The children are moving to the tempo the drum is setting. Sitting behind the bongo drums is Iliya. His hands pound the drum knowingly – as if he has been doing this very thing, making beats and setting pace for the choir, all his life. He smiles, his eyes most often looking down at his hands, but when he looks up, you can see the joy trying to escape.
No one needs to question whether or not Iliya is having fun. They only need to watch for a couple moments to know it is true.
When Iliya began coming to the Igmine Kibe Education Center, his eyes lacked joy. Living with only his elderly grandmother, the young boy lacked the exuberance to be expected of a 12-year old boy.
“When Iliya first joined us at the education center, he was withdrawn; he rarely smiled and often looked very tired,” said Dori McCormick, Back2Back Nigeria staff.
One of the caseworkers who works at the education center began to get closer to Iliya and his grandmother. As they learned more about the home environment, they realized he wasn’t sleeping in a proper bed.
“We worked on getting him an actual bed and that is when we began to see a change in his demeanor,” said Dori. “He has come to life in front of our eyes.”
Sleeping regularly in a bed and receiving meals at the education center has helped Iliya to make strides physically and emotionally. Recently the education center started a choir and a set of bongo drums were donated.
“He has proven to be quite a talented drummer,” shared Dori. “We also have been able to offer a job to his grandma as a caregiver, who helps prepare the meals for the children.”
By offering Iliya and his grandmother opportunities to flourish, the Education Center is changing their story. Iliya is continuing to blossom. His grandmother is able to help at the center and maintain sustainability for her and her grandson. Their needs are being met and they are coming to know the people who are always in their corner.