FASHION AUCTION HOUSE
My Experience – by Didi

Volunteering for This Present House’s ‘Life Centre at Empire’, changed my perception of urban Lagos life. I mean, I was not naïve at the time and was well aware that most urban cities faced their own share of poverty and illegal activity, particularly developing economies like ours here in Nigeria.

But one Sunday, hurrying into the Life Centre (practically half an hour late), I met chaos.

Two little boys, of ages about 7 and 9, had been found smoking Indian hemp. And the Life Centre’s fulltime volunteers, who are extremely patient, and so dedicated, were rather disturbed by this. After dealing with that, I was asked to accompany the Empire team to go and pray with a woman who had been unable to attend the Life Centre for a couple of weeks. She had been ill, and they were concerned. On arriving, it was clear that she was a resident at one of the many brothels in the area. To be frank, as we approached her home, I could smell so much Indian hemp, that I am convinced I got a little high just walking down the street!

When we arrived, we prayed with her and the Empire team provided her with medication. The woman had apparently recently stopped working as a commercial sex worker. She asked us several times that day, if and when she could go to ‘Genesis House’. She seemed so earnest and eager that it made me wonder about Genesis House, their program, and about what would happen to the her, if she couldn’t get into the program.

It was after this, that I first visited Genesis House; and I sincerely feel that my experience there really was more enriching for me than even the young women residents that I had the privilege of meeting. After a few visits to the house, I had the opportunity to become involved with mentoring. The Genesis House Program Coordinator emphasized that mentoring can be far more effective at changing the lives of the women in the house, in a more practical and positive way, than the odd donation. (This is not to suggest donations are unimportant, because of course they are vital for the continued running of the House!)

I got to see firsthand and understand the whole essence of Genesis House. The shelter exists to provide an enabling atmosphere and give another prospective to the young women resident’s perception of their individual circumstances. Genesis House is all about bringing practical changes in their attitudes and abilities, so that they are equipped to take control of their circumstances. And when this is done with an attitude of prayer, you really learn that anything is possible!

I feel totally humbled by my experiences with the girls at Genesis House. After talking to them, you realise even more how blessed you are, and you learn that you are in a position to be a blessing to so many others.

Most of the young women I met really were victims of the sex trade in Nigeria, but admittedly not all of the young women were. But I learned that even in those circumstances where a young woman goes into the sex trade willingly and with her eyes open (perhaps because of material desires or for what some might call ‘big eye’), there is extreme disfunctionality surrounding her individual situation.

A lot of young women in our society are led astray, in some cases because of their quest for fashion clothing and accessories. Their actions and life stories affect me deeply because I design fashion accessories for a living! Perhaps this makes me empathise more with the mission of Genesis House, but I am certain that those amongst you who take it on yourselves to visit the house and get involved in the charity, will believe as I do that these women deserve a second chance for life, for hope and for new beginnings.

Didi Ocheja is the Creative Director of Didi Isah, a fashion accessories label formerly known as ‘Eden’

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  1. Bunmi Balogun

    I totally agree with you Didi, a lot of us are really fortunate not to be in similar situations to these ladies and we are in a position to be a blessing to so many others. The sex trade and child slavery are, by and large, directly related to poverty material desires and no matter how ’small’ the contirbution, ‘every little helps’ as they say. We should all get involved in one way or another.

    I also work in the fashion industry and ofetn feel a sense of responsibilty as it is an industry which generates a lot of unrealistic desires especially in young women, but I know that we can (and must) be a part of the solution by helping out in whatever way we can.

    Well done for getting involved and for writing about it.

    Apr 21, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

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