Mutual Aid for Young Family Fleeing Violence

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Call For Mutual Aid to Support a Young Refugee Family Fleeing Violence & Impending Civil War in Nigeria

We are raising funds to support Joseph and his wife, Merit, and their two children, including a new baby, as they seek to emigrate from Nigeria to BC, Canada, fleeing increasing violence and social unrest in their home country.

About Joseph & Family >>> 

Joseph’s Dream: Becoming a teacher & moving to Canada 

Joseph grew up in poverty in a rural village in Nigeria. As a youth, he spent some time on the West Coast of Canada, as part of a Canada World Youth study exchange. He moved to the city as a young adult to work and attend university to become a teacher. He was awarded a BSc EDU and a teacher’s certificate. Since obtaining his degree, Joseph has been teaching in public and private schools and saving money towards realizing his dream of immigrating to Canada. 

COVID-19: Surviving In The Worst of Conditions >>>

Joseph’s desperation to leave Nigeria increased dramatically this past year as his living conditions have worsened and the country moves closer towards civil war. When COVID-19 hit, schools were closed and Joseph was forced to stop teaching, losing all income. Without any support from the government to compensate for this ongoing income loss, Joseph and his neighbours have had to find ways to survive under frighteningly restrictive laws and curfews. Food is becoming very scarce with prices doubling every month. Robbery, street gangs and corrupt policing are making it more and more difficult to meet basic needs. Simple tasks like going to the grocery store, or even walking down the street, now come with a high risk of being shot, kidnapped, or robbed. Recently, the pastor of the Evangelical Church that Joseph attends was kidnapped and held for ransom. Joseph and the other parishioners were forced to raise the money to pay for his release. 

October 2020: Nigerian Army Opens Fire on Peaceful Protesters >>>

The political situation in Nigeria has been growing increasingly more unstable. In the summer of 2020, public demonstrations against government corruption and police/military brutality intensified. October 2020, in a horrifying act of terrorism, the Nigerian Army opened fire on thousands of bystanders and unarmed citizens who were peacefully protesting. 

 Nigeria protests: President Buhari says 69 killed in unrest- BBC Article 

Nigerians are stunned after police and soldiers opened fire on protesters against police brutality  - NY Times Article 

Many Nigerians were "disappeared" during the following weeks of terror, and at least 69 were killed, including one of Joseph’s good friends, Efe. In the wake of Efe’s death, his pregnant wife Merit and their two-year-old son, were devastated; forced to find refuge in a slum, they lived in a state of utter destitution. Seeing them in so much despair and danger, Joseph offered to help care for them, legally marrying Merit, adopting the children, and using his immigration savings to pay for rent, food, clothing and other basic needs for the family. 

Since this time, friends in Canada have pooled as much money as possible to help out this young family when emergency expenses come up, like when they needed to move to a safer apartment, or to pay for Merit’s medical care when she was giving birth to her new baby, and to cover fees for Malaria treatment when anyone in the family comes down with this life-threatening illness (everyone in the family has fought Malaria multiple times, just this year alone). 

**Note: Most Nigerians with material means, such as doctors, have left the country already, making it extremely difficult and expensive to access hospital or medical care.

In addition to these emergency funds, we are also raising money to help Joseph and his family cover the costs of immigrating to Canada, and escape the dangers they are facing daily.

Immigrating to Canada >>>

Before Efe was killed, Joseph had completed his own immigration paperwork and was getting ready to move to Canada. Now Joseph, Merit, and the two children all need to immigrate together, which has made the process much more complex and expensive. The family is desperate to escape from the danger and difficulties they are experiencing, to be able to heal from the trauma of the past years, and to provide a safer life for the children.

Immigration is expensive at the best of times, including costs like qualification exams, so that Joseph can have his university degrees matched against Canadian standards, as well as medical appointments, and processing legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports for the whole family. And, under the current conditions in Nigeria, Joseph anticipates that their immigration process will be much more expensive than usual as government corruption makes it necessary to plan for unexpected fees all the way along. 

How Will The Funds Reach The Family & What Are They Used For >>>


We are currently raising $15,000+ for: 

Ongoing > Emergency expenses: $2,000 USD+ to help with food, housing, medical needs
Stage 1: Emigration paperwork fees $5,800 USD; Exams & processing fees: $2,000 USD
Stage 2: Travel expenses > Plane tickets to Canada for all four family members: $6,000 USD

After we reach those targets, we will also be seeking to raise: 

Stage 3: First six months in Canada: $5,000 CND to help with housing, food, and transition costs

All the money collected through GoFundMe goes straight to Joseph and Merit’s bank account without us (the campaign team) needing to wire it. We use the Payline By ICE wiring company in times when we need to get them money more quickly (it takes at least a week for GoFundMe funds to be released to the recipient), but this can get expensive, as there are many fees involved. 

So far, the funds we’ve raised have been used to help pay for: 

* A safer apartment for the family (their former neighbourhood had gotten too dangerous, and their living conditions were unmanageable); under current conditions, rent in the city has to be paid for a whole year up front.
* A one burner propane stove for cooking, plus propane as needed
* Medical care for Merit before, during and after her birth
* Hospital visits & anti-malarial medication for Joseph, Merit and the children
* Fees for birth certificates, doctors letters, and passport documents for Merit and the children

We have been carefully tracking expenses. Please contact our organizing team if you would like to know more information about our records or how we ensure that this money gets to the family directly. 

