Mrs. Ann Vandefan is the Chairman/CEO of the Vandefan Foundation, a non-governmental and non-profit organisation with headquarters in Mpaper-Adikpo in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State. Recently, the Vandefan Foundation sponsored over 95 persons that were treated of various eye diseases at the Chandai Eye Specialist Hospital in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. In this interview with our correspondent he speaks on this development, the foundation’s achievements and future plans for the people of the area. Excerpts:
What’s your NGO pedigree like?
Some six years ago, I came to the realization that there was the need for me as a person to contribute to the development of the people of my community, considering the plight of children, widows, the aged people as well as what to do to prepare our youths for a better future. This passion for the down-trodden, less-privileged and vulnerability of the girl-child especially to societal influence was mainly one of the factors that led to the formation of this body. In no time, we saw the need to secure a place from where we can begin to reach out to the people and God has really been on our side despite the poor economic situation in the country. Also, I must let you know that my love and passion for these categories of people I mentioned earlier are irresistible. I considered creating an impact in their lives as a way of fulfilling God’s divine task to man. It may also interest you to note that when I was growing up, my mother used to tell me that my father was a wonderful philanthropist, who loved to help despite his meager resources. Even though mine may be seen as an inherited attitude, I am happy that I married a man who encourages me in this charity assignment probably because his own father too (my father in-law) is a philanthropist who believe in sharing. All these put together, the foundation came into existence.
What are your major areas of success?
Within the past few years of existence, the foundation has been able to reach out to several people, especially those of Mpaper community in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State. At the end of each year, Vanderfan Foundation distributes food items, clothing materials, and gives financial assistance among other things to the less- privileged, aged ones, kids, the widows among others. The foundation recently renovated a school to standard where pupils are taught various subjects and are provided with school uniforms and writing materials throughout the term without costs. The teachers and staff of the schools are on the foundation’s pay-roll. With this, we tend to create job opportunities for the people too. As part of our commitment too, the foundation has just completed the Roman Catholic Church edifice at Mpaper in Adikpo which can take over two thousand worshippers. The Vandefan Foundation provides scholarships to indigent members of the community, as well as construct roads and bridges. Also, a 200 meters depth borehole has been dug in various areas of the community.
What other aspects is your NGO involved in?
It may also interest you to learn that the Vandefan Foundation has within the past few years of its existence distributed over fifty motorcycles to youths in the area as a way of empowering them and making them responsible to their families and the community they live. Over fifteen churches in the locality have been provided with benches for members. We call this sitting arrangement intervention for churches. We also have two students on scholarship at the University of Mkar, Benue State, while admission for others, are still being processed. These do not include the ones who have graduated from various higher institutions of learning. We really need to give thanks to God for his support on this project.
Recently Your NGO organized free eye treatment to the less privileged, what was the idea about?
In May 2011, Vandefan Foundation took over sponsorship of several persons suffering from different eye diseases to Chandai Eye Specialist Hospital in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. After a careful screening, it was discovered that 197 patients needed to be operated on as a result of various eye disorders, ranging from glaucoma, cataract, complete and partial blindness etc. The first set of 93 persons that went for the surgery came back successfully. Encouraged by the result of the first set, three months later, the foundation went with the remaining patients and lucky enough, they all regained their sight. Since then, there have scores of persons who have enrolled and wish to be taken for similar treatment. The Foundation is grateful to Dr. Amoro who out of sympathy also linked us with the Chandai Eye specialist hospital in Yola.
So, what is the level of government/donor agencies’ collaboration?
From inception, the Vandefan Foundation has never received support from the government or any donor agency. Efforts are being made to get local and foreign supports but to no avail. Whatever we have been able to achieve so far comes from our meager resources and from close friends who believe in this noble task of reaching out to the have-not and less-privileged. That does not mean that our doors are not open to private individuals, local, state, federal government or donor agencies that are really committed to empowering Nigerians.
What has community response to programmes of the Vandefan Foundation been like?
The whole community, including neighbouring ones, have continued to shower encomium on the foundation. When we started, a lot of people thought all we were doing were for political reasons, but this is our six years of existence and we are non partisan. Only recently, those who regained their sight, following the surgery at the Chandai Eye Center in Yola hosted the executive members of the Vandefan Foundation, where they presented us with numerous gift items like tubers of yams, awards of certificate of service to humanity and other valuable items as a mark of appreciation to the foundation. Representatives from various media outfits witnessed the event, including the district head of the community, His Royal Highness, Chief Tyocivil Iyon who led five other village chiefs to the occasion. I must also tell you that we are encouraged by the prayers of the people of the community, the remarks and words of advice from all the chiefs who have also promised to provide us with plots of land to further our cause. We won’t relent. As we get finance, we shall continue to touch the lives of people.
What has Been The Role Of Traditional Council And The Vandefan Foundation Since Inception?
It may interest you to note that since inception, we have never come under attacks or any form of vituperation from the traditional institution. For those who were at the just concluded ceremony where those who regained their sights hosted members of the foundation at Mpaper community in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, the paramount ruler, His Royal Highness, Chief Tyocivil Iyon clearly stated that they are overwhelmed with what the foundation is doing for the people. He went further to say that if what Vandefan Foundation was doing was being emulated by every Nigerian, especially the Tivs at home and in Diaspora, the entire community and country at large would have been better transformed than what it is today.
Are We Looking At A Terminal Date For Your NGO Operations?
It is the determination of the Vandefan Foundation to further improve the lot of the less privilege. As earlier stated by the director of the foundation, efforts are being made to embark on another round of medical check for people suffering from diabetes and hepatitis. There is actually no terminal date for this project because we believe in it and see it as a divine project. We will also appreciate local or foreign support from public-spirited individual or bodies and I want to assure you that as we get more finances, we shall continue to touch the lives of people. We are however encouraged that even the paramount ruler of the district has continued to call on people to emulate what the foundation is doing, to the extent that parents are being advised to withdraw their wards and enroll them in our schools. We are indeed grateful to God.
What Are Your Expectations From Individuals And The Government?
The government should take the plight of the masses, especially the down-trodden and less-privileged seriously. This could easily be achieved through genuine collaborative efforts/partnership with charity organisations. Beside, every Nigerian should be prepared to play his or her role in uplifting the living standard of the less privileged. It is not until one is completely buoyant before you can put a smile on the face of your fellow human being. We are indeed blessed with people in privileged positions. There are people who have the means, but won’t do, unlike my husband who has been very supportive to the goals and aspirations of the foundation. Nigeria is indeed blessed, but we have failed to reach a commendable point because those who would have changed lives are only concern with themselves, their generations and even the ones yet to be born and until that orientation is changed, issues of unrest, kidnapping and other vices perpetrated by the youths will not end.