Me and My Little Saints. An Interview With Rev. Dele George
Me and My Little Saints. An Interview With Rev. Dele George
Written by Ahaoma Kanu
Sunday, 29 June 2008
Little Saints Orphanage have become the foremost orphanage and home to motherless babies, what gave you the inspiration?
The truth is that it is God; I never got the inspiration until I became born again in 1986 and had this great desire to express the love of God because when you receive God, when you know him, he inspires you to love and to give which is the only evidence that you really have him.
His strength will come into your life and that was what happened to me. I was just like every other person minding my own business and having my own inspirations and dreams, one of my dreams was to travel round the world but suddenly God called me to this vision and I had to make all the sacrifices in order to start this vision. So I would say the love of God was the inspiration.
When you were starting this project, was there any time you had if it would last this long?
The starting was not really a challenge because I did not expect such a big break down because I had the infrastructure to start; the place where the boys are living at the moment happens to be a property that my husband gave me a long time ago. So I said to myself that I could use that particular property for a few children and went ahead to divide it into two floors;
I gave one of the floors to the children and built a dormitory and dinning hall with all the necessary facilities with an expectation of helping about twenty five children in my life time, that was my plan. I wanted to contribute my own quota to the society and wanted to start with the babies and take them all the way to the University and then give them back to the society as worthy citizens but two years down thee road,
I knew that twenty five of them was not the number God designed for me, it was totally beyond my control because I had underestimated the issue of abandoned children. I did not know how serious it was because I was thinking about orphans as children that were bereaved but by the time I went to the police station to inform them about the orphanage I was informed that at least every month they got nothing less than ten abandoned children in that locality where the orphanage was.
The woman in the police station told me to wait for the rainy season; she said I would be amazed at the number of babies that are being abandoned. In the first two years, we had over 70 babies that were abandoned, thrown away in bushes and it was so amazing to me that that was what was happening in our society.
Later I realized that I could not cope with those number of children because it was stressing me and I had to begin to pray about where God was leading me to and God inspired me to go to the social welfare department and investigate and to my amazement, they said they had over a 100 people on the waiting list; there was a special welfare in Lagos that was already there at FESTAC.
I later began to collaborate with them and all the babies that were abandoned at the beginning have all now been adopted. Actually, adoption now took off in 1996. It is a wonderful thing and that is some of the areas of improvement for us when we see the children coming in and in a few months they are adopted.
How fulfilled are you as a mother of many?
There are no words to express the fulfilment because the bible says that Blessed is the man whose quiver is full with his children, he is at peace with his enemies at the gate; that means that the more children you have the more fulfilled you are supposed to be especially when they are doing so well because investment in children is the best gift that we can offer to God; the best service that we can render to God when it comes to serving God.
I really have great fulfilment they are all around me. I have about seven children going into the university this year and it is my joy to see them succeed. I get so much joy from them. Everyday I get letters in my office from them; it is not enough for them to just tell me, they want to write it down and from me, it is fulfilment.
I get excited waking up in the morning knowing that today I am going to be an instrument in the house of God to help life, I do not think there is any thing more fulfilling than that.
How do you manage to be a mother to all of them you relate with all of them as your own children?
It is so easy for me, remember that these children do not have biological history; they do not have uncles, brothers apart from the Strong Tower Mission and the Little Saint Orphanage. So they take this family as their family, every thing that concerns them as they would be like when it comes to admission or being hospitalized, school fees, school opening day, we are there for them as their family.
It is not easy but when the anointing of God is upon your life to do some thing, it makes things easy. It has not been easy for us and God has planned our lives in such a way that my office is beside my house and Akuwonjo is not far from Palm Groove, so it is not easy to administer the affairs of the orphanage.
You started the job with the property that your husband gave you and now you have four how did you achieve that?
The fact is that this property (at Palmgroove) is the one that is housing the boys. In 2001, we built a 200-bed hostel with the assistance of our patrons. We built that hostel and it can take nothing less than 200 children when it is full. We also have another land in Abule Egba which we have developed for young girls and women with unplanned pregnancy.
