All my life I have been told to be a responsible child, to listen to my elders and refrain from joining bad gangs. It seemed easy enough, although I wasn’t perfect but I was a child any parent would be proud of. I helped out at home – ran errands without cutting change, never stayed out late, and hardly ever told lies; plus I did pretty well at school. My father didn’t make much money but we – my mother, myself and three other siblings managed a little wooden bedroom in Ikota community. I had just turned 15 when it happened. I was coming home in the evening after hanging out at Mama Anderson’s shop washing plates to get a meal. I noticed three boys approaching me with their gaze intently fixed on me. They were about my height, just a little more built than I was. They cut off my path, so I just stood and looked at them. One of them stretched out his hand which held an envelope. “na 10 bay dey there!” At first I stretched out my hand but then I pulled back scared of what they were going to ask for in return. It was no secret what they wanted. All young boys had heard stories of this sort of offers and you basically had your whole life to decide when the time finally came…to join or not to join. “U go dey our side. U go be our boy, for dis strit no man go fit touch you” I had my offer – a total sum of N10,000 for my life. We grew up in poverty and most times, N100 was the most amount of money we got to see in a month. “dis money we give u na small. U go dey see bar on a reg” We had not eaten a proper meal at home in weeks and Mama Anderson only gave me left overs. In a place like Ikota, leftovers looked more like they had fallen off the plates of dogs. If I joined, my family would be taken care of and I could be one of the big boys in the community, all the girls would respect me and my mates would fear me. I had thought this decision would be easy but now… On a daily basis there are many young boys faced with this dilemma in poor communities. They get offered meagre sums of money to persuade them to trade over their lives to violence and drugs. They see no better role models than the thugs living in their communities who seem to be living the best life. With our Project BE! Mentoring Program, we hope to change the mind-set of these children and show them a better way to break the hold of poverty. You can sign up to volunteer at the next Project BE! event by calling us on 08033536487. Join us as we secure the future of disadvantaged adolescent children.