The vision began way back in 2005. But for Pharm. Regina Ezenwa, a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN), bringing it to reality was not to be until December 2006 when she concluded that the vision could no longer be delayed. Consequently, the community pharmacist started the Roses Ministry, a faith-based foundation for widows, orphans and the less-privileged in Surulere area of Lagos.
As expected of every new charitable initiative, there was a spasm of teething problems. From inadequate funding, recruitment of committed workers to getting credible partners, the challenges were daunting.
However, rather than collapse, the ministry has continued to wax stronger. As part of its mission, the ministry has been constantly visiting prisons, orphanages and undertake rehabilitation of the sexually abused and returnees from abroad.
When Pharmanews visited Pharm. Ezenwa during her annual widows day programme in Surulere five years ago, the energetic pharmacist opined that she foresaw light at the end of the temporary dark tunnel the foundation was passing through.
“The Roses Ministry is a foundation set out to show God’s love to the hurting and vulnerable in society. At inception, we started small. But, today, we have four children on scholarship, several empowerment schemes in place and people collaborating with us to achieve our set goals,” she said.
Ezenwa said that they initially had less than 50 widows at inception, a number that has significantly increased to about 500 members. In her summation, the number keeps swelling every week because virtually all the women are always coming in company of other widows who are just hearing of the ministry.
When asked about the funding of the 35-staff organisation, the managing director of Rozec Pharmacy admitted that it had been a challenging experience.
“The money we have spent so far was donation from members, trustees and friends who are willing to identify with the initiative. We actually budget N3.5 million for bags of rice, vegetable oil, drinks, drugs and textile materials to cater about 500 participants. But God has been faithful,” she said.
A lot seem to have happened after five years though. For instance, the venue of the 2016 edition of The Roses Ministry’s annual Widows Day was moved from its office at the National Population Commission to the indoor complex of the National Stadium in Surulere, apparently, because of the large crowd that turned out for the two-day event.
Themed ‘Raising True Disciples of Christ,’ the event was a potpourri of praise and worship, drama, free medical attention, counselling and giving out of relief materials, ranging from Bibles, Ankara fabrics, bags of rice, drinks, to tomato pastes, loaves of bread, vegetable oil, toiletries and drugs to the widows.
Quoting Miriam Neff, Ezenwa remarked that studies have shown that widows lose 75 per cent of their friendship once they lose their spouse; 60 per cent experience serious health issues in the first year; half of them remain clinically depressed; while most experience financial decline.
“One pastor aptly described them by saying they move from the front row of the church to the back, and then out the door. They move from serving and singing in the choir to solitude and silent sobbing, and then on to find a place where they belong
“We, in the Roses Ministry, offer assistance in terms of food, drinks, shelter, clothing, empowerment and ministry to the sick. But, above all, time and love as friends and family of Christ,” she stressed.
According to Mrs Nwadi Ejiofor, a founding member and head of the ministry’s department in charge of cases involving the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), no fewer than 1,023 widows turned up at the National Stadium for the annual programme.
“We resorted to the use of stadium to accommodate the growing numbers of members as well as avoid the risk of having rain or sun causing discomfort to participants,” she explained.
Aside from the occasional difficulty of transporting relief materials to the new venue, as well other logistics problem, she said that Roses Ministry is contented with the idea of using the stadium for future events.
Ejiofor, whose department pays a visit to NAPTIP headquarters every second Friday of each month to offer succour and counselling to victims of trafficking, also disclosed that the level of support towards the ministry has improved tremendously.
“In fact, up till now that the programme is half way, some well meaning Nigerians are still bringing us relief materials for the widows. We just cannot stop thanking God,” she remarked.
Pharm. (Mrs) Amaka Ofomata, coordinator, Roses Ministry’s health department declared that several of the drugs distributed at the last edition of the programme were donated by May & Baker, Pemason and Salem Gate Pharmaceuticals.
“While appreciating them, we call on other pharmaceutical companies and well meaning individuals to emulate them by equally showing solidarity to the cause of these widows,” she charged.
Top on the list of the free medical test carried out by the team last year were blood sugar, HIV/AIDS, BMI monitoring and malarial tests.
Reacting to the event, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, former managing director, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc, said:
“I have two things on my mind. I am happy that The Roses Ministry is growing, which in itself is good. It is an indication that God has ordained it. Secondly, I must say that I am sad that the number of widows keeps increasing. It is worrisome.
“At the same, we have to thank God that there are still well meaning individuals like Pharm. (Regina) Ezenwa who took up the courage to take care of their needs,” he noted.
In her vote of thanks, Mrs Ijeoma Chuks-Okoye, a trustee of the foundation, disclosed how she initially turned down the idea of becoming a trustee when the idea was first mooted to her.
“I saw the role as one bigger than me. But today, I am happy that I have no cause to regret that action. Through several references and parables in the Bible, we were made to know that widows are people God finds very hard to ignore
“Aside from admitting that I have learnt a lot in The Roses Ministry, let me use this opportunity to say it is the only foundation I know where women shun gossips,” she exclaimed.
Among the dignitaries who attended the event were Wole Olufon, international director, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI); Evangelist Anthony Umufiedo, Christ Worldwide Harvest Ministry and Engr Obidi Ezenwa, trustee, Roses Ministry.
Others were Engr Chikwelu Ezenwa, a telecom expert; Lady Ann Okechukwu, staff, The Roses Ministry; Mrs Grace Oji, trustee, Roses Ministry and Pastor Patrick Obumselu, His Presence Vineyard Church.