No one should down play pains IDPs women go through -Ambassador Angonimi

Ambassador Angonimi David-Imeh is the founder, Hope Raisers Global Foundation; a dynamic and driven individual who is making significant impact in various IDP Camps and low-income communities in Nigeria. In this chat with ENE OSHABA, she discusses her passion for helping others, especially women and children, as well as creating positive change in the society.

What is your background and how did you get involved in social services and charity?  

I have a background in Economics, and over the years I have dedicated my career to advocating for marginalised communities and working towards social justice. I have worked with various non-profit organisations to address issues such as poverty, homelessness, education, empowerment and access to healthcare in line with SDGs 1, 2, 3, 17 and parches of other goals.

I’m also an active volunteer in my community, regularly participating in outreach programs and fundraising events and a strong support base, compassion, empathy, and ability to connect with people from all walks of life.

I’m a strong advocate for education and believes that everyone has the right to access quality schooling. This is why I spearheaded initiatives to provide scholarships and mentorship programs for underprivileged children and youths, helping them achieve their academic and career goals.

I sit as the Chair, International Growth (IGC), London; Co-Chair Nigeria Wing, Eco-civilisation; I am a Volunteer Mentor at Equalz, Coordinator Special Unit 3/Asst PRO Women Committee, Police Community Relations Committee; and few other bodies where I serve on the leadership cadre.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, sports and spending time with loved ones. I’m a Peace, Conscience Ambassador, with some awards and nominations to my name.

What is the inspiration behind this Foundation and what it’s all about?

Hope Raisers Global Foundation was birthed by the inability of a young couple who couldn’t conceive easily after marriage. This wasn’t our expectation as we never gave it a thought. In order not to get depressed we had to find a problem to solve which led to the Foundation. 

We were lacking in an area, we thought about what others could be facing too in different areas of their lives hence we decided to meet their needs. 

Funny enough in 2011 while we forsook our pain and decided to make children happy and this led to our first ever Christmas carnival organised for children. We got schools to partner with, and we got the approval to use ABA Sports Club as that was our base as at that time.

The programme was a fun fair with so much activities for children, gifts and enough food to eat. The event lasted for two days and recorded in attendance over 2,000 children. 

The DEED Acronym Discover, Educate, Empower, Deploy, is our guiding principle. We acknowledge that we can’t do all but with DEED we can strategically Discover where those we want to reach are.

Educate: Education is a path way to breaking all forms of backwardness, it’s said by Maya Angelou that when one knows better, he/she does better.

We are strong advocators of education and every single person who we have met in this humanitarian walk can attest to this fact, that more than the hand outs, we stand on training and retraining of the individual to reshape the mindset of the individual being helped. When there is a mindset change, then success is on the way, only time will tell.

Empower: “Rather than hand me fish, teach me how to fish.” Empowerment is a means to keep our women engaged and eventually help them attain financial stability. 

Empowerment is one of our guiding principles which has been a very strong guide in carrying out our God sent assignment on the earth.

We have recorded amazing results. At least one household that benefited from our empowerment programme in 2022 was able to relocate out of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Abuja back to their base in Borno state. That, to us, is a great feat owing to all the challenges encountered in the line of the work. 

Deploy: means we want to see a seemingly disadvantaged person, after being discovered, educated, empowered, that individual should be able to stand tall enough to build from the point we have been able to set them going.

It’s like a boat that’s set to sail, what more does it need than to chart the course on the map to destination. That’s exactly our focus on our mission to expressing the DEED acronym.

How does the Foundation specifically support IDPs?

We usually carry out a baseline analysis. Truth is not all those in the camp are in dare need per se. 

The general need may be getting a standard home where they can lay their heads, get access to water and security to preserve their lives and little property that’s left. 

After carrying a baseline assessment, we then choose those whose cases are termed as emergency.

We have been able to cater for the school supplies of over 300 children in the camp from school shoes to uniform, to literature. 

They rarely have school fees need because most of these children fees are insignificant like N3,000 and it’s being catered for by some well-meaning individuals, too. 

We have made clothes during the festive season like 2022 Christmas, we made good Ankara clothes for the Christian children, over 100 children both boys and girls, and we also made hijabs for 25 Muslim girls as our finances could carry.

This drive was brought about by the need for children to feel accepted by their community and in turn their nation. 

When the Durumi IDP Camp was demolished, we got an SOS call and immediately we had to do our bit by providing them with clothes, food periodically, hygiene materials for their safety and water. This intervention was necessitated by the need which was prevalent at the time.

Can you share some of your success stories or impactful projects related to education?

The feedback we get   from the parents of these children is what makes us continue the process of teaching. 

We had a family whose son got involved in cybercrime, his mother handed him over to us and with very close monitoring, training and support from our team, the boy got disengaged from the act.

