Divine appointment-The Ijegun Connection
May 28, 2019
I met Aramide on World Pulse, an online platform where women (and some bold men) share their stories, speak out on issues that affect their communities and share resources and needs to effect social change mainly in under-resourced communities.
She is one of the many Nigerians on the platform and I was quickly drawn to her when she shared a need for a summer program for young girls in Ijegun. An initiative she called Girls Arise through her NGO, Best Springs Foundation. The need was for about $200 to provide a computer literacy summer program for girls in Ijegun. By the time I saw the need, it was late into the summer but I continued to follow her stories and we connected by me commenting on her posts and she on mine.
Late last year I thought I could absorb a few of her girls into a mentoring program that my sister and I had started informally and asked Aramide for 5 girls to begin a formal pilot process with. She sent me a bio of 7 girls to choose from. The idea was to match the girls with one-on-one caring adults who will be "Big Sisters" to them with non-judgemental friendship at the heart of it. Logistics became an issue. Ijegun? Where is Ijegun? My first question. Who can we find that will literally leave their homes and travel in the complexity of Lagos living to go to Ijegun? Logistics had also killed a program we began in Ikorodu with the help of friends and I wasn't about to go down that same path. My head started spinning. These girls still need us irrespective of where they live and people are already overstretched with daily living especially in the Lagos metropolis to commit to any further traveling on their agenda. "What do we do"?
My immediate thought was to stick with calling the 7 young girls to check on them from time to time on a consistent basis. Then we quickly realized that most of the girls relied on their mother's phone and some did not have one altogether. 7 girls? I should be able to handle buying phones for them and maintaining a relationship with 7 girls were my thoughts. How hard can that be? After all, I'm already committed to an online mentoring relationship with a young girl in South Africa through Infinite Family and will just have to create more time during the week and weekends to make this happen.
I shared this with my sister who has a like passion and who has been my sounding board since the baby called mentoring occurred to me. She was very supportive and thought we had to start somehow. By then, Apinke Girls' Initiative, my non-profit had been registered in Michigan for about a year and the idea was already years in the making with us struggling to materialize our deepest heart desires. We had really started small by looking around us and being involved in the lives of young girls in our immediate vicinity. My sister took a young girl in her neighborhood under her wings and pretty much adopted her as family. I personally started to engage in a lot of self-development and other volunteer opportunities and our minds did start to expand.
Early this year, with the help of my sister we committed to Aramide by giving a token amount of money just to solidify our intent with her. She suggested we use the money to buy phones for the 7 girls so we could be in touch with them directly. Her enthusiasm and heartfelt gratitude for the small sum was quite confusing to me as I had no idea it could cover buying phones. Really? was my response and she went on further to tell me the amount was a lot of money that could even help pay school fees. Imagine my shock. "School fees"? "How is that even possible"? So I was schooled as she broke down amounts to me based on the community we were talking about. I soon realized that as little as we thought we had done, this was definitely significant in the lives of others. I asked Aramide to do what she felt was needed with the money letting her know I trusted her judgement on the matter and my preference will be for it to be used for school fees. She was torn between making the phone connection with the girls and adding the amount to outstanding school fees... the latter won. I however asked if I could talk to the girls on her phone at next mentoring meeting and she willingly agreed. A day to the meeting, Aramide calls me to ask if I could possibly speak with the whole group on their theme for the month and I nervously and gladly accepted.
On that faithful Saturday, I made a whatsapp video call and engaged 22 young girls. It wasn't the best of connections but we made it work and I got to meet my Ijegun girls. It was the most amazing feeling I had in a long time. From that point on, there was no way I was leaving any single one of them behind by picking 5 or 7. I unofficially adopted the 22 present and all those who were currently in the Girls Arise program, all 30 plus of them. A divine appointment; one that has now began a journey of learning, growing and "being the change I want to see".
The appointment started with meeting and connecting with Aramide, a truly remarkable woman, outside of my comfort zone who told me I was an answer to prayer. Something she said in conversation but I have taken to heart, not taken lightly and as a matter of fact still brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it. ( I have a lot to say about Aramide, Ijegun and our awesome girls but I'd save that for later).
An answer to prayer?.. The enormity of that is not lost on me. I gladly, graciously and gratefully embrace it knowing God has already prepared me for this time knowing fully well it's never been about me and what I can do or can not do but what He purposes to do through me and what He is about to teach me through these young girls. I can safely say, not my will but yours Lord for it is in Him I live, move and have my being and I'm only honoring an appointment He has divinely and beautifully interrupted my life with.
Ijegun is now where a part of my heart resides and I love these girls dearly.
Copied from my blog irinajoblog.wordpress.com
In the picture are some of my Ijegun girls, Aramide (In black and red, right), Tope (extreme left), Girls Arise Coordinator and one of the mom's (behind Aramide) at another divine opportunityI had recently in Lagos, Nigeria