Poor living conditions are among the myriad challenges that comfront most persons displaced by war or conflict around the world.
Overcrowding, shortage of accommodation, poor sanitation, lack of access to medical facilities and potable water, and nutritious food are common problems in resettlement camps where displaced persons are provided temporary shelter by government.
In the North-East, the North East Children’s Trust (NECT) in partnership with Design Union, few days ago, celebrated the fifth anniversary of a resettlement model for displaced children in the North East of Nigeria, tagged “The Sanctuary”.
The Sanctuary targets 3,500 displaced children, and it is a novel solution to solving accommodation need of displaced children.
Design Union is a development company with a heart for the growth of African continent and betterment of the world at large with a commitment to solving housing and development challenges in Nigeria, and indeed across the continent, with what it called ‘‘brave innovations.’’
Managing Director/ CEO, Design Union, Anthony Aihie, said "Design Union solves and implements projects in a sustainable way in the built environment by applying first principles, and using locally available expertise and resources. The company believes that Africans should solve African problems. By applying persistently rigorous thinking to problems, Design Union innovates sustainable projects worth studying closely."
Aihie added that the company, in line with this vision, recently designed a model housing project fondly called ‘The Sanctuary’’ for the resettlement of 3,500 displaced children in the North East. The facility, designed for the North East Children’s Trust - an initiative of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo – in 2017, wias formally handed over on Monday, March 21, 2022.
‘‘A recent project that is being celebrated for the novel way we are solving a difficult housing need is one fondly called ‘The Orphan Sanctuary.’ This is a resettlement development model for 3,500 displaced children by Design Union. It is a not-for-profit project designed for the North East Children’s Trust, an initiative of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in 2017, by Design Union Ltd.
"This facility resolves the problem of educating, housing and nurturing displaced children of primary and secondary school age. The NECT celebrated the fifth year resounding success of this facility on Monday, March 21, 2022,’’ Aihie stated.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, while speaking at the commemoration event in Abuja, went down the memory lane how Design Union came to the rescue at the nick of time, amidst frantic search for solutions to resettling children at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Dalori, Borno State.
He said building a befitting resettlement accommodation for the children was paramount to heal the trauma occasioned by the mindless attacks and destruction of their ancestral homes, killing and abduction of their parents and siblings by terrorists.
Osinbajo's narration went thus: "The children had different back stories and experiences; many of them traumatised beyond imagination; suffering losses of monumental proportions; having witnessed the murder of family members, and being separated from loved ones as they tried to escape.
"As the children arrived, we were confronted with some daunting questions: do we have what it takes to do this? How do we restore what was lost - hope, dreams and transform the lives of many children made vulnerable by the conflict? How do we nurture, empower and renew?
"We had no prior model; all we had was a burning desire to re-ignite the flame of hope in the hearts and minds of the children we had been entrusted with.
"Intentional in our design, we were guided by Architects, Design Union Limited, who kindly donated the Master Plan. The plan created a conducive community that fosters the healing process for children of different age groups while encouraging them to learn academic, vocational skills for optimum productivity and life
balance as they progress into the larger society upon graduation.
"Armed with a well thought-out Master Plan, with clarity and sincerity of purpose, together with the amazing team of indigenous staff, we got to work on implementation which involved voluminous learning along the way."
Osinbajo said further that The Sanctuary, which incorporates The Learning Centre (TLC), has transformed the lives of hundreds of children today.
He cited Abba Alhaji, an escapee from Bama, who had never been to school but now a JSS 3 student at Government College, Maiduguri, as a living testimonial of the impact of the project. He was one of the first set of children received at the facility on April 10, 2018.
Originally known as Abba Abdul, the young man fled his community after an attack by terrorists in 2013 that led to separation from his parents and family. Abba was adopted by a caregiver named Ya'maimuna at Dalori 2 IDP Camp, and this led to the change of his name.
Design Union’s approach to problems-solving is business unusual, and it seeks to solve housing and development challenges in Nigeria and Africa with audacious gait - brave innovations.
Design Union's landmark footprints cut across infrastructure, real estate, educational institutions, corporate buildings spaces, oil and gas as well as residential. It is solving living space challenges in Africa by implementing solutions and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that address shortage of liveable houses for people and communities.
The Managing Director/CEO, Anthony Aihie, asserted further by saying, "We see and deliver possibilities where others see difficulties. Our heart over profit is manifestly evident in all that we do."
The Sanctuary project is a model resettlement solution aligned with the International Union of Architects and Rehabilitation International’s call for a 21st century symbol of accessibility to represent the core values of rights and inclusion, independence, physical and virtual accessibility for all, including people with disabilities.
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