Maduabuchi Ubani writes about a new lease of life for residents of Dustbin Estate in Ajegunle community of Lagos State On a sand-filled street littered with animal dung, makeshift houses and a strong stench from the nearby canal, she stood with a deep concentration and a simple smile.
Of course, she had known poverty and lack for as long as she could remember as a resident of the popular Dustbin Estate in Ajegunle, Lagos State, but now a new image is forming in her head. It is an image of a clean environment different from the squalid life once associated with the community where she lives. That expectedly gave her a reason to smile and look forward to a promising future.
Certainly, the name, Dustbin Estate, where 14-year-old Favour Ezekiel lives is the reality of its environment, which is an area swamped with refuse dumps and a settlement where its residents build their houses with planks on refuse dumps. But today, Ezekiel is concentrating her gaze on an edifice that is rare in her dingy world of ruins and poverty. Clearly, the idea of a new public toilet just around her house is a reality that she thought would only be possible in her dreams.
"We defecate inside polythene nylons and throw them into the canal. That has been our way of life, because we don't have a toilet in my house and I can't remember the last time I used a modern toilet," Ezekiel said looking in the direction of the canal near her house.
And just like most kids of her age and even the adults in the community, sanitation has for long always been an issue. Starting from their inability to access clean water to a death-trap kinds of roads with clustered makeshift houses that only present the lucky occupants with either a pit toilet or worst still, an enclosure to defecate in a polythene nylon to be tossed into the black-faced, almost stagnant canal, life for residents of Dustbin Estate has always been on a steep.
But, after spending seventeen years in the estate, Balogun Rufai has been quite fortunate to have a pit toilet in his home, and that he simply described as "a rare privilege where we live."
"There are so many things wrong in this place that it seems like we have been left to our own fate. Most landlords don't find it worthy to build toilets, because in a way, they see it as a waste of fund," he said. Now, the new toilet built for the community by Lot Charity Foundation is giving residents that assurance that with time Dustbin Estate would change for the better.
Balogun said: "when amenities of this kind are not in place, children are the worst hit because of their level of immunity which makes them vulnerable to diseases. I am thankful for the company that saw the need and went further to make this possible. I pray for more of its kind to alleviate the penury and life of uncertainty that surrounds us here."
Although just one toilet in a community with a teeming population might seems like a drop in an ocean, the tenants and residents in the area told THISDAY that they cannot wait for it to be officially opened. The sanitary facility with five water system bathrooms and toilets would indeed change the way residents of Dustbin Estates live their lives In her remarks, the founder of the charity, Ms. Tolulope Sangosanya stated that the whole idea took a higher dimension when kids that came around the foundation's premises refused to go home because they couldn't enjoy some common household amenities even in their respective homes.
"I saw a 16-year-old fully grown girl bathing outside, and that really struck me and so we approached Sahara Energy Resource Nigeria Limited to support us in building a toilet that will serve many functions for the community and Sahara's approval of the project was like an icing on the cake because it helped in bringing to reality a plan that was in the background waiting for implementation," she said.
According to Sangosanya, hygiene plays an important role in the lifespan of a man and that expectedly spurred her organisation to action in Ajegunle.
"The permanent solution to the problems of the residents of the community is affordable housing scheme which will curb some social ills, protect the environment and promote privacy between children and their parents. And so we thought of the temporal measure to the permanent solution which is where the toilet and bathroom came in. "For sustainability of the project, the kids have a duty roaster for cleaning the toilet and we also charge N20.00 for adults' use of the toilet and that will be used to pay security personnel guarding the facility, buy some toiletries and other necessities. With what we have seen so far, it is evident that for every change to happen, mindset must be changed because things that people don't understand they will fight against it, even if it is for their own good. So we can only do the best that we can," she explained.
The Corporate and Social Responsibility Supervisor of the charity, Mr. Olasoji Fagbola called on other organisations to actively play their role in giving back to communities and support in alleviating poverty being experienced by many. He said if everybody can contribute their quota and extends their hands of fellowship no matter how little, it will go a long way to help communities.
Olasoji explained the challenges faced during the implementation stage of the project saying, "It was quite disheartening that we experienced resistance from community members who thought that we were coming to intimidate or exploit them. Some people around thought we were coming to encroach on their lands, so it prompted us to strike deals and agreements with them. It brings to mind that for every project to be hitch- free, proper engagement of the community people and awareness is key."
Registered as a charity foundation in 2009, Lots Charity Foundation caters for the educational, physiological, social and emotional needs of street kids and vulnerable children with particular focus on 'Dustbin Estate'in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos State. With the completion of the sanitary facility, the foundation is calling for more active partnership with organisations, individuals and corporate bodies to bring about other laudable projects for the community and kids which includes farming and housing scheme, charity shop and a montessori school to provide free education in the community.