by Menachem Posner – Chabad.org
Caring for children with special needs is always complicated. In Nigeria, where they are often viewed with suspicion, the picture is all the more complex.
In Kubwa, a suburb of the capital city of Abuja, a group of dedicated humanitarian workers have created an orphanage-style home called Hope House for 80 of these children, whose parents are unable or unwilling to provide for them at home.
One of their major challenges has been how to help their charges after they turn 18. Unable to care for themselves yet no longer children, they are thrust into a world where they are often neglected and abused.
Led by Chabad Rabbi Israel Uzan, the Jewish community of Nigeria has been working with Hope House to improve the circumstances of these young men and women. Together with his wife, Haya, the rabbi directs the local branch of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa, which was founded in 1991 by Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila in Kinshasa, Congo.
With funds from a Jewish family in France—the Ouaki family—the community partnered with the home to add amenities for the 18-and-over set. A candle-making factory was built and a small chicken farm constructed. The “graduates” of Hope House will work in the factory and care for the chickens. This will give them gainful employment and, hopefully, bring in enough revenue to support them.
The entire campus for children has also gone through extensive renovations courtesy of the Jewish community, whose size fluctuates between 600 and 1,000, depending on the African nation’s somewhat fickle political and economic conditions. The rooms have been refurbished and outfitted with new furniture, a specially adapted playground has been put up, and new therapy equipment has been purchased.
The center will be officially rededicated on Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday celebrated this year beginning on the evening of Wednesday, May 25, and lasting until the evening of Thursday, May 26.
“The Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M, Schneerson, of righteous memory] once remarked that when Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries come to a place, it’s not just for the Jews who live there,” notes Uzan, a native of France. “We live here and are part of this community. We are there for the entire community. The fact that the Jewish community is helping these special children is a powerful example of this dynamic at work.”