God was so kind to us that he inspired a patron to give us a house in Ogudu a very big and beautiful house, Mr Femi Osibona gave us that house and that is where the girls are living right now while the baby department is down stairs just beside my house so that is how we came about all the branches.
How do you go about getting these children?
People call us; you can call us from Badagry and any where around Lagos and once they call us, we send a nurse from our nursing house. A nurse and a missionary will go and bring the child and once the child is brought, the case is reported to the police so that all the necessary documents are collected enable us put that child up for assertion and if the child is very sick, the child is taken to a hospital and treated.
In what conditions do these abandoned children come in?
Sometimes some of them come in looking very well depending on how long they have been abandoned; if it is just a few minutes or a few hours, it is ok for them and they can still survive but on many occasions, some of them can be abandoned for more that 24 hours maybe in a bush or hidden in an obscure place which makes it difficult for them to be located, this leads to most of them coming in very sick.
Like you saw in the documentary, some can come in bitten by soldier ants while some come in wounded, malnourished. Like the case of Jeremiah who was so malnourished that no body thought he was going to survive but three weeks in the hospital, he was bubbling. One of the girls that they brought in bitten by soldier ants died in the hospital but to an extent, many of them survive.
How do you feel when you see them brought in like that?
At first when it all started, I used to be very sorrowful about it but in the past years God has done so many miracles for us that when they come in we are full of expectations from God, we know that God can heal them and make them feel alright; we have at least five cases in the history of our orphanage where the babies came in and were tested positive for HIV and eventually, in a few months, we tested them again and they had become negative.
Like right now, we have a baby down stairs, if you see that baby she is so beautiful and we tested her and found that she is positive but come back in another nine months or so, it could be negative. Those are some of the cases that we have so when they come in, we are full of expectations from God; we know that there is nothing God cannot do.
In all these years of service how many kids have you lost?
I can say to you that it is not up to a dozen because we give them first class treatment; we had a baby who came in with a sickness I don’t know the medical name but right now the baby is in the hospital and we are hoping that the doctor should be able to operate on her and join the lips together because right now, since she has been abandoned,she has not been able to eat ; she can only drink water. We give them first class treatment and most of them survive.
How do you feel when you lose a baby?
I remember the first baby we lost a baby; I had travelled out of the country at that time and by the time I came back, I was told that the baby had died. I wept and wept and blamed myself for not being there. I said if I had been around, the baby would not have died; I remember even sacking the matron at that time. But later on, I realized that some times babies have to die.
God gave me a revelation when I prayed about it, believing so much in the healing powers of God; I felt that nobody is supposed to die at Little Saints Orphanage and after praying about it, God said to me, “I am the one that gives the children I have the liberty to take the children and some times I take the children so that I can touch their mothers.” It is like the case of David, because of their adultery God had to take the baby so that he can judge Bathsheba and David, which was the kind of revelation God gave to me.
God is taking them so that their mothers can be held accountable. These motivated us to start the programme about women with unplanned pregnancy so that such women do not have to throw these babies away; they can walk into the Little Saints Orphanage and give us their babies for adoption. We are working on collaboration with the ministry on this issue so that they do not have to be prosecuted since they are voluntarily coming forward to say, “look I can no longer look after this baby I want another couple that can do it for me,” and it is allowed by law for them to do that.
So far I can say to you that at least 20 per cent of babies that are put up for adoption come from there and we want it to get better so that they are not forced to put these babies in a life of suffering because they cannot cope with these babies. We can encourage adoption in our society I believe that we will have less children on our streets.
Out of the cases you have witness which case strikes you most?
The case that strikes me most is the children that have HIV because when we first started getting them I was not very optimistic I thought they were going to die because I did not know so much about the problem at that time so when in a few months they got better and we tested them about three times and they were negative we were able to put them for adoption and now looking back I say to my self HIV is not something that will stop their progress because God is a good God,
he will not allow the innocent children suffer this is why we gave them love because I believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe, love never fails and I believe that it was that love that conquered that disease because we did not treat them like children that had leprosy we were cuddling them, feeding them, loving them and at the end of the day it turned out for good and in the case of Jeremiah,
he is in Holland right now adopted by a couple living in Holland and they send me pictures of how well he is doing and when I look at the picture of when he was found and look at the Jeremiah of today my heart is full of joy.
