Changing lives: Shaping Destinies – The story of Elizabeth Martin Jacob
Elizabeth Martin Jacob is a 16 year old girl from Ikot Akpakpan village in Etim Ekpo LGA. She is the first of 5 siblings. Between 2008 and 2011, Elizabeth lost both parents with no means to support herself or her siblings. She dropped out of school in her junior secondary school (JSS 3) year because she could not pay her fees and other school levies. She spent her days and nights wondering how life had turned out this way for her and her younger ones. Her world was falling apart. Who would care for her now? Who would soothe her tears and tell her everything will be alright? Here she was waiting for an answer that was never to come. She could only hear the hollow echo of her own voice and that was when she took the difficult decision of moving to her uncle’s home who had six children of his own to care for. It took only a few nights with her uncle and it dawned on her that she had made a huge mistake. Her uncle’s single bedroom mud house could not accommodate all of them and she found herself stranded once again.
Elizabeth refused to give up and moved out eventually with her siblings. They slept wherever they could find to lay their heads as there was no help or support from relatives. Help finally came through the Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS) Project with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Elizabeth and her siblings were identified through a community based organization – Health Redemption Organization (SHERO) engaged by the SIDHAS project to provide OVC service delivery package in Akwa Ibom State. SHERO took on the challenge of finding a suitable accommodation for Elizabeth and her 4 siblings. A well-planned concerted advocacy to members of the community yielded immediate fruit as a house was provided for Elizabeth and her siblings. The story even gets better as they were all enrolled in a school to continue their education. Through regular home visits by community volunteers, the children through the kids club were provided with life skills, health counselling and psychosocial support.
Elizabeth was also trained by the SIDHAS project team on entrepreneurship and business skills. In January 2015, she was presented with a grinding machine to serve as an income generating stream. Today, she makes an average of eight hundred naira (N800) daily and is able to provide for the basic needs of her siblings. Elizabeth’s siblings are now enrolled as students in the government primary school in Etim Ekpo community. Elizabeth beaming with smiles says “she has not felt so happy in a long time.” Those dark, gloomy days and nights are over and she can look forward to a bright future for herself and her siblings who are looking up to her. The SIDHAS project is indeed “Changing lives and shaping destinies in lasting ways.”