A Friendly Face on the Way to School

Jul 17, 2018

Steph Duff

“Alright, everybody!” Alphonsus calls out to the children sitting behind him on the bus. “We’re here. Have a good day! Be respectful, pay attention!” He smiles at each child as they exit the bus in their school uniform. They turn and wave goodbye to him, knowing they will see him in a few hours for pick-up.

Uncle Alphonsus, as he is known to the children, is one of four, full-time drivers who spend their days transporting children to and from school, on field trips, and to doctor’s visits. Four men, affectionately known as Transportation Officers, manage a “fleet” of seven vans and three shared vehicles. They transport more than one hundred children each day, along with visiting teams. 

While there are many local schools within walking distance to the various children’s homes in Nigeria, most of the children within Back2Back programming attend Mashiah Academy. Mashiah was chosen for its high performance ratings, well-managed discipline, and a shared desire between the teachers and Back2Back staff to work together. 

The ride to Mashiah from Destiny Children’s Home is about twenty minutes, but for those attending Igmin Kibe Education Center, it can be up to a forty-minute drive. Without the faithful transportation officers and their dedication to keeping the vehicles up to date and running, the children would have to attend less favorable schools closer to their homes. 

“Without the officers and the vans, the children also wouldn’t have the opportunities for field trips,” explained Amanda Obemeasor, Back2Back staff. Visiting friends in other children’s homes, regular doctors visits, and family outings within the Hope Program are all possible, in part, due to the drivers and vans. They are a regular fixture in providing well-rounded, holistic care to each child served in Nigeria.

“We believe the children benefit from these new opportunities, while instilling a sense of timeliness and responsibility,” stated Amanda. “They are learning to be at the bus stop at a particular time, or they will not have a ride to school. The drivers and vans cultivate accountability as they learn to manage their growing responsibilities.” 

“It’s much more than, ‘get on, stay quiet, go to school,’” shared Amanda. “They are the first people the children see after school; they’re asking them how their days are, if they ate their lunches, if they got in trouble. They’re also the ones who pick up the children if they have to stay late due to detentions.” The drivers, over time, become counselors – calming down the child who had to stay late because of misbehavior; they become friends – trustworthy confidantes who can read their faces after a long day. Transportation officers maintain order, orchestrating peace in environments prone to be chaotic.

As Back2Back Nigeria continues to expand, growing their reach and deepening their impact, logistical challenges will naturally arise. With each new child added to the program, additional staff are needed. Whether a caregiver, a hope parent, a staff member, or a transportation officer, every role is integral. 

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Offering care for today and hope for tomorrow extends to more than hot meals and clean uniforms. It is ensuring each child is surrounded by people who display the love of God in everything they do. In this way, the message remains consistent- I showed up for you because you are important and loved. Your day is worth hearing about and making happen. The transportation officers, along with the rest of us, can send this powerful message to children in Nigeria and around the world: your story matters. 

Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dog, Telulah. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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