Has there ever been a case where some mothers of these abandoned come back for them?
In the history of our orphanage we only have one case and it was not even the mother of the it was the grand mother of the abandoned baby because the teenage mother had abandoned the baby without telling the mother and the mother did not have a son and so she confirmed that she had abandoned her baby the grandmother went everywhere in search of the baby and fortunately for her she was able to find the baby at
The Little Saint Orphanage so out of compassion we reconciled that baby back to her that is the only case we have ever had because when these mothers abandon these babies they do not intend to be found their plan is to abandon the babies for life. It is not easy to pick up a baby and go throw it in the dust bin you must have thought about it during the pregnancy stage they have that plot before they actually give birth to that child.
It is very unusual to see a woman coming forward to say that I am the one that did it moreover; it is a criminal offence so as soon as the baby is taken to an orphanage they cannot be bold to come out to see the baby.
Would you say that the rate at which these abandoned babies are occurring is at the rise or is it decreasing?
It is definitely decreasing like I said we have a programme for women with unplanned pregnancy so you do not have babies abandoned as we used to find them because the women are now coming out to say that they do not want the babies. It is not that people are not abandoning babies it is just that they are not as heartless about it like they used to be because there has been a lot of awareness about it.
When doing your awareness how do you make sure that the public get to know much about your plans.
There has been lots of publication I’ve been in the media talking about it both on Television and in print media and the word of mouth is a quick medium of spreading messages and I believe that these young people also know about it because most of these babies that are abandoned are mostly from teenagers school children in both secondary schools and Universities and they get to know because majority of the women with unplanned pregnancy comes from these particular class of people.
How can you rate the support of Nigerians towards what you are doing?
It is getting better because when we first started in the first two years I did not believe that Little Saints Orphanage will be a big family then I thought it was just a private issue, I thought that it was just my calling. I just had to work and look after these children soon after that people began to come and visit and I can say to you that it is getting better and better and this is why we have been able to do so much. Just recently in our Joy Night programme, Chief Asije, donated two hectors of land for the orphanage and for me that gift will help us in the rehabilitation of our sick children so I am looking at five years from now we will be able to make a big impact in Lagos with regards to these children, so it is really getting a lot of corporate organizations have been really wonderful like Exxon Mobile recently gave us money to build a clinic which we already started building in our Akuwanjo branch so their response is getting better I believe that they are doing it because they have a lot of confidence.
You have been in this practice for a very long time what do you think the government needs to do regarding this trend of abandoned babies?
Right now what we have been doing with regards with women with unplanned pregnancy is just our own private initiative, we are just trying to encourage the ministry to collaborate with us in Lagos but it will be very wonderful if they can actually pass a law to protect this kind of women from prosecution to protect their own interest so that women can come out more without paying to give us their baby to adopt them,
right now it is the private initiative between us and them because there is really no law that has been enacted for such a thing that is a kind of support we want and also we want the various arms of government that are responsible for children to come together and protect our children so that we can abolish child labour by children for instance, if the government were to take it seriously all the children that are trading on the street should not be allowed on the street as long as there is a rehabilitation centre
for them as long as there are facilities for them where they can be educated they should be taken off the street. These are some of the support that I want from the government to join us by supporting us in making sure that this particular dream that we have for our nation come to pass.
You are blessed with a good voice why didn’t you do something with it?
Who told you I have a good voice I am the only one in my family that can’t sing but my children and my husband can sing.
So how did you prepare her knowing this was her first time performing on stage?
The only thing I could do was just pray, I prayed with her when ever she contacted me on phone shop around for her because I had to end up doing most of her shopping because she was mostly in he house she was not able to come out as much as she wanted so I was there to get her everything that she wanted for the show and the thing about Temitayo is that she is very fashionable she loves fashion more than she loves singing that was what I always thought that she was going to do some thing that has to do with fashion some times she wanted a particular colour of blouse anything outside that was not acceptable, I had the description of what she wanted and how to go round looking for them so that was my job.
