I arrived Umuahia, the Abia state capital penultimate Thursday to participate in a week-long celebration of the 21st anniversary of Vision Africa, an organisation founded by Bishop Dr. Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha in both the United States of America and Nigeria to reach out to vulnerable members of society and promote church planting, among other objectives. Throughout its over two decades of existence; the organisation has expanded its vision to include the establishment of a radio station known as Vision Africa Radio in Umuahia, Abia state, and provision of medical services to Nigerians, especially women and children and caring for prison inmates and orphanages.
Since its establishment over 21 years ago, Vision Africa has conducted over 200 medical sessions and reached out to over 80,000 Nigerians in dire need of medical services, made possible by hundreds of volunteer doctors and nurses. In this year’s medical outreach, the team was headed by Dr Bobbie Baxter whose husband, the late David Baxter, helped found Vision Africa and donated an office space in the United States. When he passed away in 2015, he requested his wife to be on the board of the organisation. In line with the dying wish of her husband, Bobbie was among the Vision Africa USA members that attended this year’s mission to celebrate the successes of Vision Africa.
The media programming of the organisation through Vision Africa Radio has been specifically designed to attain the objectives of the organisation that include the promotion of peace and sustainable development at the grassroots through advocacy and information dissemination. With a 2000-watt FM station, the radio is reaching to millions of listeners through its various programmes designed to encourage peaceful co-existence among Nigerians. Besides providing opportunities for professionals to improve their skills, the station is working in accordance with the rules set by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for professionalism.
The need for mobilisation of community and faith leaders against diseases also form another fulcrum of Vision Africa in collaboration with its Vision Africa USA partner in order to curb diseases ravaging communities and providing information on ways to tackling them. For instance, the group is doing a lot providing healthcare services to no less than 2,000 People Living With HIV/Aids (PLWHAs) through community mobilisation and training. The appointment of Onuoha, who serves as the Founder/President of Vision Africa, as a member of the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication in Nigeria with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency attest to the recognition of what his organisation is doing to stave off further deaths arising from the scourge.
During the week-long programme in Abia state, Vision Africa reached out to nearly a 1,000 patients living in sometimes hard-to-reach hinterlands. Visitation to Abia Prisons to assist with relevant supplies was embarked by the organisation led by Onuoha and the Chairman of Vision Africa USA, Robert E. Howard, among other members of the organisation.
The group also organised church revivals and ministered to the spiritual needs of the people. Three churches were founded and planted in Amiyi Edda (Ebonyi); Amangwu Edda (Ebonyi) and Amiyi Igbere (Abia). No fewer than 160 people received the good news of salvation. Vision Africa USA members in the entourage were greatly inspired by the enthusiasm and love displayed by Nigerians throughout the event.
The key feature of the event was the media training for delegates of other African countries, media professionals and students of mass communications. Vision Africa, in collaboration with Sharing International whose president, Professor Charles Thomas Pollak, afforded delegates with relevant information on capacity building, especially in the broadcast sector.
Pollak is an educator and professional broadcast executive who parades a 50-year experience in radio, television and leadership training. Among the trainers are Dr Jennifer Hayden Epperson who is the Moody Radio’s director of Research and Learning. Mark Seignious and Andrew Puckett unveiled the new trends in deploying the social media in expanding the reach of the broadcast medium. Participants at the media training were also taught the use of video-for-radio strategy in expanding audience listenership. The processes for producing content for broadcast and the need to create new programmes to boost audience were also taught. Mrs Sharon Geiger of the KBCI Dallas Texas was also one of the trainers who provided insight into identifying audience and how to grow and sustain them.
Leadership training for top media executives, faith leaders, among others, also featured. Without the inspiration to serve the people, Pollack said, no one can be a leader.
Other members of the team at the programme were Engr Greg Jorden, who taught radio engineers. Mrs. Elizabeth Bashara, Mr. Tom Leiser (former Board Chairman); Ms. Arlene Johnson (Executive Director, Vision Africa); Graham Gardner and his wife, Brenda, were also in attendance.
Mrs Susan Obi of the Enugu office of the NBC featured on panelists’ discussions on the challenges of the media. Other delegates at the programme were the General Secretary of the Africa Methodist Council, Rev Opeyemi Awe, and his wife, Sister Seye, a music minister. The Head of Communication Unit of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Rev. Busayi E. Ogunbiade; Translator Constant D. Lokossou (Benin Republic); Ernest Ackom and Evangel, among others attended the event.
The Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, praised the initiatives of Vision Africa for its service and noted that the Church was proud of the organisation. Incoming Board Chairman of Vision Africa USA, Mr Mark Fewin, says the one-week event afforded him an opportunity to see Nigerians in their natural abodes and their thirst for God’s word. The feeling of welcome by the people remains a lasting impression on him.
President and Founder of Vision Africa, Bishop Onuoha is deeply committed to issue of peaceful co-existence, evangelism, and reaching out to the less privileged of society. He got his masters and doctorate degrees from the Southern Methodist Dallas, Texas, USA after reading for his BA Hons at the University of Ibadan. He was also at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University where he read Infrastructural Development.
Bishop Onuoha has been engaged in the promotion of peace and dialogue in Nigeria and rallying global partners to add value to lives of his fellow citizens. To demonstrate his quest for peace and religious harmony in Nigeria, the Bishop established the Nigerian interfaith Action Association (NIFAA) to rally faith leaders to end poverty and religious extremism, among others. NIFAA is co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Bishop Onuoha, who hails from Item in Bende Local Government Area of Abia state is also the co-chair of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP); an organisation founded and funded by the Vienna-based KAICIID Dialogue Centre.
The one-week programme put up by Vision Arica in Umuahia opened a new vista on exploring the vast potentials of Nigerians to national and individual development.
One of the trainers told me, “Your country has all the potentials to be great. Your people have shown an incredible urge to learn. All what is needed is for you to open up more to the world for collaboration.”
I hope that the candle of hope lit by Vision Africa will spread so fast to lighten the dreaded darkness threatening to swallow up our nation. Bishop Onuoha, you have done excellently well by rallying global partners to make life a little less burdensome for our people.
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