While each cottage and its members are models of powerful impact, we encouraged our global cottages to report on their recent gatherings and how Big Ocean Women tenets have affected them and their members. We have responses from three of our international cottages. Their responses are heartwarming, especially given the unprecedented challenges many of them are facing.
Here are the responses we received, some in their own words and others as reported to Ann Takasaki, a Big Ocean Women board member.
Fatima – Jos Nigeria Cottage
Our retreat held on the 7th of August 2021 at a hall called St. Louis Hall in the city center in Jos.
The retreat started with opening prayers and general welcome to all attendees. They were reminded about the vision of Big Ocean Women and the theme of retreat which was lighting the way to a peaceful harbour. The women were encouraged to feel free and enjoy the day as it was a time to relax, unwind and encourage one another. We proceeded to have an ice breaker where all attendees were grouped into four different groups and given a list of items to find like a treasure hunt; the group that completed that first was rewarded.
At the retreat, there were also focused group discussions where people were put into three groups to discuss parenting and the challenges in current time and reasons for gender-based violence and addiction. These are major issues in our clime and problems that our women face. Therefore, after the group discussions, there was a plenary where everyone got to share about the three topics. An invited guest had a time of heart-to-heart interaction with the attendees, and it was fun as they got to talk on different issues. A major highlight was that at the end of the talk, the women shared recipes of different kinds of soup with each other. The women were very excited.
We also had games on team building where couples were paired, the right hand and left hand of the pair was tied together and they were left to use the other hands to make a cup of tea, butter their bread and feed each other. The group that finished first got a gift. In between time, everyone had a good lunch which was also appreciated.
All the cottage members present got wrappers (colorful garments widely worn in West Africa by women and men according to Wikipedia) which made them very happy. We also linked up on Zoom with other cottages and we got a time to talk with other cottages briefly.
We intended the retreat to include men–mostly husbands of our cottage members and young men to help them understand why it is important to treat women and girls with respect; unfortunately, many men did not come that day though it was a time when insecurity was at its peak in town.
During our last meeting, we had a debriefing on the retreat and the women said it was a useful time to unwind. They greatly appreciated the BOW headquarters for making this possible. They also said it was a time to get to know each more closely and bond as the cottage is a bit large and after our cottage meetings, most members don’t get to interact much because everyone is usually in a hurry to return home. The major setback for us was the absence of many men who were invited, and we resolved to dig deeper to know why the turnout from them was poor.
Talking about specific challenges, quite a lot – the country has been in recession for a while now, sometimes they keep reporting about an improvement that doesn’t reflect on ground. Prices of everything from food to cooking gas has doubled and in some cases even tripled. Many families are struggling to cope, so many families have to work twice as hard as they used to a few years ago to make ends meet. There was a report (I can’t remember where) that declared Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, I think in 2019. Many have turned to substance abuse, and gender-based violence is at an all-time high and cheating (infidelity) has also increased.
Insecurity is really high. If you can’t afford to fly, you can’t guarantee that travelling by road you will get to your destination as kidnap and abductions have become very common. Within this year alone, there has been mass abduction of students from their schools including seminary (different schools) not less than six times.
The government is not helping as rather than acknowledge the situation, they keep insisting that things are better than before they came into power in 2015. There’s hardly any freedom of expression as people can easily be arrested for antigovernment utterances. And to crown it all, the government is releasing “repentant” Boko Haram (a terrorist group according to Wikipedia) in large numbers and integrating them into the society including recruiting them into security agencies giving rise to fear that the Afghanistan situation can occur here too if things get out of hand.
In summary, there is a lot of despair, but many are encouraged that if there is life, then there is hope; so, we keep suffering and smiling, trusting that God will hear our cry sooner than later.
The Matthew Cares Cottage – Buduburam, Ghana
The cottage is very much excited to be part of this all-important Newsletter. In this light, we will want to respond to the questions posted to us; we have general responses and individuals’ responses with some videos.
1. The Cottage was opportune to have gotten involved with the Big Ocean Women Organization in March of 2021 through the influence of Matthew Davis. Since then the Cottage has been operating.
2. The leadership and the cottage members were compelled to give their time and energy because of the values and motives of Big Ocean Women through the organization’s tenets which give the women motivation to rise from their limitation of being seen as just mere housewives and dependent on men.
These tenets give us the ability to recognize our roles and integrity as virtuous women.
We are also compelled to give our time and energy because of the interactive motivational forums amongst women and the life touching testimonies.
Please, I am trying to attach the videos but my network is very bad since this morning…. (Videos were never received; update below explains why.)
While following up to get details for this cottage, located in a refugee camp, we have learned that the president of Ghana has given approval to the local chief executive for this refugee camp to be demolished. The government highly encourages the Liberian refugees to return to Liberia or find another place to live. The camp was established by the United Nations in 1989 with up to 30,000 individuals finding refuge here during three major wars in Liberia. The United Nations pulled support of the camp in 2012, and since that time the camp has been supported by NGO’s and private organizations. The demolition has been postponed until December, but this still leaves the occupants which include our cottage members in a very precarious situation. Families Mentoring Families, our good friends, have a literacy center in the camp, but have scrambled to get their computer and sewing equipment out of the camp and into safe hands. Our prayers go out to the many individuals who are about to lose their homes. We especially pray for our cottage members and hope that they will somehow be able to gather as a cottage and be strengthened by the tenets of Big Ocean Women. Reported by Ann Takasaki, Big Ocean Women board member.
London Cottage – Gloria
We congratulate the London cottage under the leadership of Gloria Ezeonyeasi for their successful retreat. We are also pleased to hear that they have connected with Days for Girls International and have begun the social entrepreneurship program and will become a DFG enterprise. This partnership with Days for Girls will provide their cottage members with a way to generate income and jobs as they produce the wonderful DFG menstruation pads and supplies for girls and women in their African home countries. Their work will not only help girls in Africa realize their potential, but their work will also help their cottage members become strong leaders and champions for women in their own homes and communities. We look forward to seeing their progress as they take on this exciting challenge. As reported to Ann Takasaki, Big Ocean Women board member.
As you read about their unthinkable circumstances, please note their hope, goodness, and desire to lift their communities and especially their women. We urge you with all the energy of our souls to step forward to lend hope and help. First, please pray for them, their families, and their government leaders. Next, show your concern and desire to help by donating to assist with lifesaving needs. You can donate here and dedicate the funds for international cottage relief. Thanks for lifting our global sisters.