He told the story of how he slept, bathed in open street, had nothing to eat, while having on shirt on for over six months.
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Learn more Ibeleme, who hails from Isiala-Oboro village in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, told Vanguard that he was called a madman and all sorts of names because of extreme poverty.
He said, “From 2003 and 2008, I lived in Port Harcourt without help. I became a photographer because that was the only way I could get food. I slept in the street in Rumuomoi opposite the transformer because I had been driven out of the house where I lived with a relative.
“There was a young man that sold electrical parts that always gave me cartons to sleep on whenever he closed from his shop.
“I would bath between 12 midnight and 1am because I had to do it almost in the middle of the road and that was the best time to do it as traffic would have eased.
“One particular day I told God I was not looking for mattress, pillow or even coverlet to sleep, but just a roof over my head. The first wardrobe I had to keep my things was inside the transformer beside the open space where I always slept in the street.
“I had only one pair of shoes, one pair of trousers and a T-shirt. Everyone around the community knew me with the clothes.
Sometimes I fed on N20 per day. People called me all kinds of names just because I always slept in the street. Life was miserable; people didn’t want me around them. Though I had a village I could go back to, I made up my mind I wasn’t returning there.
“I started street photography and I was making between N20 and N40 per day. To cut the long story short, there was never a time back then when I found something to eat when I needed it, but, in all of these, I was very close to God.
“I didn’t tell my family what I was going through until my troubles were over. It was a difficult moment in my life. I was known as Eze the photographer.
“People called me a mad man, a demon because I kept wearing one shirt every day sometimes for six months. I always trekked to my destination in town, no matter how far, until God used somebody one day to change my story.
“And after my story changed, I always reflect on what my life used to be and what I went through and I know that someone somewhere is going through similar experience.
“I made a vow to God that if He removed me from abject poverty, I will do everything humanly possible to help those in need and that is why I initiated Israel Ibeleme Foundation.”