Mary Odiong tells her story before, during and after rescue. She is now an undergraduate studying at a Federal University in Nigeria.
“I come from a family of three, though we were once more. Tragedy struck, claiming the lives of some, and leaving only three of us behind. However, another family member recently passed away, reducing us to two—myself and my younger brother. My story begins with my early years, when I lived happily with my parents. As time progressed, life took an unexpected turn when my father fell seriously ill.
Despite exhausting all possible remedies, including natural herbs, his health did not improve. Tensions escalated between my parents, leading to a bitter dispute over domestic properties. This conflict eventually led to my mother leaving my father and my younger brother. A few weeks later, someone kindly offered to shelter and care for my brother, leaving me as the sole companion to my ailing father.
As days went by, my father’s frustration grew, and he began unfairly blaming me for his misfortunes. He castigated me, making hurtful remarks and claiming that I was the source of all his problems. I hoped that with time, he would overcome these feelings, but that was not the case. His belief that I was responsible for his challenges persisted.
One day, he sent me on an errand to buy kerosene. Upon my return, as I handed him the kerosene, he unexpectedly grabbed my wrist, tied me up with a rope, and attempted to harm me. Fortunately, a neighbour intervened, allowing me to escape. Fearing for my life, I decided to leave home.
Leaving my area, I wandered, facing the challenges of finding food and shelter. During this time, I encountered a man whose son had a severe skin condition. Unjustly, I was accused of causing the boy’s illness and taking him to a witchcraft coven. Despite my innocence, to avoid severe consequences, I admitted to the false accusations. Thankfully, my uncle Anthony intervened, rescuing me from that dire situation.
Since then, I moved from place to place within my community, avoiding my street for safety reasons. Nights were spent sleeping on shop verandas or in unfinished buildings. I had to distance myself from my family and neighbourhood to escape the torment, maltreatment, beatings, and stigmatization. Seeking peace of mind, I settled in a market square, where I could find some solace.
One day, I encountered a madman who, instigated by others, threw a stone at me, hitting me on the head. Despite the injury and blood loss, I survived by the grace of God. Desperate to survive, I resorted to selling various items to sustain myself, as I had no one to sponsor me. This marked the beginning of a life filled with stigmatisation, child labor, and the harsh realities of street life.
As I grew older, the struggles persisted. One fateful day, I was brutally beaten by street boys in my locality, leaving me battered and bruised. At that moment, I felt overwhelmed by the hardships of life, contemplating ending it all. However, the thought of suicide reminded me that there must be more to life than suffering.
At a point, everything seemed unbearable, prompting me to contemplate taking my own life. However, a divine intervention occurred the next morning when I received a call from the African Children Aid Education and Development Foundation. They came to my rescue, lifting me from the depths of despair and offering a fresh start. Despite the challenges, I am grateful to God for leading ACAEDF to pick me up from the lowest point in my life and elevate me to where I am now.
The journey has not been easy, but with God by my side, I am filled with gratitude for the transformation from grass to grace. In the course of my new life, tragedy struck as I received news of my father’s passing after completing my neck examination. The information was withheld until then to avoid distraction during my exams. The loss hit me hard, as my father was the only family I had left.
I had hoped to reconnect with my brothers and possibly reunite my family, but the dream shattered. My mother was nowhere to be found, and my father, my only link, was gone. Despite the pain and disappointment, I give glory to God for sustaining me throughout the journey. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I trust that God has a plan for my life.
I am grateful for the progress I’ve made, understanding that God’s purpose for me is unfolding gradually. With His guidance, I aim to achieve independence and, in due time, search for my mother and brother. Even if we can’t have a complete family, having them around would bring joy. Reflecting on my difficult childhood, I acknowledge that not everyone is born with silver or golden spoons, but I remain thankful for God’s grace.
I surrender to God’s plans, understanding that I have no right to question Him. My journey, though marked by suffering, is a testament to His wisdom and sovereignty. I trust that with God, my life will unfold as He wants it to be, and I am grateful for the strength to endure and the hope for a brighter future.”