WALLINGFORD — Several months ago, resident Ellen Paiva stumbled on an online video of a group of children playing soccer in Nigeria and noticed many were not wearing shoes.
The video was posted by the Rev. Kingsley Ihejirika, a former parochial vicar at Most Holy Trinity Church, who established the nonprofit, “Divine Mercy International Widows and Orphans Organization” in 2011 to provide healthcare to a community in Obike, Nigeria.
The ultimate goal is to build the Divine Mercy Clinic to provide healthcare year-round. Ihejirika said he takes a trip to Obike, Nigeria every year to provide medical care for the people in the community and posted the video after his return.
Remembering her daughter had soccer shoes she no longer needed, Paiva realized she could help by donating them.
“I thought this is my opportunity,” Paiva said. “I can reach out, from my home here, and send items.”
Paiva decided to collect gently used soccer equipment, shoes, and uniforms. She spread the word online and was able to collect 15 pairs of shoes, 5 whistles, 24 shirts, 19 pairs of socks and 3 ball pumps.
In January, Ihejirika will make his sixth trip to Obike with a group of 70 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Several local residents have volunteered to help collect donations— like clothing, toys, and school supplies — to send in a container along with medical supplies. The container will be shipped out at the end of the month to arrive in time for Ihejirika to receive it in Obike.
“The Wallingford community has been very kind and compassionate,” Ihejirika said.
The organization has been able to raise money to build the main part of the clinic but plans for the health center have expanded, Ihejirika said. Money is being raised to add a children’s ward, a pharmacy, an operating room for women to give birth and an isolation unit for patients with certain diseases. In order to provide these additional wards, the organization will need to raise another $50,000 to $80,000.
When the clinic is completed, it will be the only health facility in a community of 25,000 people, Ihejirika said.
“I have gratitude for everyone who has supported the project and intends to support it,” Ihejirika said. “We are saving lives.”
A wine tasting and silent auction fundraiser will raise money for the additional wards in the medical clinic. The “Save the Water, Taste the Wine” event will be held Oct. 5 at the Knights of Columbus Lodge, 2630 Whitney Ave., Hamden, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 before the event and $35 at the door.