From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
A Catholic priest of Nnewi Diocese in Anambra State, Rev. Fr. Anthony Ananwa, is bringing smiles to the faces of many in the state.
Those that have found favour with Fr. Ananwa are the dejected and the disabled, those abandoned to die by life’s circumstances. The priest runs a charity home, Jesus Abandoned Home for the Needy, with facilities at Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, and in Abuja. The initiative came up six years ago while he was on further studies in Australia and, today, the home takes care of more than 200 people with special needs.
The reporter was recently at the home where people with cerebral palsy and autism, the deaf and dumb, the crippled and those with other forms of disability and physical challenges are taken care of, fed, clothed, educated and given physical rehabilitation.
The reporter’s visit coincided with the day the special school had a get-together to entertain guests. It was the beginning of a new term and many of the pupils in the school displayed unusual gifts and talents as they thrilled guests through their performance.
Fr. Ananwa told the reporter that he decided to toe this path in his priestly ministry “since labourers are few but the workload is much.”
“I went to Australia for my doctorate degree studies. I was doing a research and discovered that some people were abandoned with no hope and nobody to assist them. I decided to take up that task and that is why we go by the name Jesus Abandoned. It has not been easy, but we have to keep going. With people’s support we have extended the home to Abuja and we also started a school here at Oraifite for them,” he said.
The cleric noted that some of the inmates were mere vegetables who could not help themselves in any way. Such people needed to be bathed, fed and assisted to do everything.
He explained that it was the zeal to make life meaningful for people in such conditions that propelled him to establish the school, where all pupils study without paying any fee.
So how has he been sustaining the facility? The priest said he had been dependent on public goodwill and the abiding grace of God. He admitted though that the road was rough and tough.
“We have a broad vision despite the fact that things are not all that rosy in Nigeria. The healthy ones are not taken care of in this country, how much more people that are sick? That is why we try to look after them through this way. We plan for their future with the hope that they will be rehabilitated to be useful to society.
“Some of the inmates were dropped at the gate for us and left without a trace by their people while some were formally admitted here for upkeep,” he said.
Prophet Tochukwu Obiukwu and Chief Clement Ananwa agreed with the priest. They told the reporter that they were always sober at the sight of what some people were passing through while normal, healthy persons outside the facility kept complaining about hunger and hardship.
“Taking care of the people here is a herculean task but I also ask myself if those who found themselves in such situation committed any abominable act. The answer is no, only that God just allows such things to exist so that humanity will appreciate Him the more. Fr. Ananwa needs every support to keep this task realisable,” said Chief Ananwa.
“God personally choose Fr. Ananwa for this special work and I call on the people to support him because this is not something one man can do alone and succeed,” Obiukwu said.
Chief Ananwa, elder brother to the cleric, noted that the aim of the organisation was to take care of physically-challenged women and children, as well as vulnerable people in the society.
“It is the organisation’s joy to give help to the helpless, hope to the hopeless and voice to the voiceless. The organisation has imported and distributed thousands of wheelchairs, crutches and disability staff, walking frames and other materials for physically challenged people. Also, foodstuff, clothes, shoes and other life-enhancing materials were given to the physically challenged. The organisation has some challenges in carrying out their responsibilities, especially lack of vehicles. The permanent site for the home is designed to contain a hospital for free medical care and for the distribution of relief materials and items. There will also be an adoration ground for the worship of God,” he said.
One of the inmates, Chizara, said he was happy in his newfound home provided by the cleric. He declared that he was receiving more care and love compared to his place at Ehime Mbano, Imo State, where his family saw him as a mistake that should be allowed to die.