Hearts of Gold Children Hospice is a care and management center for children with mental and extreme physical disabilities. Founded in 2003, the hospice cares for children with several forms in medical disabilities and challenges.
In this interview with YNaija’s #Impact365 series, Laja Adedoyin, the founder of Hearts of Gold Hospice tells us about the NGO and the good works it is doing.
Ma, could you tell us more about your NGO, Hearts of Gold hospice?
The hospice started on the 2nd of October, 2003.
The Hearts of Gold Children Hospice is a home for children with medical need. For us to admit a child, one of the conditions is the fact that the child must have been abandoned, the child must have one medical problem or the other – and that ranges from cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, and disabilities that borders on the mental state of the child and also children with congenital abnormality.
What led to the formation of your NGO?
I had an accident in the year 2000, precisely in March, 2000, when I came to Nigeria – it was my left foot because I fell down. Just to cut the long story short, the hospital wanted to amputate my leg and my covenant with God was ‘If you save me, save my leg, this is what I will do.’ And that’s why we have Hearts of Gold.
It’s not about vision, maybe I was sleeping and God called me. I called God to save me out of my predicament at that time and that’s why the Hearts of Gold started.
So presently, how many children are under your care?
Sixty-eight, as at today.
You mentioned that sometimes these children are abandoned…
No, no, not sometimes. They are all abandoned. It depends on where the parents dump the child. The usual thing is that the person that finds the child go with the child to the nearest police station. For example: if the child was abandoned in Ikorodu, the person will go to the nearest police station where the baby was found and then they, the police, will write what they call crime diary report. They then take a copy with them and take the child to JWC. JWC is Juvenile Welfare Center and we have two in Lagos state – one at Alakara and the other one on the Island. The JWC officers – usually women – will then treat the child, take the crime diary report and then issue an extract.
If it is the night, then in the morning they will call the Ministry of Youth and Social Development. And then the Ministry will then distribute the children – maybe they will find like two, three, four or five children in a day. So the ones that have challenges, medical challenges, are the ones they refer to Hearts of Gold.
Do people adopt the children from your hospice?
Nigerian’s are looking for – what I refer to as – customized kind of children, I don’t have those. Nigerians are looking for children that they don’t have to do anything medical intervention and so we are not even on the list of the homes where children can be adopted. But from the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, quite a few times we’ve had families that come from abroad who are well aware of the medical situation of my children – sometimes also we also do medical intervention in terms of surgery. It could be in India or Dubai. And a few times, very few in Nigeria – and so where we stop, families that are interested take it up from their and continue to look after them especially children with hole in the heart, cleft palate, cleft lip, and some minor congenital abnormalities also.
But we’ve also had the support of some foundations, most especially the MTN Foundation that usually pick the tab for any of our children with heart problem. We have other people as well – individuals.
The NGO was started in 2003. Is it self-sustaining? Do people make donations?
People make donations but then nothing that is compared to the running cost of the home. We do not have any government support, no subsidy or subvention, nothing whatsoever. So we rely solely on individuals and corporate bodies. But I think that the situation in Nigeria is the fact that people are yet to understand what it means especially companies – what it means to support a home like our own.
As you said, people do not want to adopt these children…
No, no, because of the medical condition.
So at what age do they leave the home?
My children don’t leave except the few adoptions – international adoption. Nobody will take them, nobody wants them. But I want them.
What happens when they get to their teenage years?
Eighty percent of my children are bed ridden because of their level of disability and so it’s dicey – when we say when they are likely to leave because the majority are not likely to live into adulthood at all. We provide service care, respite and pain management for as long as they are able to be around.
Is there any effort to educate the public, raise awareness about these children? And also for parents that have these children, how they can take care of them?
For the parents who have my type of children, because of the… it cost a lot to looks after even one child. In a situation like this where we don’t have the wherewithal, we can only manage those that are abandoned because they fall in the category where their parents don’t want them, and nobody is out there for them. For those who are still at home with their parents, at least they have, whether one or both, parents – our emphasis is strictly on those who don’t have any parent.
For the ones who are at home, for example when they do come for inquiry, I support in a way that if there are services out there where they can go to, we tell them. But starting from January next year we are starting a center, also in Surulere here, for people who have these children. A place where they can come in the morning, and pick them up by 5pm in the evening. Because when they have my type of children, it destroys the framework of the family because the wife will probably not be able to go out and work, the husband is probably the only bread winner – or both are not working. And so we will be able to support but that will be in the day.
Will such parents pay?
How do I pay rent there? They have to.
Where we are now nobody pays anything, it’s free service for my sixty-eight children – no pay at all. But this new one I am referring to will come from a family background, the family will have to pay to keep them there. It is just an extension of the service we do here so the mother can be able to go to work too.
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