The REACH Foundation, sponsors and donors had one goal in mind when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out: TO FEED THE VULNERABLE. Now that vision has travelled to many communities around Rivers State. Not many would have birthed the vision if not for the avid enthusiasm and love of the leadership and the team of volunteers for humanity.
After successful weeks of helping and reaching out to the vulnerable population in different parts of the state, the project has found solace in pushing beyond the land geography by going into the riverine communities in touching more lives.
Usually, the landmass and the means of transportation would have stunted the plans as seen in the orders laid by the government against sea voyage due to the pandemic but proper logistics made the outreach possible. This shows strength and effective bureaucracy on the side of the directors
The rains poured almost an hour before the convergence of volunteers lead coordinators at the take-off location. Such rains mark the blessings and rigour that accompany a typical Saturday with The REACH outreaches.
All seated and adorned in the usual purple, red, black and white inscribed “project REACH” shirts, volunteers and coordinators were seated and ready to take a short trip by road to the Abuloma Jetty where the adventurous trip would continue on water. The volunteers looked ready to help and touch lives; an attitude they have adopted for the past months since the project started on the onset of coronavirus outbreak and the attendant hardship.
The scenery at the jetty boasted of a large water body surrounded by stranded ships at distance, few canoes paddled by fishermen. The least expected addition to our number at the jetty were boat builders diligently refurbishing a liner boat atop an abandoned barge.
Many sneakers and shoes sank into the swampy and waterlogged river bank. Volunteers were smart to avoid sinking further into the hampering swamps by changing into flip flops and rubber boots.
Foods packs were exchanged between hands, drinks were thrown and rugby-like runs were made as the team unloaded bags of foods items from the truck to the awaiting boats. The volunteers showed they were strong and untiring in their tasks.
All these will never compare to the excitement that the volunteers showed when it was time to take off on one of the farthest trips ever made since the start of the initiative – a boat trip across the sea connecting the famous and rich Bonny Island. The same sea holds a wealth of facilities of Rivers and Nigeria at large!
Two boats each powered by twin 75hp Yahama engines held the bags of food while two passenger boats of equal propulsion ferried the entire team. Steady chatters and laugher filled the background as volunteers in both boats decided to entertain each other.
Engines roared, the sailors turned all degrees as the boats smashed upon the clear waters leading to Peterside; it was a beautiful sight to behold.
Occasional stops and careful movements made the trip a smooth sail as we journeyed past fishing settlements, canoes, stranded merchant ships, oil and gas vessels.
Peterside was that riverine community that separated itself from Bonny Island in the most revered form. Bonny Island is just a few minutes away from the isolated Peterside community. While Peterside served as the centre point for distribution, the outreach extended to its adjoining communities – Anyama and Fiyama.
The community had a solid bridge where all the boats empty their contents and the passengers. This was where we offloaded the palliatives as volunteers loaded them into wheelbarrows to be conveyed to the distribution point at the town square.
Women, men, children especially the vulnerable arrived enmassé as all of them had the same goal: to get a pack of food for themselves and their nuclear or extended families. The lines stretched as people merged themselves into age groups attended to by the verification team through the conscious guide of a crowd control team. The vulnerable populace got their food packs as the distribution team stuffed their arms with different food items courtesy of efforts from kind donors and sponsors.
The outreach ended with a spiritual backing of prayer led by a Vicar in the community as he prayed for volunteers and donors.
The sun smiled upon the waters as the afternoon arrived with another eventful boat trip back home to Port Harcourt. Indeed it was one of the most adventurous outreaches ever that will be remembered by all who embarked on it for a long time to come.