How did you get to know about Idols West Africa, where you the one that encouraged Temitayo to apply in the competition.
At all, at all I encouraged her but I did not initiate it, she came back to Nigeria in 2005 and we have been encouraging her to come back home because Nigeria is a blessed country and I said look you are from Nigeria you are not British even though you were born in Britain you are supposed to come back and join mum and dad and do the work they are doing in Nigeria and you are free to come and give it a try and as soon as she came back she had about the Creative Academy Programme in
Calabar and that time fortunately her dad was at Calabar so she went and got to be a part of it, it was like an experience because she always said to us that she wanted to be on stage and we thought that she should have a career in Accounting or Management before she decides to do any thing that has to deal with performing arts so when she came back just to encourage her we told her that we are happy that she has gone as far as we expected you to go let us support you for the creative academy so she went for the Creative Academy but fortunately it did not work out for her the way she wanted it so while she was in the Creative Academy school she heard about Idols and then she said to us that she wants to go in for Idol at first I thought that Idols cannot be in Nigeria as it was in America at first I was very sceptical about it but because we knew that it was what she wanted then we said that she should give it a try there are thousands of young people like you that will be there for the audition if they choose you then it means that you are good I know you are good but I do not really think that she will be able to go as far as she was expecting to go but we did not want to discourage her so she went in got chosen and it happened before our very eyes.
Were you always going for her live performances?
O yes, I saw it as a point to go and all the Little Saints were there they felt that they had to be there for their big sister even though most of the mothers of others were not there I just felt it as a responsibility to be there I was there all the time I was in all her performances till the end.
When she was performing on stage, how did you always feel, how did you manage her campaign?
I was always speaking in tongues, I made sure that all the little saints took their own placards to support her, eventually they began to think that we were campaigning we made sure that she felt that we were there, we wanted everybody to know that we loved her whether she was won or not we believe in her and the truth is that we knew that Temitayo wanted it and we wanted to be there for her.
Was there any point you had fear?
Oh yes whenever the judges criticized her I felt my heart skipped, whenever the judges said anything I said God forgive them.
Which of the judges?
The chief judge of course and the funny thing is that he is a family friend but to me I just felt that he was just doing his job’ Idols is like that even Simon Caos he was not even as bad as Simon Caos there was really nothing to be upset about but as a mother you will feel it and when Temitayo comes out I will tell her that did hear what the judged said try not to do this next time we took the judges comment very seriously like whenever she was dancing too much she failed to use her voice so we say to her next time do not dance too much try and concentrate on the singing.
The day she was announced that she was out of the competition did you feel that she would be the winner?
We already knew at that point that she was really not going to be the winner because we saw a lot of support from the other two contestants even though Temitayo had a lot of support we realized that the favourite of the Planet One public you know the planet one is different from the public when you are in Planet One you will know who the favourite was at the beginning everybody loved Temitayo because she loved to dance but at the time she was in the top five we began to notice that they were zeroing in on their favourite and we all knew that Timi was the favourite of Planet One crowd we did not know what the favourite was in the world you cannot really tell because everybody was hoping but right there in Planet One we knew that their favourite was Timi.
How did you receive the news when she was evicted?
We were always watching I recorded everything for me, I knew that that was where God wanted her to get to so I was very happy that she got that far I knew that it was a wonderful platform for her to start her career because at that point Temitayo was still trying to figure out whether to really go into full time music or for her to continue with other things in her life so when the Idol thing happened it was just like this is what she should focus on one thing that I learnt is that she enjoyed everything that happened and that is what matters.
How would you describe feelings of having the whole world watching your daughter perform on stage?
I am very proud of her, you know she is my second daughter and she is very quiet I was so happy for her because that was her dream she wants to accomplish in her life, she wants to do something spectacular and so for me it was a wonderful platform for her to take off, she has used the Idol platform to take off for her greatness.
Temitayo has become the first among the top 10 Idol contestants to release a single, In Your Eyes and recently, a video, how do you feel being the mother?
I feel so good, words cannot explain it.