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THE VILLA MISERECORDIA DEI

MSGR. J. B. AKAM GRANTS SUN NEWSPAPER AN INTERVIEW WHICH HE TALKS MORE ON HIS WORKS
In the bowel of the serene town of Uga, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, is located Kinigin Des Freidens, a special school for children, most of them the less privileged, physically challenged and orphans.

The founder of the special school for the physically challenged persons and orphans, a Catholic priest, Monsignor Johnbosco Akam, has been in the business of living with the physically challenged since 1985.

Very Rev Akam said living with the physically challenged children and orphans had become his happiest moments, adding that he derives joy whenever he realises that he can give back to the society what God has given to him.

According to Prof Akam, the establishment of Kinigin Des Freidens College was as a result of the feelings he had seeing psychically challenged persons on the major streets and roads across the country. Akam told Daily Sun that with nothing, but with the help of God, who sent a strange man to him when he traveled abroad, he has been able to build a school for them. Excerpts.

The Origin
“The name of the home is Villa Misercordae Dei, that means, a home where God’s mercy is practised. Many times, we say many things in the air, hold seminars and conferences, but we achieve little or nothing in practice. So, that is why the practical dimension of showing God’s mercy struck me at a point in time in 1985 and gradually, I developed special interest for the physically challenged and orphans,” he said.

According to the clergyman, the home though not yet popular in the country, had served so many purposes such as home for the homeless and very comfortable abode for orphans and destitutes.
“I was visiting motherless baby homes in the South eastern part of the country, at a point, I said I would establish something with particular reference to orphans who had lost their parents and being pursued around by the relations of their parents to make sure they also liquidate them so that they could take the property of the parents. The actual beginning of the works of charity we engaged in was in 1985, but the structural development began in 2004 before I ever got a university; so, it is on its own line developing.”
Monsignor Akam told Daily Sun that he was struck by a special physically challenged child who was struggling to acquire education amidst all odds while he was coming from Enugu.

“It took root in the current way when I was coming back from Enugu and met a physically challenged child throwing himself up and down on the Nnewi-Okigwe road and it was drizzling, but this child with his school uniform was throwing himself up and down in a way of movement and that caught my sight. I asked the driver to stop; we asked him, what is your name? He said “my name is Sunday Eze from Akokwa.” Akokwa is a neigbouring village with Uga; we also asked him where he was going and the child said “I am going to Akam school.”

I said okay, come into the car, let’s drop you, but he replied in vernacular (Agam Emetoru gi Ugbala gi), meaning, “I will dirty your car for you,” but I said no problem, we opened the front door and my driver helped the child to came in. When we were going, I asked him which class, he said Nursery 2. A child in Nursery 2, physically challenged moving all the way from Akokwa to Uga because of school, which school? That struck me and when we were driving, I asked him if it would not be better for him to live inside the school instead of coming from Akowka, he replied again in Igbo language that he would like it, but he will tell his parents first (Agam agwa ndi abe anyi). I said okay, tell them and give me reply tomorrow. That was how I put him at the house near the gate from there others started coming.”

Apart from the first person who became the first inmate at the Villa Misercodae Dei in Uga, others started coming which made the home to increase both in size and problems.

The mystery man overseas who gave me money
Monsignor Akam also narrated how he was given a cheque by a mysterious donor in Heathrow, London when he had gone to see his friends, adding that the money which he referred to as seed money had helped in the structural development of the home.
His words: “I told them when I was about leaving the country, I said look, pray fervently so that God would provide; that was how I put it, I didn’t tell them why and I left. The driver took me to Enugu where I flew to Abuja and from Abuja to Heathrow.

"I landed at Heathrow at 3:20 in the afternoon and people who normally would come to airport to pick me were not around. I was wondering, I had came out of the airport, I didn’t see anybody, finally I came out and stood somewhere, at least, I was the only black man around; so, any time they come they must see me where I was. Somebody touched me at the back, somebody tall and he was in suit with tie, that is much I knew because I didn’t look at his face, but somebody just touched me and when I looked back, that was when I knew he was in suit and tie and he said ‘you are from Africa” and I said yes, he said okay, “I will assist you in whatever way possible in the work you are doing in Africa.” I didn’t understand him because I never discussed anything with him before. So, the man turned his back on me and was leaning on a pavement at the airport where people fill their forms and particulars, he was just there writing something after he turned to me and came to the place I was standing.

He gave me a piece of paper, that was the impression I had, I thought he was giving me his contact address, but when I looked at it, I saw it was a cheque, immediately my eyes went straight to the figure. When I saw the figure and saw that it was something serious enough, I turned around to thank him, but I didn’t see the man anymore. So, till today I don’t know his face, I can’t recognize him if I see him, I have no email address, no telephone numbers to tell him thank you and that seed money is what I used to build this place within about 10 months, this house was like this.

He gave me money without asking me the work being done in Africa, the children when I came back and told them, said the moment I left, they had been burning candles praying that God will do something for them. So, I took it that God himself answered the prayers of the physically challenged. That is the understanding. But who was the particular person that came, I didn’t know and it pains me very much that I had not contacted him at least to thank him, but then I will continue to thank God because he is the ultimate giver.

Seeing physically challenged persons as cursed
“First of all, I will not subscribe to the opinion or idea that the physically challenged must be taken as people cursed. I always tell them here because I am living with them under the same roof and in the same building, I always tell them that you are physically handicapped in any aspect of your body does not apply disability all over your body. So, somebody out of illness or injection gets one or two of his legs malfunctioning or a hand does not mean any curse on the person. I think it is ignorance. I always tell them God permitted this your state and he knows why, but your job now as a physically challenged is to transform what you call disability into ability; that is what I teach them often.

The children
We have very promising young men like Dikachi, Oge Chukwuneke and others will be entering the university this year on scholarship. These people are not cursed; so, let them not say such a thing against the innocent children. Let them re-arrange and re-appraise further and change their mindsets and know that this is one of the accidents of history of life in those children and they have not incurred any curse.

We had the meeting recently with their biological parents. One thing I have noticed is this, when the physically challenged stay in their homes, they are not valued. The ones that are sent to schools and universities are those who are physically okay. But taking 26 young men, anyone who finishes WAEC, the biological parent appears. The one that graduated last June, that was the time I knew he had brothers and sisters.

They hid themselves all along, that is what I have noticed. So, it means, the moment a physically challenged is reckoned as useful, meaningful and start getting some money, that moment, all the people who ran away from him or her will surface and come around and identify with him. The hall was filled during the meeting with their parents and relations. Those who couldn’t come sent somebody to represent them because they are now useful.

I was wondering why those with legs will be getting F9 in examinations while the physically challenged will be getting A1, A2, B3 and so on, maybe because we have legs and we decide to jump up and down with it, but these ones are staying one place and at anytime they are reading.

Taking care of them
The answer is simple. There is God above; there is God of providence, the one who provides. Sometimes we find it difficult to give them food, but all of a sudden, you see somebody bringing some food items. We have the old Aguata Local Government Area living in South Korea, they have been doing wonders. Every Christmas, they will bring bags of rice and beans, we also have people who come spontaneously, they give N1,000, N500, etc

Graduation
Actually, we are getting the first batch who are graduating, the moment they graduate or they are trained in some meaningful occupation or job like handcraft or barbing, the production of sandals and shoes, as soon as they are properly brought up or trained, they are free to go. We are not going to bind them to stay here, no, get properly trained and you can go.