Although the number of the less privileged people keeps increasing over the years in Nigeria, government is yet to address this worrisome trend. Dr Ego Ezuma speaks on her experience and the activities of her organisation, the Voice of the Less Privileged Organisation (VOLPO), with GABRIEL EWEPU.
Dr Ego Ezuma is one out of a million Nigerians who have chosen to impart the lives of the forgotten and poverty-strangled Nigerians. She has been in this business for over five years putting smile on the faces of the less privileged.
Ezuma, with her passion and drive to give hope to the less privileged, Voice of the Less Privileged Organisation (VOLPO) with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2006, as a non-profit organization.
“I came up with this organisation (VOLPO) which was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2006, to extend my hand of love to the less privileged in our society, and also to give them a sense of belonging. Their plight is heartbreaking as they narrate their life story and the ordeal they encounter. I felt such people should be brought close and be empowered with basic training on skill acquisition so as to live a fulfilled life. I have also discovered that society is not being fair to this vulnerable group of people, but rather take advantage of their situation, by oppressing and depriving them of their human right. In fact, it is unfair. Even God is not happy when they are being treated inhumanly. I once lived in the midst of lack. I remember how things were tough, and people despised me.
In fact, I know the challenges I had to pass through while growing up. It breaks my heart when I see people being subjected to inhuman conditions, because I know what it means for one not to enjoy the basic necessities of life.”
Ezuma is committed to the vision God gave to her as she shoulders the responsibility of the less privileged ones, and believes that every human being is still useful to society if the necessary step is taken to give them a sense of belonging. The less privileged ones are regarded as dregs of society, she had vowed to reverse this negative perception through VOLPO.
“My passion for the less privileged is strong because I know the pain and depression they undergo daily in their lives. I give my tithe in VOLPO to support the less privileged ones, because I see it as my obligation to touch lives as long I live on planet earth. I can go all out to ensure that I put smile on the faces of this vulnerable group of people.”
“Imagine, during festive periods, they are dejected and frustrated, because nobody looks for them nor care to know about their welfare. You know what it means when somebody does not have rice to eat, while others are celebrating. I have made it as my duty to inform people to generously donate any of their items they don’t use at my place for the less privileged, which include clothing, footwear, mattresses, electronics, bags, boxes, bicycles, laptops, desktop computers, kitchen utensils, among others. I pay drycleaners and repairers to put them in order. On my car, I have a boldly written sticker with this sentence: here please, somebody else needs it’. That tells that there is no waste whatsoever, because somebody can make use of it,” Ezuma said.
Ezuma also believes in skill acquisition as the basic approach to address poverty, especially among the less privileged in the society. She said provision of infrastructure is enough to reduce poverty, not even charity, but skill acquisition does.
“My ideology is, ‘train me how to fish, don’t give me fish’. I trained a woman on how to tie egele head-gear. Today she is eking out a living from it. There are others we have trained on bar and liquid soap making, baking of confectionaries, bead-making, cassava-cake production, fashion designing, cut and dye and others. We have also built houses for some widows, and offered scholarship to some indigent children. Skill acquisition is the only empowerment that can reverse the situation of the less privileged, because when 50 or 200 of these vulnerable women are trained and well equipped with the necessary materials to kick-start their trade, there will be drastic reduction in unemployment and social vices, and it will do our society a lot of good. VOLPO gives relevant counselling and marching grant to its trainees after graduation.”
She has been dogged and determined to touch lives with VOLPO since it started in 2006. The government has also recognised her effort in alleviating the plight of the less privileged. Particularly, the Federal Capital Administration (FCTA) in 2008 gave VOLPO the responsibility and support to carry out its skill acquisition training programme in the six area councils of the FCT.
“We went to the six area councils in 2008, and we stayed for four days in each of the area councils, to train women on skill acquisition in different vocations, and also to sensitise owners of barbing and hair dressing salons on prevention of the spread of H IV/AI DS. We sponsored the programme. About 500 participants were trained and empowered with finance and materials.”
Initially, when Ezuma started VOLPO, she had challenges of pretenders who came with crocodile’s tears to deceive and take undue advantage of her, because she had a burning passion to reach out to Nigerians whose hope has evaporated. With time she was able to identify the genuine less privileged people.
“Honestly, when I initially started this petty project, some people came to me with false pretence to deceive me. They get away with it, because I had that burning compassion on people who really need help. Well, I was able to weed out those with mischievous aim.”
The major challenge of Ezuma’s VOLPO is a piece of land in the FCT. She had made frantic effort to acquire a piece of land in the FCT for her organisation whose responsibility is growing by the day.
“We have applied to FCDA for a long time for a piece of land, and up till now no response from them. We are serious to raise a befitting structure for the organisation and its operations, because the apartment we are currently making use of is too small,” Ezuma said.
Dr Ego Ezuma and other well meaning partners have continued to finance the operations of VOLPO since it took off as a corporate entity. “VOLPO has four employees and over 15 volunteers. Since the inception of the organisation in 2006, it has achieved wonderfully in its skill acquisition programme and charity project in the FCT and some states in the country. “We have so far trained over 3,000 people, built houses to accommodate widows, given scholarship to indigent children, paid hospital bills of those who could not pay, also paid house rents of those who are in peculiar situations, trained orphans and fatherless children.”
Dr Ego Ezuma, who is a barrister-at-law, is an Associate Member of the American Bar Association (AMABA), Member of the International Bar Association (MIBA), Member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (MIFWL), Member of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Member of Teachers without Borders, Member of National Council of Women Society (NCWS). She was also the legal adviser to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and a traditional title holder, Ezenwanye of Mbaise. She is married and has children and grand-children.