Ark of Rescue Mission is a Youth Ministry whose concerns and activities are targeted at disturbed youths and their parents. We seek to redirect the minds of the youths towards living meaningful lives which will positively impact others, the nation and generations to come. We also seek to reconcile these youths to their parents where there is estrangement, to ensure that these children will benefit fully from needful parental love and care.
MISSION TO THE BORSTAL
A Borstal is a prison/training institute for troubled boys who are beyond parental control or boys who have been convicted of crimes and are too young for adult prison. For instance, we met a young boy in a Borstal who has been there since the age of nine because he was a part of his father’s robbery gang whom they used to squeeze through small gaps in window burglary-proof irons into houses and he would then open the door for the gang.
Borstals are so named because the very first one was founded in a village called Borstal in Kent, UK. There are Borstals in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth; but in Britain they are no longer called by that name because of the stigma. There are three Borstals in Nigeria, located in Abeokuta, Ilorin and Kaduna. They are grossly inadequate to cope with the number of boys who they are needed for in Nigeria, resulting in over-crowding and all its attendant ills. The one in Abeokuta was built to house only 100 boys but had over 200 boys at the time! This gross inadequacy of government-owned Borstals also resulted in frustrated parents sending their troubled wards to all manner of “prayer camps” which were no better than detention camps, with boys being chained down and grossly unhealthy and malnourished even though their parents paid handsomely for their upkeep! Some were also molested there, both boys and girls!
The shortfall in the number of Borstals in Nigeria, also resulted in some boys being sent all the way from the south-east to the Borstal in Abeokuta in the south-west of Nigeria. This means they would suffer neglect as they would not have visitors who would bring them provisions and needed fresh clothing and so on; and when they are freed by the courts, many are stuck for weeks till someone comes to fetch them or until funds can be released to take them home in the company of a warder.
I came into contact with the Borstal Training Institution in Adigbe, Abeokuta when the Lord led me to spend some time in Abeokuta after I retired from active medical practice. I was there from December 2011 until April 2013 and sometime in May 2012, I was invited to give a motivational talk to the boys at the Borstal. Once I got in there, I was immediately struck at the pathetic condition of the boys as almost all of them scratched their thin bodies ceaselessly as I ministered to them! Scabies! As well, the deplorable state of the place and the total lack of adequate facilities, especially educational and medical, was not lost on me. I was immediately led to begin a mission there on Mondays, to Minister the Word of God to the boys and to give them some voluntary medical care as well. We began to attack the scabies scourge with the necessary body lotions, antiseptic soap and also gave money to the sanitation officer for chemicals for fumigation of their dormitories. This brough the deadly scabies to a halt to the shock of the Nurses of the institution who had told us that it was an impossible task!!
The other major challenge we encountered at the Borstal was severe malnutrition!
Some boys were pathetically skinny and bony; and with questioning, we discovered that all the skinny ones do not get visitors at all! There were 47 of them initially then in 2013 and nobody was bringing them extra provisions like milk, cocoa drinks and other snacks to augment their grossly inadequate prison diet! They were also mostly dressed in tattered clothing. We were made to understand that a good number of them were raided from the streets of Lagos and that their parents and guardians might not even know where they were!
We then began to send in extra snacks of daily big pack digestive biscuits, groundnuts and soya milk; and over the months, many became quite robust and we were touched to learn that they would willingly take themselves off what became known as the “Ghost List” to make way for new skinny boys! We also solicited the help of my Church Assembly Regional Overseer and we were able to buys new outfits for the really ragged ones in 2013; and in Christmas of 2015, we solicited the help of the wife of the Vice President of Nigeria and she sent new outfits to all the boys, over 200 of them!
Water was a major issue because the Borstal had only one well which would dry up around March every year. In 2013 while in Lagos, we got an SOS from the Principal that the well had totally dried up and were able to get help to buy them some big tanks into which water was supplied with the kind help of the DG of Ogun Housing Corporation after the initial four loads we paid for were exhausted.
There are pictures in our gallery to showcase some of these activities of Ark of Rescue Mission team at the Borstal at Abeokuta.
This mission was suspended when I went back to Lagos in 2013; but we have been in touch since then, ministering to their needs wherever we could and also attending their Christmas Carol services on two occasions.
There are many good news from the Borstal though –
– They now have their own doctor instead of just nurses
– They began to have NYSC teachers posted there to teach them and prepare them for WAEC and JAMB exams and many have entered universities and polytechnic colleges to continue their education.
– Last year, a family foundation dug a proper bore hole for them, so water is no longer a problem!
Appeal for assistance
We have brought to your notice the situation in the Abeokuta Borstal because many do not even know it exists; yet it serves the whole of the south west and south east of Nigeria. Jesus said, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:.. I was in prison, and ye came unto me…. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matt.25:34-40.
We have enumerated the little that our small group was able to do in a short time. With collective efforts, a lot more can be done. Please visit them and meet some of their needs.