She has been a widow for 50 years, but many children call her mother!
Modupe Pedro was a pretty starry – eyed 20-year-old when she married her heartthrob in 1968.
It was the swinging sixties and she had looked forward to a life of complete happiness.
But her dreams faded very quickly.
Her husband was frequently ill and soon had a diagnosis of sickle cell disease. He spent more than half of every year in hospital.
After just five years and two children, Modupe lost him. She was only 25, and very nearly lost her mind too.
Modupe is now 74 and has entered her 50th year of widowhood. Ironically, she has in those years been a mother, not just to her own children, but to at least a dozen more children who have no mothers of their own.
She sighs deeply in stoic recollection of her journey.
“It has been a bumpy ride, and sometimes it is difficult to imagine how I have survived. It is purely God’s grace”
Modupe’s bond with children started shortly after the death of her husband.
Her parents in law had wanted to take her two infant children, on the ground that she was too young to raise them on her own. But Modupe had fiercely resisted this.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my children to anybody: one was 3years and the other was just 18 months. I refused to let go of my children. And for that reason, they got annoyed and just abandoned me and my children. This struggle led me to my deep love for children”
Even though Modupe is from Warri in the present Delta State, she was born and raised in Lagos. For education, her parents had sent her to the Convent School in Broad Street, which was a model school in her days.
After high school, she got a job at AJC, a division of the UAC conglomerate. Before her retirement she had risen to the position of Quality Control Inspector.
Modupe’s education and employment served her well. While at work, she was able to see her two children through school. But retirement soon came and the tidy salary was gone. Still, her passion for motherhood continued to drive her. Even without a job, she resolved that no child around her would be without a mother.
“I started with this orphan, who was staying with his aunt. The child had a stormy relationship with his host family. I would always intervene to plead for the child. At a point the lady and her husband said they were tired of the child and asked me to take him if I wanted to. So, I took him”
When Modupe brought this child into her home, she found out he was very poor in academics.
“He didn’t have the brain for school, and after trying and failing several times, I said okay, what skill do you want to learn? He said Electricity, and so I got him apprenticed, and he was trained and today he is doing well on his own”
The next child was the child of a former colleague who had just died of cancer. The baby, a boy, was just six months old and his father was at a complete loss as to how to care for it. The poor man gladly accepted Modupe’s offer to take the child into her home. But one month after, another tragedy struck – the child’s father also died.
“I was initially confused. The couple were Muslim Northerners. I waited endlessly for the family to come. But to this day, no relative of the baby showed up. The boy’s name was Jubril, but being Catholic, I baptized him Gabriel. He is in the university now”
There have been many more since then. On the average, Modupe Pedro has four children under her roof at any given time.
Modupe is careful about the children she brings into her home. She is aware that there are laws regulating the fostering of children, and so she never picks any child from the street.
“I see Children in the street everyday but I don’t just go and pick them because of the Law. So, I take the children that I know their stories and families, and always with the consent of the family”
Modupe had to take a cleaning job in a Catholic parish, but her income is nowhere near what she needs to sustain the childrenunder her roof. Her son used to provide significant support, but unfortunately lost his job about ten years ago. Her daughter lost her own husband and has only recently remarried.
Modupe describes her Catholic parish as very supportive.
“Most recently, I lost my accommodation, but the church rallied round to get me another place”
But she has other challenges apart from funds.
“There was a particular orphan that I took in.His aunt was a member of my church and he was at some point thrown out of the house. I went to plead on his behalf but they refused to take him back. It was agreed that I could keep him, and I did. I started training him but they turned round to report me for abducting their child, but at the end of the day the boy still ended up with me and I trained him as my own child up to the university level. Till date, he calls me grandma”
Modupe has resisted suggestions to register an orphanage to formalize her work for children. Her reason is her abhorrence to publicity.
“I just want to be a mother to the motherless. I want to provide a home for children and not an institution. I just can’t handle all the publicity and official processes”
Modupe’s greatest moments happen every Christmas when all the children she has raised gather in her home.
“The joy of seeing these children cannot be measured. I cannot exchange it for anything.”
On her own, Modupe Pedro has two biological children and five grandchildren.
Her children are grown and have left to pursue their own lives.
But she continues to be mother to other children who have nowhere else to turn.
To these kids around her, she is nothing but a SUPERMOM!