest's House, St. Aloysius - A candle from St. John's Nuertingen for the new parish priest, Father Jude.
Naturally we wanted to call by in Umuario to see how our borehole project was commissioned in October 2009 and is in a good condition, being well used by the villagers.
Back in Abajah, we were invited to supper with Fr. Jude.
In anticipation of our visit to Nigeria in February 2011 many people in in Nuertingen donated used spectacles. These were measured and defined in Abajah and distributed among the needy of the local population. Our partner, Clifford Orjiako, saw the need to offer more than just sight correction and took this opportunity to offer a day of free professional eye and medical care services. Further information can be found on the project page and in our photo album.
We were very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Fr. Kenneth in his new parish of St. Anthony in Isiekenesi, a neighbouring community of Abajah. During the 10 summers in which Fr. Kenneth has been helping out in our neighbouring parish, Wendlingen, he has become a friend of our work group.
Exterior of Church St. Anthony - Sunday Mass - Fr. Kenneth's borehole project
The final touches are being carried out on the school building in Abajah. A good many helping hands are needed before commissioning takes place the following day.
Today is a great day in Abajah Community School. After eight months' renovation the block of classrooms has been completed just in time before the rain season sets in. After the first downpour of rain the night before, the pupils thankfully and joyfully move into their new, dry classroom even before the commissioning ceremony begins! The new books donated by our work group are proudly placed on the library shelves. The ceremony can begin... accompanied by dancing and music and in the presence of the pupils, staff and village leaders our work group is delighted to officially hand over the block of classrooms and new school library. In gratitude the pupils individally sign a thank-you card to our parish.
further photos can be found in our photo album
Today we embark on the adventurous journey by road to Cameroon. The evening before Fr. Samuel from Mamfe had arrived in Owerri to accompany us safely over the border. The vehicle is piled up high in true African fashion but departure is delayed by 4 hours since the car must be repaired. After 6 hours driving through Enugu State & Cross River State we experience another breakdown - no brakes! At snail's pace we continue to the next garage and are lucky to have the vehicle repaired after night fall. Upon our arrival at the border at midnight all available termites seemed to have been summoned to accompany us through the many border controls. Relief to finally arrive in Mamfe at 2 a.m. and be warmly greeted by Fr. Maurice.
Clifford Orjiako extinguishing the brakes
Today is a great day for all of us, particularly for the women of Mamfe. The Women’s Training Centre is to be officially opened. We begin with a joyous celebration of the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Lysinge and several priests from Mamfe.
After Mass the training rooms are blessed and dedicated and we are delighted to hand over a symbolic cheque from the Nuertingen fundraising activity “Light of Hope”. In one of the training rooms sewing machines which had been brought from Nigeria on the previous day are already set up. Rita Morten, the manager of the Centre, and a tailoress who will later give sewing courses show us the first finished school uniforms. The large local need for school uniforms led to the idea of including them in the first tailoring courses at the Women’s Centre.
The celebrations continue with dancing and music and we guests are enrobed in traditional costume. The women then show us further skills to be taught at the Women’s Centre:
At lunch time we were able to try the local dishes which the women had prepared for us. In the afternoon we discover Mamfe, visiting the large cross erected on the hill opposite when the diocese was founded, the river and the old German suspension bridge.
celebrating the Word of God – the River through Mamfe - German suspension bridge
A visit to St. Johns College is planned, where in 2006 we supported the installation of a computer laboratory and in 2009 renovated the sanitary installations. We are greeted by the whole school with traditional music and dance before visiting the school and dormitories.
In the evening we were invited to the bush village Mbeme, approx. 2h drive from Mamfe. We are shown how they produce palm oil. Many women work hard day & sometimes night: the palm fruits have to be boiled for 8 hours and then pressed by foot until the oil is released. It is tedious, hard work which leaves little time for any other activities.
The parish priest, Fr. Samuel, shows us some of the projects he has been able to realise in the 18 months he has been there, for example a pig farm and chicken rearing.
In the village hall we have an exchange with the villagers, answering their questions, before enjoying supper.
Traditional dance in St. Johns - Fr. Samuel collects the new sign for the Pig Farm - extracting palm oil
Saturday is a very spezial day for the diocese of Mamfe: a new parish is opened and the celebrations begin with an open air mass celebrated by Bishop Francis Lysinge. With music & song, and processions for the celebration of the word & the offertory the Mass takes a good 4 hrs! In the afternoon we are able to rest before having a meeting and exchange with the women from Mamfe who have many questions and much interest in the Women’s Centre.
Holy Mass mit Bishop Lysinge - The Gospel is carried to the altar - Meeting with the women
We begin with celebration of Holy Mass in the Bishop’s chapel before accompanying Fr. Maurice Ashley on a visit to the girls’ Grammar School in Okojong. We then return to the cathedral where we are introduced to the congregation at the end of mass.
In the afternoon Fr. Maurice shows us the area reserved for the bush mango project and explains to us the use of the fruits. Quite unlike the mangos we have come to know, the 5-7cm small bush mangos grow wild and are collected when they fall to the ground. They are dried in the sun. Then the black, shrunken fruits are split open and the white core is scraped out and ground. It is used in making soup and is very popular in Nigeria, where the majority of the prepared bush mango is sold. Although labour intensive, the income from bush mango is relatively high. In the evening we enjoy a walk through the town.
Mamfe Cathedral - Mamfe town
Sadly it is time to leave Mamfe, but to the very end our journey remains interesting and informative: on the way through the rain forest the friendly villagers demonstrate how the bush mangos are prepared and cocoa harvested. In the evening we are delighted to have the opportunity of a brief meeting with Moses Tabe and his wife before flying back from Douala to Stuttgart, via Paris.
Bush mangos are processed - cocoa is harvested - collecting wood – a farewell picture