It was a cool Friday afternoon, on the 29th day of June 2017.
The weather was still a little bit cold from the rain that fell all through the morning in Benin City. The Friday exercise program of DAGOMO Foundation (DAGOMO) had just rounded up.
DAGOMO’s programs are channels used to show care as well as showcase the need for attention to the old and elderly. These programs have really been a source of encouragement to so many in Benin City.
Feeling motivated and happy after the day’s job, I was heading back home from the office when I saw an elderly man along the way sitting all alone looking sad and troubled. Having been a part of the foundation, I walked up to him and engaged in a conversation with him. “Domo sir” I said as I bowed in a sign of respect for his old age. He seemed excited as his eyes suddenly beamed with excitement at this unusual attention he seemed to be getting from a “complete stranger”. “My pikin, how are you?” We sat down gisting about so many things and he really seemed to love my company. I got to learn a few personal things about my new found friend. His name is Mr Omoaghe Ihounde, an 80 year old retired business man.
My new found friend went on to inform me that he had a problem with his landlord which left him greatly troubled and this was a source of concern for me. I left him with a promise to see him again and my heart heavily burdened by his plight. When I got to the office the morning of the next day, I brought Mr Omoaghe’s story up and a meeting was held to discuss his situation. The DAGOMO staff decided it was important to look at the situation and see how we could help.
We went back to see Mr Omoaghe and this time we visited his home and discovered that the roofing of the apartment he occupied had been removed. It was removed because he had failed to adhere to a statutory notice to quit issued to him by his landlord. Thus, at the peak of the rainy season, the old man and his 8 year old son were at the mercy of cruel elements, being drenched by the heavy down pour any time it rained and scorched by the sun. It was a sore sight to behold.
DAGOMO made several attempts to reach out to his family but none of his other 22 children was willing to give a helping hand. Quite pathetic you might say, but gladly, one of his daughters eventually reached out to us with support for her father. We went out to look for accommodation for the old man. It was a grueling affair, we had to inspect about 36 houses. It was upsetting to find that a lot of landlords were not happy to let their properties out to an old man. This is really sad.
Finally, on the 6th of July, we found a comfortable apartment for Mr Ihounde Omoaghe and his son. His daughter paid the rent, Dagomo facilitated his movement and also ensured that his son was enrolled at Oguola primary school.
DAGOMO exists to put a smile on the face of the old and elderly, giving free medical checkups/treatment/referrals, facilitating others to show care, and providing a place to co-mingle/network with the view to giving them a better life in their old age.
To shift the focus of this story slightly, it is important to question some of our societal values that have to change:
Why have many children when only one may be there at the end of life?
Why have children when one cannot afford to take care of them?
Why do we sweat certain traditions like needing a son at any cost?
Why do we ignore the old and elderly as bonafide members of society to be supported?
Together we can make our world a better place for the young and old.