British Women Group: A case for Children with Cerebral Palsy
With remarkable presence in the last 54 years across Nigeria, the British women’s group has been at the fore of improving and ultimately transforming the lives of women and children in Lagos. In its usual element of helping the vulnerable, the group stages a charity ball to raise money for children batting Cerebral Palsy at the Modupe Cole Hospice in Yaba, Adedayo Adejobi writes
Away from the noisome hustle and bustle of Lagos, the British women group, in high spirits, gathered last week Saturday at an evening of elegance in the quiet, tranquil and stately residence of the British Deputy High Commissioner on the former queen’s drive in Ikoyi to network over drinks, dance, take pictures and most crucially raise funds for vulnerable Nigerian children and communities.
In the traditional setting of a simple but luxurious home, it was indeed a breath-taking night to go back in time to a lavish evening of cocktails, three-course meal, extravagance, intrigue and mysterious British masquerade ball with loads of indulgent meals, fun, champagne, networking and charity for vulnerable and downtrodden children in Lagos metropolis.
From the moment the disguised guests arrived, this starlit venue in glittering masks that catches the light, they were treated to a sparkling reception of cocktails even as the lounge saxophonist, Victor Audu, serenaded you in the background, performing into the night, whilst guests mingled and captured memories with their phones and cameras.
With youthful, creative energy and passion for their craft, the young, brilliant, creative minds who make up the group called Footprints of David took to the right wing of the British Deputy High Commissioner’s residence entrance to render soulfully rhythmic tunes and stellar performances to welcome guests at the charity event.
The gracious party hosts led guests on a journey around the world, allowing guests to attend re-enactments of some of the most famous masquerade balls in the world. Attendees no doubt got into character and explored the magical, majestic and lavish world of masquerade that sparkled and shone.
Speaking on the unique essence of the Christmas Charity Masquerade Ball, Chairman, British Women’s group, Sandra Bell, said “We are a social group. We meet Nigerian expat ladies and mainly British ladies from the commonwealth. Initially, we were just a social group, but we focus now so much on charity. We help many women and children in the Lagos area. We find a project, focus on it, spend time and money on it and try to improve children’s lives.
We’ve helped an orphanage in Ajah called Sought After, run by a lovely lady called Carol. We’ve spent about three million on Sought After providing them with mattresses in partnership with Mouka, provided a borehole for them in partnership with Guinness and Diageo. We’ve paid the children’s education and renovated the bus. Having done quite a bit with them, we decided to move a bit to focus on the children from Makoko Bariga by providing the whole area with a borehole for them. They literally got water three days ago for the first time. We are also focusing on, and heavily involved in Special Needs School in Yaba and we are providing them with furniture. We’ve given them borehole, electricity, and bathrooms.”
In the words of the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, “Today is a huge enthusiasm for charity. As I say, the link between the people of Britain and the people of Nigeria is so very strong. It’s about celebrating the British community here in Lagos which is so strong and vibrant and a reminder to our people of links between the two countries.
But more importantly, it about raising as much money as we possibly can for charity. So things that the British women’s group have done previously; they’ve built borehole in schools, they’ve raised huge amounts of money for school buses and school books. The next project is about developing the facilities in a school in Yaba for children with cerebral palsy. Tonight, we want to get so much money as we can out of all the people who come. It’s about having fun and making money for the children with cerebral palsy.”
Speaking on the vision behind the event, Creative Director, Ethnikologie, Titiloye Ashamu, said, ‘‘from the very first meeting when we decided to have a ball to raise money, I got excited and instantly I had a vision of what I wanted the day to look like. The main thing was to raise funds for our charity and make people enjoy themselves with a clear message that it is good to give back to the society. With everything coming together, and purpose achieved, comes joy.”
Dancing and singing Nigerian traditional folk songs, the event brought to the fore, the unique essence of Nigeria’s rich culture, dressing, rhythm and heritage.
Speaking to THISDAY, Seun Awobajo, founder of footprints of David Foundation, who runs a community arts intervention to help kids off the street and coordinate them in channelling their positive energies to replicate good gestures for their community, the head honcho brought to the fore the women’s group discovery of the Makoko slum and its urgent need for intervention.
In his compelling narrative, “I was raised in Makoko community and after my school I decided to use what I’ve been trained in as an intervention for the Makoko community. I started the after-school creative session for kids in poetry, dance, visual arts and drama since 2005, and the essence is to see how we can stand urrby ourselves and for ourselves in the community, because it appears the government has forgotten about Makoko area of Bariga, Isale Akoka in Lagos. It’s obvious we are not in the plan of the government- either by oversight or political misplacement of priorities. We are plagued with social vices and so it leads vulnerable kids astray. I decided to use performance art to rejuvenate the understanding and mind-set of kids in the community.”
Telling THISDAY how the dream started, Seun Awobajo said, “we started with four kids and today we have over 448 kids who have been taken off the streets and back to school. Three years ago, I started a free school for the community with a population of 19,000 in the Isale Akoka, Bariga suburb in Lagos. The school currently has a 218 children enrolled in the school from primary to secondary. We currently have up to junior secondary school 3. My vision for the slum of Bariga is to have a big school with hostel facilities where the children can be well trained in dance, drama, visual and creative arts. Over 35 of these kids stay in my apartment. It’s rough!’’
Giving an insight on how he broached the life-changing intervention with the British women’s group, Awobajo shared, “Importantly, until the intervention of the British women’s group, we’ve battled the challenge of drinkable water all my growing years. We walk a minimum of four kilometres to knock at the door of one of the rich men in our community for clean and drinkable water. I was lucky to come across the British women group who came to our rescue by providing a gigantic borehole with a treatment plant for our community. This borehole has save us a lot of stress and given us a new lease of life and access to clean and drinkable water. The kids now feel a sense of worth and assurance of a better life and future. With the water, we can start to plan for proper toilet facilities as we presently defecate on the water bank. Our community is our government, and so we hope to build it through the help of well-meaning organisations like the British Women’s group.”
Speaking on its firms involvement in the charity event, Commercial Manager- Nigeria, Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited, Justin Bell, said “it’s absolutely the right thing for us to be doing. We do business in Nigeria and have been operating for over 18 years and this is our eighteenth anniversary of flying between London and Lagos, but our relationship with the British women’s group started a few years ago and we’ve been delighted to be a part of it because they do some fantastic work with some really good causes in and around Lagos focusing on children, women and their needs which is something we truly believe in.
We want to give something back and the way in which we choose to do that is by supporting charities like the British women’s group. They’ve shown us how dedicated they are to the good causes; they’ve really followed through on these causes. They do a lot of homework and make sure that the money gets spent where it’s supposed to get spent. They follow up and make sure that whatever they invest in is invested in properly and goes to the right places. That’s something that we think they are very good at, and so we continue to work with them on fundraising.”
The British women’s group have set tone for a conversation, and one can’t but agree that the Christmas masquerade is an enchanting celebration of the season, and there is no better way to get into the festive mood and also raise funds for the vulnerable other than its charming, stunning evening of elegant food, drinks, music and entertainment in the beautiful surrounding of the British Deputy High Commissioner’s residence. It was indeed an evening of entertainment set to be of a standard fit for aristocracy.