Some of the orphans were abandoned; some dumped at the gate of the home, others found themselves at the home through the circumstance of death during child birth. This was the true story of the inmates at the Global Foundation for Orphanage, Paul Obiajunwo who visited the home reports.
It was an evening appointment with the Global Foundation for Orphanage, an orphanage home located in a conducive and serene environment. The home is at the popular East-west road, Mercy land Estate, Nkpolu, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. I arrived the home by 5:20pm after the inmates have just returned from Port Harcourt zoo two minutes before my arrival.
The zoo, according to Mr. Cliff Jarrell, a white man and the coordinator of the home is the preferred place of the inmates. He said he tried as much as he can to take them to the zoo when they are free to be there because they derive pleasure in watching different animals.
Looking around the environment, especially the compound it was very clean and hygienic, all the facilities for children pleasure and happiness were installed at the compound which has one-story –building. Those I saw playing around were properly dressed, well fed without any look of disadvantage life in them.
But yet you cannot deny the fact that they are of different world, a world without the love of their biological parents, a world of loneliness, a world where circumstance clash with destiny, they have no one to call their own except God and the instrument He uses to take care of them.
Like every other orphanage home Mr. Cliff said most of the children at the home came to them after the death of their mothers during child birth especially when there is no body to take care of their responsibilities.
He said some were also dumped by the roadside, he pointed out that there is a blind girl at the home who is now between 11-12 years that was dumped at the gate of the home when she was little and they could not trace who dumped the baby and there was nobody coming to claim the baby, the home accepted the baby instead of allowing her to die at the gate.
He noted that it is not every help the home can render, but in a critical situation where a baby would be dumped they cannot turn their back from assisting. “All the children started with us when they were small; there was a blind girl right from the early day in her life she was with us. She was left in our gate at night we don’t know her parents she don’t know anybody as her people than us. This is a family, this is just a home, and we are not operating like an institution but like a home that is different from other homes.
“We are proud not to turn our back on any one in need; it is not everything that we can do for everybody but the little we can help, we will. Like a child that was abandoned, I was just reading the other day and I saw a newspaper report on a baby that was abandoned inside a sack bag. In that regard we must help. Most of the children with us came to us through the circumstance of child birth because Nigeria has high maternal mortality there are many children left to suffer because their mothers’ died during their birth and there was no body that could support in the early critical stage. We have helped people with serious challenges, like baby that has no mother to breast feed. We can keep the baby and assist in different formula and after few months the baby can be send back to the family. But the babies that are here with us are those who have nobody to take care of them.”
In the cause of my visit to the home, I also sighted young men who are between 20-25 years in the home, first I thought they were there to assist the home or take care of the inmates, after some minutes another thought came in, then, I said maybe they were there to guide the white man but I didn’t know that my thought was far from the reality. “The young men you saw relaxing at the compound are my children; some of them came here at the infant age,” Mr. Jarrell, said.
One thing I observed in my three hours stay at the home is that, Mr. Cliff Jarrell, a white man whom children, (the inmates) described as the best father and a man with high sense of decency and God fearing, has really done a very great job on the psyche of the inmates to trust each other and to see themselves as one family.
However, due to the love that flow among the inmates and the couple which the inmates referred to as mummy and daddy I was forced to ask the wife of the founder Mrs. Nkiruka Happiness Jarrell, which one among the children at the home is her real children. She looked at the reporter and fell into prolong laughter and said, “There is nothing like real children or my own children in this home. The children you see here are all my children; this was why we were able to live as one united family. We try as much as possible to treat them equally, my husband is their father and I am their mother. That is how we have been living for many years and God have been so wonderful.”
On why she loved what she is doing today as the mother of the orphans, she started by narrating how God designed her rightful place of work at the orphanage home, “. For me, I believe deeply in my heart that what I am doing today is what I should do as a Christian. There was a lady that introduced me to a home at Borokiri, in Port Harcourt. She asked me if I have ever been to any home, I said no. But I told her I have heard people talk about charity, and she said ok, and promised to take me to an orphanage home. As far as I am concerned she was the person that God led to open my eyes on what I am doing today. When I got to the orphanage home at Borikiri I saw the children, and I really felt about their condition and love for helpless children. And deep in my heart I knew this is what God want me to do as a Christian to take care of these children. For me, I know God will not come down to take care of them, that was what led me and I decided to show love to this children.
She continued, “ I was talking to my preacher in the church after returning from the home and I asked him why is it that we don’t have orphanage home? And the government has, the Catholic Church also have but we the church of God members don’t have. My preacher then said there is one of our brothers in Christ that has children, that he takes care of the less privilege and the orphans, that was how I got to meet my husband. My husband is an angel, he is the Christ I am seeing, he is one in millions. I made an art- paint of him where I described him as the best daddy. He is very humble, he is not selfish, to me he is God sent,” she proudly said.
