The idea behind Stepping Stones Nigeria (SSN) was first conceived of by Gary Foxcroft in 2003, when he visited Nigeria to undertake research into community perceptions of the oil industry for his Masters degree at Lancaster University. Here, Gary witnessed the plight of abandoned children living rough on the streets and the poor state of the region’s education system. He was fortunate enough to meet an inspirational local head teacher Grace Udua, who generously offered to donate her family land as the site for a school for these disadvantaged children.
Upon return to the UK, Gary teamed up with his wife Naomi, and the two set about raising the funds needed to help establish a model school. SSN was registered as a charity with the UK Charity Commission in December 2005. With support from the local community in Uquo, Akwa Ibom State the first four classrooms of the Stepping Stones Model School were finished in September 2006.
Whilst attempting to identify disadvantaged pupils to attend the school, Gary and Naomi came across the amazing work of a small local NGO – the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) who were struggling to meet the needs of around 30 abandoned children who had been accused of being so-called ‘witches’. SSN was so impressed with their work that we offered to officially partner with CRARN to build their capacity to care for more children. This partnership quickly led to the construction of the CRARN academy school and boy’s dormitory block. The CRARN children’s centre currently provides refuge and support to over 200 abandoned children, the majority of whom have been stigmatised as ‘witches’.
The scope of SSN’s work has grown steadily in recent years to a point where we are now seen as the most effective international child rights charity working in the Niger Delta. Our work saves lives and gives a voice to thousands of children in a region where few other agencies chose to operate.