By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki.
About 2,000 widows and orphans have received Christmas relief from the Abakaliki Diocese of the Anglican Church.
The packages including bags of rice, beans, garri, vegetable oil, noodles, canned tomato pastes and other condiments, were distributed to the beneficiaries Tuesday at the All Saints Cathedral Church, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State .
There were also unnamed amounts of cash donations to enable them meet other domestic expenditure during the yuletide.
The widows and orphans drawn from the 33 Archdeaconry of the diocese were later treated to a banquet.
The annual event was powered by a Non-governmental Organization established by the Diocese: Anglican Diocese of Abakaliki Health and Community Development Initiative, ADAHCDI.
Speaking, the diocesan bishop, Rt. Rev. Monday Chukwuma Nkwagu lamented the increasing number of orphaned children and widows, attributing it to the rising insecurities, communal clashes and other violent acts across the country.
Nkwagu said: “Last year, 2021, the number was about 1,200 widows. You saw this time that the number has increased everywhere, because of violence, killings, communal crises, a lot of children are left orphans, and women widowed.
In a sermon, Bishop Nkwagu admonished widows and orphans to place their faith ultimately in God, pledging that the Church would continue to make them prominent beneficiaries of its welfare schemes.
Rev Chukwuebuka Umeokafor, the Project Manager of the Anglican Diocese of Abakaliki Health and Community Development Initiative, in an interview, explained that the NGO in collaboration with the Diocese officially instituted the welfare scheme since 2012.
He stated that there were over 2,000 widows as well as orphans profiled in its database, and commended the Bishop for his passion, which he noted, has continued to inspire the Organization from inception.
“We are motivated by the passion and vision of the Bishop, Right Rev’d Monday Nkwagu.
“He had served in remote areas as a priest, and understands fully what the widows and orphans are going through.
“So, when he was elected the Bishop, he took the commitment to ensure that we institute a program towards the end of the year, through which the widows and other vulnerable group could be taken care of, so they don’t feel inferior when others are celebrating Christmas.
“We have been doing this since 2012, and we have over 2000 widows in our database.
“We also have children of some of these Widows and the orphans under educational scholarship from our NGO up to the university level.
“Currently, we have up to 30 of these children in various higher institutions across the country” Umeokafor explained.
The programme coordinator and wife of the Bishop, Lady Nwanyieze Nkwagu and one of the widows and orphans coordinators in the Church, Evangelist Mrs Ifeyinwa Ochebiri, admonished the widows to eternalize the life of piety so as to continue to attract God’s providence.
Ochebiri commended the Bishop’s wife for the zeal and Godly wisdom with which he handles the affairs of these vulnerable group.
Some of the beneficiaries who bared their minds said the annual event always offer them hope and joy as well as strengthen their faith in God.
One of them, Mrs Ijeoma Nweke said: “We are highly delighted that from our remote communities, we are always remembered. It has been many years they do this.
“I pray God to bless all those who have contributed in any way to give this succour to us.”