Raquel Kasham Daniel, is a community mobiliser, an author and a trained educator. In this interview with STELLAMARIES AMUWA, she pledges to continue to inspire more children from poor homes to dream and work towards achieving their dreams.
Can you tell us a little about your family?
I’m from Kaduna State. I’m the oldest in a family of four, and the only girl. We lived in Lagos and Kaduna states, till I was 18 years old. My Dad was a music lover but couldn’t sing to save his life. He was a strange music collector. My Mum loved gardening, teaching children and counselling women. She died four years after my Dad, leaving us by ourselves. My parents always made sure that my brothers and I live by one simple rule;
whatever you do, ensure it will make your God, yourself, your family and your country proud. We had our own challenges just like any, but had a great time when we were all together before my parents passed.
What do you do?
I run a tech start up called Nzuriaiki.com, it is an online platform designed to showcase volunteer opportunities in Nigeria for anyone willing to give the gift of their time. I also run a nonprofit called Beyond the Classroom Foundation, that support children and girls in marginalised and poor communities focusing on primary education and sex and menstrual hygiene for adolescent girls. I’m a community mobiliser, an author and a trained educator.
What inspired you into doing that?
Volunteering helped me gained skills when I had no skills to get a job.
Through volunteering, I developed soft skills that gave me the opportunity to find flexible part-time jobs allowing me to earn while paying my way through school. I got my first job while volunteering as a teenager after secondary school. The two other jobs I got after I graduated from University came through supervisors I had worked with while volunteering. I was inspired to launch Nzuriaiki because volunteering worked for me, I believe it is a solution that can tackle the problem of employability in Nigeria.
What has been your challenges so far with the NGO?
The challenges I have faced in my work with Beyond the Classroom, has been majorly around funding and sustainability. If I had proper mentoring when I embarked on this journey in 2010, I would have started a social enterprise, not a Charity. Which is why my new startup isn’t another Charity but a social enterprise.
None, whatsoever! I’ll like to say that there are a lot of learning opportunities hiding in our failures, but so many people focus on the fact that what they tried to
do didn’t work and usually never sit to seek out the learning opportunities. I think that the worst experiences in our lives are the best teachers in the future. So even if at some point, a few projects I tried to do didn’t work, I have no regrets.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
I have so many fond childhood memories but I would have to say my fondest childhood memories are the holiday memories, we all love the Christmas season in my family. My mother would start the week baking, and getting everything ready for the Christmas morning especially our Christmas clothes. That week, we all come together as a family and decorate the tree while my dad played his Christmas playlist. He was a music lover. My mother taught us that even know we may not have as much as others but we had love. During the Christmas season, she would talk about the Love of Jesus and how we too ought to love others. She instilled that in me as I became an adult and that love is evident in the work I do now with my Charity.
What does mentoring mean to you and how has it helped you?
To me, mentoring is first an opportunity for two people to learn from each other while providing an avenue for the mentee or protégé to get guidance, motivation, and support. Mentoring has helped me with exploring careers, setting goals, and growing my network. In my own life and career, I have had numerous mentors, most of them accidental, and many of them were role models. I tell my mentees, “mentorship requires intentional investments of time and energy, you’ll need to put in the work”. I show them how mentoring has helped my life tremendously and encourage them to take it seriously.
A lot of people tend to think that mentorship is only beneficial to the mentees, the up-and-coming. But that’s not true, mentorship helps the mentor too. I have noticed that the most successful mentorships relationships I have had are the ones that are a two-way experience where both sides benefited from the relationship.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
Style to me is my identity. It is the first thing people look at to interpret who I am. It’s how I want the world to look at me. Style to me is being able to put on jeans and sneakers one day and a dress the next because they both represent who I am. My style shows what choices I make, what type of person I am, and shows the world what I stand for. It gives a glimpse into my personality.
Fashion on the other hand has to do with new trends: It refers to popular ways of dressing during a specific period of time. I believe there’s some sort of overlap between style and fashion, but a good rule of thumb is that style relates to the individual, while fashion is
What’s your take on the new normal, sticking to facemask at same time staying fashionable?
I wear the facemask every time I step out of my house to any event or gathering. It has become a fashion piece for so many people especially the celebrities and I see no problem with wearing it.
However, to stay fashionable, I simply match my facemask with my clothes and I am good to go. I have also been encouraging my friends to wear stylish face masks. Although some have reminded me that “we are fighting a global war” and I am very quick to tell them, wearing a stylish facemask is a fun way to stay positive while fighting our common enemy.
What are the post COVID-19 measures you have taken to move to the next level?
To be honest with you, 2020 has been a great years despite the setbacks I encountered. I don’t have any measures to move me to the next level just yet, I am taking my journey one day at a time now while I continue to build resilience and adaptability.
What’s your greatest challenge when it comes to measuring up with set goals?
I am naturally a very fearless person, never afraid to set big and audacious goals. However, I am also aware that challenges and uncertainties abound and things might not go as planned. Some of the challenges are personal; it could be procrastination or juggling to many projects at the same time.
What makes you happy and sweeps you off your feet?
I am happy when I achieve my set goals, when I am right at the center of God’s will and doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in specific seasons. Nothing has swept me off my feet yet, so I can’t say.
How do you balance family and work to make sure none lacks proper attention?
I am glad you said “lacks proper attention” because there are times when a part of your life will not have your attention. What I always do is ensure I don’t miss our family’s memorable events or moment. I try very hard to set my priorities right and have the support of my husband. My priority is, God and then family before others. I learned that from mum. She always say “You need to prioritize which should come first at a particular period of your life”. I must say even as a mother of a one toddler, it is not easy to juggle all. Sometimes I make mistakes of judgment but with time I developing a rhythm is convenient.
How do you unwind?
I unwind with a great movie. I use the gym occasionally and I, sometimes, run outdoors because I do love the outdoors. I love music and I love dancing. I do those often to relax and unwind. My ultimate relaxation is with my family whom I treasure a lot. So I take time off
work periodically to be with them fully.
What genre of music do you listen to and why?
I honestly don’t have a favourite genre. I listen to so many kinds of music. My choice of music depends on my mood, and tends to change a lot. Sometimes I want to get lost in the sound of a particular voice, it doesn’t matter which songs…I just want to hear those voices and other times I just want a dance and let down my hair. My point is that I’m all over the place as far as my taste in music and I like it that way.
What would be your highest point and where do you hope to be in the nearest future?
My highest achievement will be to get a PhD. As someone who’s the first in their entire family generation to ever go beyond secondary school, it has been my dream to get to the peak of my educational pursuit. My one goal is to continue to inspire more children from poor homes to dream and work towards it. I want them to look at me or hear my name and say “because she did it, I believed I could and I did too’’
What is your advice to the younger generation especially at this trying period?
Know your rights and don’t be afraid to speak out! Get your PVC and ensure you come out to vote in 2023 and don’t lose focus. If you’re overwhelmed with what is going on in the country, it is okay
to unplug and take time to relax!