AS CHRISTMAS IS CELEBRATED AROUND THE WORLD ON TUESDAY, THERE ARE MANY WHO MAY NOT KNOW WHAT IS CHRISTMAS. AS A RESULT, MARY EKAH WENT TO A MENTAL REHABILITATION HOME IN ISOLO, LAGOS, TO FEEL THEIR PULSE ABOUT THE FESTIVITY AND THEIR EXPECTATIONS. However, DESPITE THEIR MENTAL CONDITION, SOME OF THE INMATES SAY THEY ARE PREPARING FOR THE EVENT IN A BIG WAY WITH A LOT OF ACTIVITIES LINED FOR THE SEASON
It was Bob Geldof who wrote and sang the song that has become a reference point in a time like this. Do They Know It's Christmas was a charity single organized by the British musician , who was the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats. He got the idea after watching a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia. Geldof wrote the lyrics and Midge Ure from the band Ultravox wrote the music and produced the track, which was no easy task since so many voices were involved.
In England, and much of the Northern Hemisphere, snow and numerous displays leave no doubt that Christmas is near. In most of Africa, and even Nigeria however, it's quite warm on December 25th. This song asks society to think of those who are living in poverty and hunger in Africa during the Christmas season, reminding people that they might not even know it's Christmas. While the sentiment and melody are full of good tidings, the lyrics are quite bleak: "The Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom."
The single raised $14 million for famine relief in Africa. Geldof an Irish, who could not be knighted, did receive a KBE, which is equivalent and is popularly known as Sir or Saint Bob. In the UK, this became the best-selling single ever, while Elton John's "Candle In The Wind '97" currently holds that record.
In Nigeria, there are many living in poverty and sick and will never know what this year's Christmas would look like. But there are others like the inmates of SOSAID, a mental rehabilitation centre in Lagos who say that despite their condition they are thinking big and looking forward to an exciting Christmas as they had done in the last 12 years.
Some of the inmates who said they have always enjoyed their Christmas at the centre, expressed their wish and expectations for this year's Yuletide and were happy to talk about their expectations come Tuesday. Toyin Koleosho, an artist by profession, studied Music, Drama and Beauty Therapy at an Institute in Great Britain. She worked with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Victoria Island Lagos as well as with Radio Lagos, Ikeja as an actress, newscaster, producer, director as well as a script writer.
" I was a victim of rape and had a baby out of wedlock. My foster parents forced me out of their home and I lived on the street for few years, even while working with TV and Radio. But after few years I ended up doing nothing. I didn't grow even in academics or in anything. I got into drug and at a point, I broke down even as a drug addict. I started feeding off people who were kind enough to help me. But somehow, I was brought to SOSAID. I have spent a few Christmas here and we thank God we are witnessing another one soon.
"Christmas is a moment that brings joy. And it reminds us as Christians of when Jesus Christ was born and today people make merriment of that. So we are always happy here during each Christmas. And we pray that God should carter for those who care for us at Christmas and at other time," Koleosho who is fast recovering told THISDAY.
Bassey Eyipionya, a student of Business Administration at the University of Lagos. As a Christian, Christmas is a season for Christians all over the world come together to celebrate with one another in the perspective of honouring Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world. "I have celebrated like three Christmas here at SOSAID and I have learned a lot in course of my staying here I have had a lot of opportunities that I never knew I could have in life.
"When I came here three years back, I was not that outspoken and I didn't see myself as somebody that had any hope in life, but today, it is a different story. So this Christmas I have so many reasons to rejoice and I hope to prosper more in the SOSAID Charity Centre. I came here when I was not feeling so well and someone directed me here after I had been advised to go to a Psychiatric hospital, but today I am dong well, as you can see and I hope to go back to school and obtain my degree.
For Dr. Mercy Madichie an inmate of SOSAID Charity Centre, "I expect Christmas to be joyful, lot of celebrations, eating and visitations to wonderful places. So I want Nigerians to provide us with vehicles that would take us around to great places during the Christmas period.
Some of the administrators of the centre are also looking forward to a fun-filled Christmas and prosperous new year. Mrs. Felicia Martins, the Chief Executive Officer of SO-SAID Charity Home said "we have been running a home for the vulnerable since 2000. It has not been easy, but we are finding the grace of God and are happy for the two days the that we have in SOSAID for Christmas, which are the days inmates come out to be reconciled to their families.
"These are the two happy days we have for the people here. So this period of Christmas, we want to thank God because we have seen how Nigerians have turned up at our centre. We know that Nigerians are very passionate people and even as they see the destitute on the streets, they are not happy but the problem are that there are lots of fake NGOs in town and people do not even know which is genuine so that they can invest their resources in them.
"But Nigerians have actually kept their shoulders for us to lie on. And new friends are actually coming this time around and I have told them that they should make it a habit of living, where they impact in people's love from time to time because this time around, we have a lot of food stuff and provisions in the house, but there would come a time when we do not even have water to drink. So I am telling them that they should be encouraged by doing good; that is a way of giving back to human and to God," she said.
She said Mr and Mrs Useme just rented a new place because for so many years "we have been so frustrated by the lack of accommodation, but God used this couple to show us love by renting this place for us, but it was so expensive and the landord also was on our neck. This place we have just moved to is also a temporary place even though we own the land and structure, but it is not enough for the project we have at hand. We have a bigger land that the government has given to us along Badagry Expressway and we are going to call on Nigerians to come and build for us. This is a very laudable project and so we need a very big place for us to establish and be able to do what we are doing. But we are happy that we are in our own property now.
"Our movement to this place since August this year has really affected us because of the distance, but with the people still coming to visit us, we have been praying toGod that as they struggle to come here to see us, God will also impact on thier lives. So I am telling them that they should be encouraged and should not be troubled about the distance and status of the roads.
To make the Yuletide memorable, she said the centre has plans for fun-filled Christmas and New Year. "We have special programmes for the inmates , particularly those whose birthdays fall within the period. We would also have "put a smile on the less privileged" Day which we hold every December 26. Friends also come here to celebrate with us and so it usually make this environment very lively and happy moment for the inmates.
Mrs. Martins said "I would tell people that they should try and encourage one another any where they find themselves because the future is what we are living for and we have to start now preparing for our future. Today we have seen someone that is mentally or physically challenged, but we do not know whose turn it is going to be tomorrow, so we should not be proud of life and say this is where I will be tomorrow because it all takes the grace of God.
"So when they come across people who are challenged in one way or the other, they should assist them. This will help to take away a lot of depression from people and stress from people and that would make us happy people in our nation. They should not wait until it happens to somebody who is close to them before the decide to help," mrs. martins further explained.