Aid worker who rescued Akwa Ibom ‘witch-child’ builds beautiful children centre

Danish aid worker, Anja Ringgren Lovén, who rescued an abandoned child accused of witchcraft in Akwa Ibom has built an expansive children centre in the state.

Ms Lovén became a global icon in 2016 after she discovered a two-year-old boy naked and wandering the streets because his family thought he was a witch.

The boy, who she named hope, was emaciated and riddled with worms after being forced to live off scraps of food thrown to him by passers-by for eight months after his parents abandoned him.

Images of her giving him water and biscuit led to an outpouring of support from around the world.

She adopted Hope, nurtured him back to life to become a cheerful and robust child.

Two years after that experience and with other children rescued, Ms Lovén and her Nigerian husband, David Emmanuel Umem, have built what she describes as the biggest, cleanest and most beautiful children centre in Nigeria.

The founder of the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation calls the place Land of Hope.

She tells their story of triumph in the midst of bitter hostility from their host community in a touching Facebook message on Friday.

It goes like this: “David Emmanuel Umem and I had a dream almost 6 years ago. We wanted to create a safe environment for children who were tortured and abused because of superstition. We worked so hard every day for many years to fulfil our dream. It was not easy. We faced a lot of challenges along the way. Some attacked me saying I only came to Nigeria to exploit children for my own fame and glory. Some attacked me for being white and getting pregnant with a black man. Some attacked me for having tattoos. I was even attacked the day after I gave birth to David Jr. A person wrote to me that if I bring that bastard to Nigeria he would be killed! David was attacked even more! I can write a book about the attacks we faced for many years. But David is a strong man. He always told me to focus on our work and not let ignorance and stupidity from strangers affect our dream. But I was shocked to see the lack of morals from so many people, some even close to us. But our experiences in life, good and bad, make us who we are. By overcoming difficulties we gain strength. And strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength! The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!

“Today David and I have built the biggest, cleanest and most beautiful children centre in Nigeria. A children centre full of love and care, where education is our number one priority. And this is just the beginning! Forever we will fight superstition! Forever we will fight for child rights! Forever we will promote the importance of education! Forever we will keep building schools and children hospitals! Forever we will save the lives of innocent children!

“Ignorance and stupidity can NEVER stop us!!

“Only 2 years ago this land was a big area of bushes and trees!

“Today we call it “Land of Hope”

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