Abandoned No More: The Story of Godgift

Abandoned No More: The Story of Godgift

Godgift and his caregiver receiving educational supplies from the Executive Director of Synergycare Initiative. {Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.}Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.

Early one morning Mrs. Fred woke up and found a boy outside her house. Alarmed and curious, she asked him why he was there. Godgift, as he identified himself, told her that the continuous appearance of a snake where he lived forced him to abandon the place he called home, after numerous futile attempts to frighten it off with pepper. Highly disturbed, she arranged for him to eat in a nearby restaurant whenever he showed up by her house.

The boy, Godgift Henshaw, is 13 years old. Godgift's mother took him along when she left her husband and eloped with another man. When the burden of care got too heavy, she left Godgift with her mother in Agbia community, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Godgift’s grandmother beat and neglected him. Most of the time he went without food and often slept outside the house. Finally, she labeled him a wizard and abandoned him, fleeing from their home.

The landlord evicted Godgift when there was no one to pay the rent. He took refuge in an uncompleted building in a nearby bush, completely at the mercy of the elements. Abandoned and stigmatized (following his identification as a wizard), he fed himself by doing odd jobs.

After Godgift appeared on Mrs. Fred’s doorstep, she contacted the orphans and vulnerable children desk officer at the State Ministry of Gender and Social Development. The desk officer contacted Synergycare Initiative about the boy’s situation. Synergycare is a community-based implementing partner for the USAID-funded Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria (CUBS) project, led by Management Sciences for Health.

Synergycare staff sought out Godgift and found him playing at Mrs. Fred’s.

He walked up to them and asked, “You want to see mummy [Mrs. Fred]? Are you the ones who write names of orphan children?”

They explained who they were and enrolled Godgift as a vulnerable child. He was counseled for trauma and efforts were made to locate his parents -- an easy task as he knew his father’s name through his maternal grandmother.

About a month later, the staff identified Robert Henshaw as Godgift’s biological father. Mr. Henshaw’s joy knew no bounds when he was reunited with his son. He took Godgift to stay with a family member in another community. Relocation gave Godgift a fresh start, free from the discrimination he experienced in Agbia.

Presently, Godgift is in grade school, primary one. He is supported with school supplies (books, uniform, and school bags) provided through the CUBS project. Godgift is about five classes behind his age group, yet he is happy and well-adjusted, once more an average child in the community.

Safiya Madhi is program officer for the Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria (CUBS) project.