In Nigeria, there has been increasing doubt about the credibility and activities of some Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO). The founder, I AM A MOM FOUNDATION, in this interview with OMONU YAX- NELSON, decried the questionable activities of some NGO which scares donors from helping the vulnerable Nigerians and downtrodden amidst the overwhelming need for greater humanitarian services due to crisis and poverty.
I understand you are from Cross River State but you are involved in humanitarian work in Kaduna State. What is your motivation?
I am from Cross River state but I have lived in several parts of the country. But most significantly, I spent better part of my life inKaduna, where I run my farm. We use farm or farming activities to reach out to the less privilege. My foundation has about seventeen hectares of farmland in Kujama Community in Kaduna State. What we do essentially is, we share this land among women, who has no land to do their farming activities. We assist them with seedlings and other farm inputs like fertilizer. By the time their farm produce is ready, we help them to sell profitably. You discover that, most farmer get virtually nothing from their labour because, traders goes to buy their
produce at very ridiculous prices. They really don’t get value for their labour as it were! But, if they are farming with the aim of selling to a known ‘good buyer’, it will give them impetus to do more.
Coincidentally, you are not a mother yet. Why the choice of the name ‘I AM A MOM’ for your foundation?
This is deliberate. We opted for this name because the foundation is basically targeted at women empowerment. And, as you well know, women have the tendency to be caring. For instance, if you want to empower a
family, the best way to go about it is to empower the woman of the house, I bet you, the benefit will trickle-down on every member of the family.
I was passing through a Kaduna Community and at a point I saw children playing, so, I started snapping them with my phone. Look, we are taking for granted that we are in the city. In the rural areas, we have children who highest aspiration is not more than growing up to be gatemen. Their minds are not exposed to the possibilities that are available, especially, those of school age. They need to be sensitized about the opportunities that are available to life. We decided to go into these communities, gather children to talk to them. Beyond sensitizing them, we saw the need to go a step further, because, if we stop at just talking to them, we would have achieved little. Again, we decided to concentrate on a particular area, so that, the impact of what we are doing can be felt. We have started that with Kujama community in Kaduna State.
We want to be able to monitor whatever we put on ground for these people. For instance, if dig borehole, we should be able to come back there in few years and see that, it is still working effectively. The Foundation is also working to ensure that the impacts of these women is not restricted to the local scene. In this connection, we have obtained export license, as a company. How we intend to that is to gather the whole women together and export their products. We also encourage them to grow a particular kind of crop.
Let’s talk more about the activities of your foundation in other parts of the country, outside Kaduna State.
Outside Kaduna State, we have made some impact in Abuja. You will be surprised at the level of poverty in Abuja, which is supposed to be the capital city of Nigeria. By the time you go into the hinterland of Abuja, you will discover that the beautiful roads notwithstanding, poverty walks on its head in some parts of Abuja. Just behind Apo, where you have massive and gigantic buildings, there is a community that has mostly, displaced people, who are not able to stay in camp because they can’t afford to pay the daily stipend for the tents they setup in the open to have where to lay their heads.
Their source of drinking water is a stream. Regrettably, it is inside the same water they defecate. The children sleeps on the floor. They seat on bare floor in the school they attend. Children scamper little things as plastic bow. The first day we visited the school, we didn’t go with anything because, when I was told, didn’t believe that such community exist within Abuja. As I tried to snap pictures, a woman camp from my back and snatched camera from me, saying, this how these NGO’s come here to take pictures, go out there, get popular, without coming back to do anything them. That woman’s agitation got me thinking of the activities of people who go around, claiming to be doing humanitarian services. My question is; are they genuine? I think at some point, there is need for some checks on the activities of charlatans. This, I think will engender some credibility into the activities of NGO’s in Nigeria.
There are lots of Nigerians who want to assist the underprivileged, displaced and vulnerable people but unfortunately, the NGO’s that is supposed to be the middle ground are failing. These people don’t have the time in this world but they have the resources and the willingness to assist. But the challenge is the trustworthiness of the NGO’s to faithfully executive their mandate. We started out with housing and other immediate needs. But on a second thought, we decided to focus on children, especially their education. One thing about children is that, they are like shrub that is better bent when it’s still small.
The future of children is better molded when they are still young. The school they attend is public school but they have challenge with paying school fees. So, we decided to take up the payment of their school fees. Especially, for the displaced children. The school has the record of the IDP children. The foundation also buys them School books, uniforms. At a point, we started rehabilitating the classrooms for the very small once; Nursery and the play classes. The first time we visited the school and the children were rushing out to greet us, they were so dirty. We were wondering why they were so dirty. And by the time we went into the class to say hello, the class was as dirty as the outside. How can people learn under such condition? It’s a core concern! I have some close friends, who also run NGO like ours. So, we team up them some times to get things done. What we are doing at the moment is rehabilitating the classrooms, so that the children can have conducive environment to learn.
We have of late been harnessing the potentials in the social media to create awareness on the existence of these problems. They may be aware of the rut but not to the magnitude we discovered. And we have succeeded to some extent, in creating awareness. We don’t even want to know nor collect assistance from them. We simply give them the address of the school to go there and contribute their quota.
Another thing we have started doing lately, is to convince those who wants to do their birthday that it is better to spend the day with the less privilege. We acquaint them with the challenges the pupils are facing and impress it on them to do the little they can. Some of them provides uniform for 20, while others do 30 or 10, depending on individual ability. Essentially, the focus of this ‘I AM A MUM’ Foundation is, identify a problem, solve the ones we can and help to tell well-meaning Nigerians, who can do something about those problems.
Why are you into these?
Simple! I am a Christian and the Bible made me to understand that he who help the poor lend to the Lord. In my life, I have seen this principle work over and over again. As I always tell people ‘my children can never be confused, poor or broke because of the firm believe that what I am doing is lending to the Lord. I am investing
into the children future. If I pull out of my resources to do what I am doing. The little the Lord can do for me is to take care of my own. We reach out during Sallah, Christmas. All these present opportunity for us to be able to reach out to others.