Teresa’s father died when she was young. Teresa and her four siblings grew up in the shadow of her father’s first wife, who her mother continued to care for even after his death, as is customary in Nigeria.
This was strike one in a culture that marginalizes widows and their children.
As a female in Nigeria, she was afforded fewer opportunities.
Two years ago, Teresa’s older sister, Felicia, was hit by a taxi while crossing the street. She died instantly.
Strike three. The final blow.
To Teresa’s deeply superstitious community in Nigeria, the horrific tragedy was an omen that could only mean one thing: Teresa and her family were cursed. They were to blame for Felicia’s untimely death. As accusations and threats mounted, neighbors distanced themselves, placing the blame squarely on Teresa’s tiny shoulders.
For some this would be too heavy a burden to carry, but 13-year-old Teresa is different. She is a fighter. In the months to follow her sister’s death, Teresa found a lifeline through the care of loving staff at Back2Back who helped place Teresa and her siblings at a top-notch local school and an after-school program with Back2Back.
Each day, Teresa rises and gets dressed in pitch black, preparing breakfast for her younger siblings. They eat quickly so they can make it to the bus stop by 6:30am, just as the sun is rising. After school, the children head to Back2Back’s Igmin Kibe Education Center for tutoring, homework help, a nutritious snack and Bible study.
Rote memorization and fear-based learning was the norm at Teresa’s old school. Now, Teresa’s teachers at the center inspire her by sparking a passion for learning. She is gaining problem solving and critical thinking skills. The inquisitive young girl has come alive, as her tutors draw out her strengths and challenge her sharp mind. With their encouragement, Teresa is beginning to pursue her own creative interests and even dreaming of opening a community medical clinic. Their compassion and support has created a safe place for Teresa to heal and grow.
The scuffed soccer ball rolls across the grass stopping inches from Teresa’s feet. Years ago, she would have quietly watched her peers dart after the ball, longing to join in but too shy to take the first step. But now, Teresa is different. She runs to greet visitors at the center and eagerly joins the other children for soccer games and jump rope. The once-timid girl is her class captain and reads scripture in front of her church. Village leaders have taken notice of the transformation of the tiny girl – the one they thought would never amount to much. Teresa continues to prove them wrong, gracefully rising above the obstacles threatening her chances of success.
Tenacious is defined as persisting in existence – not easily dispelled. Not readily relinquishing a position, principle or course of action; determined.
In the midst of a community that was ready to write her off, Teresa refused to be dismissed. She fought her way from the lowest of the low to rise to the top of her class.
This, this is Teresa.