How To Engage With Mutual Aid Requests Response-ably Amid Mounting Global Crisis' >>>

Mutual aid is the radical act of caring for each other, while working to change the world. Around the globe, people are faced with a spiraling succession of crises, from the Covid-19 pandemic and climate crisis-induced fires, floods, and storms, to the ongoing horrors of mass incarceration, racist policing, brutal immigration enforcement, endemic gender violence, and severe wealth inequality. As governments fail to respond to—or, in many cases, actively engineer—each crisis, ordinary people are finding bold and innovative ways to share resources and support the vulnerable. Survival work, when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change, is called mutual aid. (From Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) by Dean Spade) 

When confronted by the immensity of these spiraling crises, it can be exhausting, paralyzing, and overwhelming. Trauma-based responses such as dissociation, apathy/numbness, and fatigue, or anger can come up in our bodies, leading to an urge to tune out, give up, or assume the worst. You might find yourself thinking, “How can I support this one family, when there are millions of families out there fleeing violence and climate collapse?” 

If this is happening for you, we encourage you to take some time to process these feelings to see what is at the root of them. Ground into the truth that none of us can solve any of the compounding crises in the world alone. However, if you can be in an honest relationship with what your capacities and resources are at any given moment, then, when a request like this comes up in your life, you will know if and how you are able to generously respond. Can you engage with this request from a place of abundance? 

We created this fundraising page because we know Joseph and Merit and the children personally, and they have asked us to help them in very specific ways. To us, it feels within our capacity and integrity to respond. We will keep supporting them within our abilities, using creativity and love to guide us even when the outcomes are not certain and the way forward is not clear. And, we will do our best to keep growing this community of generous supporters who can step in when our resources are not enough - as we are doing now! 

The Story Behind This Campaign // A message from organizer Shawna Hett

Hello! My name is Shawna Hett. I live on the West Coast of Canada, on traditional territories of the Coast Salish First Peoples. For many years, my children and I hosted youth and young adults coming to Canada through international exchange programs. Joseph was one of these students, and I have had the honour of staying in touch with him over the years since he lived with me and my family. He is one of the most enthusiastic, loving, and kind people I have ever met, and it has been awful to witness him experience so much difficulty over the past years as the political and social conditions in his country have deteriorated. 

Joseph has a really hard time accepting financial help, but he gave me permission to set up this GoFundMe after Merit and the children joined him, and their survival costs became out of reach for Joseph to bear alone. Along with my family and the international Gaelic choir I am part of, we will continue to pool together as much as we can to help Joseph and Merit and the children.

We hope you will join us in supporting this family. Please get in touch if you would like more information about this fundraiser. We will update this page with any other emergency funding requests, major events in the family’s lives, or relevant news about their immigration process. 

More Information & Resources On The Violence in Nigeria >>>

Recent accounts of what is happening on the ground in Nigeria:

Nigeria End Sars Protestors Find No Justice One Year On  
My Fathers Senseless Death Must Be A Wake Up Call For Nigeria 
Nigeria Cattle Crisis  How Drought and Urbanisation Led to Deadly Land Grabs 
Failed State  Why Nigerias Fragile Democracy Is Facing An Uncertain Future 

Human Rights Watch World Report 2021: Nigeria 

In the northwest and parts of the south, intercommunal violence continued as herder-allied armed groups, vigilantes, and criminal gangs killed hundreds of civilians, kidnapped people for ransom, and raided cattle. Widespread sexual violence against women and girls, including an attack that led to the death of a student in May, spurred a national outcry and prompted the authorities to declare a national emergency over rape and sexual violence.

Since Nigeria recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February, authorities have taken various steps to curb the spread of the virus, including “lockdowns” in most states, requiring residents to stay indoors and for businesses to close, except for certain essential services. By August, Nigeria’s economy had shrunk by 6 percent.

The economic assistance announced in response to the pandemic failed to adequately target and provide for those left struggling to afford food and other basic necessities. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 90 million Nigerians lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day; the World Bank projected in June that the economic shock from Covid-19 will push 5 million more into poverty. The pandemic also brought into focus the country’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which created inequitable access to Covid-19 testing and treatment for the poor and vulnerable. 

Refugees and Host Communities

Nigeria’s refugee crisis will continue as violent conflict, and the impact of climate change remains undefeated in the country. Many of Nigeria’s displaced population seek refuge in overburdened camps where humanitarian crises are profound, and basic human needs is a luxury. Hundreds of others cling to makeshift spontaneous camps with insignificant external support. As of July 2020, Nigeria has about 3.4 million displaced population.

Insecurity in Nigeria: World risks humanitarian crisis of 200 million people – African Youth leader, Aina Segun

In an exclusive interview with DAILY POST in Abuja, Mr Aina [Coordinator of the African Youth Union Commission] claimed that Nigeria had not experienced the level of insecurity currently bedeviling the entire nation since its independence in 1960. He said, “The security situation in Nigeria is arguably at its worst and most dangerous time in the history of the country, while we do not underestimate the works and efforts of the military and security agents at this time, it is important to note that the solution to this menace is not only to physically tackle the challenges, but also to carefully listen to other plights of Nigerians.”

Nigeria Humanitarian Emergency / UNFPA

The ongoing crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Northeast Nigeria has created severe humanitarian needs. Conflict between non-state armed groups and government forces has resulted in mass displacement, food insecurity and increased protection risks for civilians. Risks are compounded by climate-related shocks and disease outbreaks.
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Shawna Hett 
Victoria, BC
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