Reciprocating the loving acknowledgement showered on him by his wife, Mr. Jarrell said his wife deserved more than thank you. He noted that without his wife Nkiruka, the foundation wouldn’t have got to where it is today. “What I will say is that I am humbled and thankful that my wife has the courage to support me especially to enter into this marriage. Because I have so many different reasons, but I came with a lot of baggage, she had worked with me before the issue of marriage came up, that means she has seen the Good and bad. Some of the bad was very bad yet she didn’t think about those things but just to rely and trust in God.”
According to the founder, the total inmate at the Global Foundation for Orphanage is 42, few of them have graduated from the University, some are studying in Nigeria Universities and in abroad and many other are in nursery, Primary and Secondary schools. Yet in spite of the financial burden and challenges this large family has brought to bear on this couple, they said it is not a burden but a manifestation of Gods favour who has used them to provide what the home needs on daily basis.
Mr. Jarrell said he is not the one providing for the home but God, “I will not say it is me that is paying or feeding them, my wife and I and other people that assist the home we are all an instrument in God’s hand. We are not doing it for our own benefit, it is the opposite. The money I am spending is not my own money it is God’s money. Today, we had two different churches that came to the home and they came because God directed them to come, what God really want us to do is to be our brothers keepers. I don’t think there is anybody more honorable that an orphan who have nobody to care for.”
He noted that he came to Nigeria 22 years ago as a missionary where he served in an old hospital built before the war and from that point he committed himself to the ministry he is today through a child that was handed over to him by the sick mother . “I ushered myself into a new world, well, the beginning point is far beyond. I didn’t come to Nigeria on my own; I didn’t come here without preparation and purpose. I came to Nigeria on 1st of March 1993, we came as family of four people, at that time, I worked at the mission hospital as a missionary. It is an old hospital built before the war in Onitsha Ngwa in Abia State that was what brought me to Nigeria and I served for five years at the hospital.
“Soon after I came to work at the hospital there was a small baby placed on my arm by her mother who was very sick. If you have come here today early you would have seen that boy. He is now a third year student in Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). He was the first baby unannounced and unplanned for. I have some background, some experiences but that wasn’t in my mind what I would be doing in Nigeria. Because we came to serve in the hospital as a missionary which itself is a great ministry. But this one child in our hand led to another child and it continues in that way and we have many children today. We took the responsibility of fathering them, those children we would send back to their parent we did so, those who have no parent and somebody to take care of them stayed back.
“I worked at the hospital for five years, so some of the children have stayed throughout with us in these five years. Later we decided to relocate to Port Harcourt and it is a wonderful story that God kept all of us as one family. That was how we started what we are doing today through that boy that was entrusted in my hand and we were managing in two bedrooms flat which were very small to contain us. Because of lack of space, our corridor and dining became a place to sleep but today there is signs of God’s favour.”
Narrating some of the challenges facing the home, Mr Jarrell said the greatest challenge is how to train the children to a responsible adult. “How to ensure that they grow up to become responsible adults is our greatest challenge. This task is demanding, there are physical things like school uniforms, shoes, bags, accommodation, these are also challenges that we have to face. It is more difficult to feed a large number than to feed a small number. These are children with different background, though they don’t ask much about where they come from but as they grow older, they have to think more of themselves. You can imagine someone growing up and realized that someone he is calling my father is a white man different from him or her. It is not wrong if the person asks where he or she came from; I have also asked my mother that question. I think is not uncommon to ask those questions, to me, one of the reasons we believe in God as human beings is to ask where we come from, where we are going at the end. The most important thing in our relationship with God is to ensure that at the end we would not missed heaven. If we miss heaven, we have missed it all. It was God’s grace that many of these children survived; some would have died at the infant age.
But today some of them grow up with all the disadvantages. For me, the biggest problem is how to train them to come into loving relationship with the creator, no matter the situation of their lives.”
Some of the adult inmates who spoke to the Nation said they are glad to have someone like Mr. Jarrell who has sacrificed a lot to ensure that they have a future. They described him as the best daddy in the world who was sent by God to rescue them.
Obinna and Sunny, a twin brother who came to the home at the younger age said they don’t know what their world would have been without Mr. Jarrell and his wife. “We will remain grateful to God for using this wonderful couple to change our lives. He is a nice man and God fearing, he has done more than a lot to us, he is indeed the best daddy.
Another inmate, Uche at the moment is seeking admission into a University in Canada after being turned down before due to unavailability of fund, “this time around I am hopeful that God will send a helper to assist me. I have been trying my best to obtain my academic qualification in Canada hopefully by God’s grace I will get there. Last year we made an effort but the visa was denied base on the financial incapability we are still making an effort to convince the embassy to assist.”