Felix Ikem, Nsukka
Call her a living saint or Mother Theresa of our time, Rev. Sister Martina Oforka, a Catholic nun of Nsukka Diocese, has lived up to her calling with her humanitarian services.
Tucked in the remote village of Umuagbedo, Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State, the nun has since 2005 touched numerous lives in no small measure through her life-changing ventures.
Daily Sun gathered that one of her main callings was providing hope and future for rape victims and young girls with unwanted pregnancies. She would look out for such people, bring them under her custody and give them the necessary antenatal and postnatal care, after which the ladies would decide either to take the child with them or leave the child with the sister to nurture.
Sister Oforka has always made the care comprehensive with the inclusion of nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary education for the housemates of her home through the establishment of Divine Wounds Nursery/Primary and Secondary School. Records show that no fewer than 1,000 persons have benefitted from the nun’s free education programme.
Some of the beneficiaries spoke to our correspondent during the schools’ recent graduation. They expressed happiness over coming in contact with her, describing her as mother of the motherless, a helper of the helpless and an embodiment of God.
The floodgates of testimonies began with Teresa Oforka, 16, a Senior Secondary School (SS2) student who had to change her surname to Oforka in reverence of the nun. According to the teenager, she took the decision because she would never go back to her parents who gave birth to her out of wedlock and were never married to each other; leaving her at the mercy of fate.
“I know I have parents, but they made me to understand that they never wanted to give birth to me in the first place, they are not married and they are living separately, they don’t care about me. I don’t want to talk more about them because I have bad memories of them. I thank God that, today, Sister has given me new life,” she said.
Also, Blessing Ohagwu, 15, a JSS2 student, from Amube, Enugu Ezike, said that life was miserable for her because her father impregnated an Ekiti lady who gave birth to her out of wedlock; instead, he married another woman from Enugu Ezike who did not want her as a member of the family.
“Sister took over everything about me since last year. She enrolled me in her school for free, gave me accommodation and feeds me every day,” she said of the reverend sister. “I was told that my mother is from Ekiti State; that is the little I know about her, and my stepmother is not ready to accommodate me in the house. Sister has resurrected my hope to live and survive and be a better person.”
Another resident of the home, Maureen Odo, 16, from Ezimo Uno ,in Udenu Local Government, who is in JSS3, said she joined the sister in 2013 when she lost her father, leaving only her mother to take care of six children. She disclosed that the nun has promised to train her to a higher institution after her secondary school.”
Rev. Sister Martina said the whole thing started one day when she visited a family member to know how they were faring: “I told them that I came to have dinner with them. They told me that they didn’t have anything to eat that night. I thought they were joking but they were not. I had to go back to my house, emptied my pot and brought my food to them that night. It was from that moment that I came to know that there are so many destitute people in the community.
“I came to realise that so many people are living in abject poverty, not only in this community but in other places. Again, those children under our care deserve good and quality education. That was what made me to establish the Divine Wounds Nursery/Primary and Secondary School, so that the children from the orphanage home would have access to education.”
Sister Oforka, a sister of the Most Holy Virgins of the Catholic Congregation, said that the orphanage home and the school, which run as charity organisations, presently boast of over 500 of such children. The orphanage began in 2005, while she added the school component a year after: “We run it as charity organisation. It is through money I receive from my siblings, family members and other good-spirited individuals. Imagine students in the school section here pay as little N2,000, which they even find extremely difficult to afford. We don’t send them away for not paying school fees because, if you do that, where will they go? The Enugu State Ministry of Education approved the school one year after its establishment.
“Ladies who get pregnant out of wedlock, whose children are in our orphanage home, equally attend the school free of charge because they don’t have anybody to pay for them. Many of them are part of our graduating students today. A lot of them who schooled in other secondary schools have finished their secondary education, got admission into the university and graduated from there. So, what we are doing here is purely humanitarian work, to the glory of God Almighty.
It was gathered that her campaign against abortion in the area was made potent following her partnership with proprietors of patent medicine stores, as they usually reported girls with unwanted pregnancies seeking abortion to her.
“I told them that if any pregnant girl comes to them for abortion, they should collect their money and call me on phone. When I receive such calls, I would rush to the place and meet the person, talk to her one-on-one, know the reason for the abortion and convince the lady to quit the idea of abortion. We take the girl to our orphanage and reach an agreement with her to stay with us till she is delivered of the baby. After the birth, we ask her if she would like to take her baby or keep it with us. Whichever she chooses, we oblige,” she said.
Sister Oforka added that the orphanage does not get involved in any form of adoption: “We make sure that the children either attend school or acquire skills, so that they will become useful members of the society. Some of them usually trace their parents, father or mother, and go back to them. As for the ladies, we ask them to go to school, acquire skills like sewing and become self-reliant and useful members of society. Majority of them, expectedly, don’t know their parents. They take me as their mother, father, brother and sister. Both the orphanage home and school are under the Nsukka Catholic Diocese.”
The good works of the Anambra State-born nun have continued to resonate in the Nsukka Cultural Zone, with the exploits of the Divine Wounds Nursery/Primary and Secondary schools. Painfully, the sister’s lofty dreams are being hampered by hydra-headed challenges facing the school.
The principal of the secondary school wing, Francis Ujah, enumerated their needs to include “school bus for excursion, corpers’ lodge, biology/agric laboratory block and equipment, farmland, qualified and dedicated teachers, computers and computer room. We also need to fence the school compound to control late-coming and protect school property and students.”
Apart from the deplorable condition of roads in the community, they also lack access to electricity and pipe borne water.