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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 25 June 2013


Cosmas Nwerem chairs the Amiri International Development Union

A fundraiser for the Amiri International Development Union will entertain guests with African dancing and a variety of delicious food and drinks. The union's 21st Annual Fundraising Convention, will run from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday July 6, at the Matt Dishman Community Center, 77 N.E. Knott St.

"We'll be serving food and drinks at no charge," said Cosmas Nwerem, the nonprofit's chairperson. "We depend on people's good will to help us raise money to undertake projects back home."

Back home is the small, isolated town of Amiri, in the Oru region of southern Nigeria. And Nwerem is one of a small group of families in Portland who have been working for the last two decades to help their ancestral homeland.  

Through raising more than $60,000, the group has helped villagers to repair several schools, as well as kickstarting the major task of putting running water into homes and businesses.

Now, the group wants to raise money for two projects: Completing the water supply system and building a new health center.

"Our parents put in two water bore holes and an overhead tank," Nwerem says. "We want to lay pipes so that people can at least drink good water."

The new health center is equally crucial, he says. Currently village women are giving birth in an ancient "maternity home" and if you're sick, there is nowhere to go.

"The walls are broken – they're made of mud," he says. "There is no security, no fence and no clean toilet. The delivery room is a mess: the bed is made of wood.

"We want to start building a new health center that we can furnish with beds and equipment, so pregnant women can be comfortable, and where people who are sick can go and get treatment."

Nwerem hopes that once a center exists, villagers will be able to engage the services of a visiting doctor who can offer vaccinations to children, and other primary medical care."

But even with running water and a new health center, Nwerem says his group will have plenty of development work to do. The region recently saw the construction of its first properly paved road, but while it connects two major towns, it doesn't include the 3-mile stretch that leads directly into the village. That remains a mess of subsided earth.

"We need to pave it," Nwerem says, "But nobody can afford it. The villagers can't afford it and the government ignored it. It's frustrating and humiliating to watch."

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