Largely, our presence in the IDP camps has contributed significantly to the improved behavioural pattern of some of the children, some of these children have become our eyes in the camp, giving feedback on the behaviour of some others who are yet to embrace our culture of peaceful coexistence.

How has the Foundation’s medical supply and healthcare initiative fared?

Our health care drive hasn’t really recorded much success yet as we haven’t been able to get the necessary assistance needed. When it comes to routine immunisation, that aspect is largely carried out by the various primary health boards which the camp fall under. Our contribution in this regard has been on sensitisation and campaigns.

We have had a campaign on family planning. We have had several campaigns on healthy living especially in the area of hygiene and we usually provide materials that can aid in the care of their physical wellbeing like detergent for washing clothes, bathing soap, toothpaste and brushes, bathing sponge, roll on and perfumes for the youths and children especially.

Can you elaborate on some of the sustainable development projects the Foundation is currently engaged in?

We have had an intervention with one of our partners “TechHerfrica” on the inclusion of the IDP women into technology, introducing those in small businesses into e-commerce.

In this intervention we handed the women with mobile devices which they could use to call their suppliers, place order for restocking of products and alert their customers when they restock products. They were trained on the use of these devices on book keeping, showing them practical ways to calculate their expenditures from transportation to market, to purchases made on anything associated with the business and transport back to base.

The financial literacy class was one the IDP women said they haven’t been taught before. They were not used to keeping records. This project lasted for three months and thereafter there was significant improvement in the lives of the 50 women who were aided with the devises and learning.

How does HRGF measure impact of its initiatives in terms of uplifting communities and individuals?

Meeting a woman who wasn’t e-commerce literate and assisting her to become literate and she is able to spread the knowledge gained is great impact. 

Getting to arm a woman who had zero knowledge in a particular skill is a feat that calls for celebration. Our work is speaking in communities, internally displaced camps that we have reached.

We have put in the children the culture of peaceful coexistence. We are seeing significant improvement in the lives of some of the children. We are getting feedbacks and testimonies on improved academic performances, better behavioural patterns and they becoming champions of peace in their schools and communities is indeed a huge impact.

For the women, the number we have impacted have scaled their nano businesses by 30 per cent and are hoping to do more as they progress gradually with time.  

We can boldly say that we have been able to impact lives for the betterment of our dear country.

Also, we are in partnership with other organisations like Equalz and Mentorsdom on mentorship programmes. We have several online communities where young people are free to ask questions concerning their academics, career path, leadership and ways to handle workplace challenges including marital challenges, especially as a career woman. Consequently, we are giving them possible solutions if applied would fetch desired results.

We are careful in giving out scholarships because of its cost implications. For the past two years we have had one child who is on HRGF’s scholarship scheme for now. However, we pay fees for indigent children every term as we believe that the out of school children’s statistics should be tilting downwards.

Are there challenges HRGF faces and how do overcome these?

As with other projects, funding is a major limiting factor in our bid to reach out to humanity. It takes so much in terms of human and financial resources to actualise any project.

HRGF has had to rely on volunteering method of human resources to succeed at programs. We also have depended on some concerned family and friends for financial support as we grow into more partnerships and donor agencies.

We recently got our first ever sub grant from our partners, Convexity, which has given us the strength to continue on this path of impact.

What role does advocacy play in HRGF’s mission?

I dare say that the level of awareness about challenges faced by internally displaces persons and underserved communities have been unprecedented.

In the wake of our activities in the IDP’s camps in Abuja and its environs, a lot of other NGO’s and advocacy groups have reached out to us for partnership with some stating emphatically that they knew nothing about this segment of the Nigerian populace.

So, the part we play here is essentially to draw people’s attention by first going all out to discover them in line with the very first article of our creed – DISCOVER, Educate, Empower and Deploy (DEED).

We share costs, ideas, ways to better reach these communities who are in dare need of what we have to give. 

Firstly, we identify the thematic areas of other NGOs, CSOs, institutions and see if it’s in line with ours. Afterward we either write or have a call for meeting to see how we can synergise to reach more and gain higher impact and vice versa.

We are serious advocates of SDG 17. One can chase a thousand but two can chase ten thousand. So why not do it together and achieve more rather than live in silos achieving little. We are open to partnerships because we believe more is better.

Looking ahead, what are the future plans and goals in terms of expanding its reach and impact on Nigeria?

Our vision for 2024 is to reach 50,000 needy Nigerians. Arm them with tools to better their lives. We believe that as we get going and our financial strength is being built in the next five years, we should be talking about reaching 10 per cent of disadvantaged persons in Nigeria, the 36 States and the FCT.

We have the technical know-how, we have all it takes to make this happen and we know that because we are set in mind and skill the financial resources wouldn’t pose as a challenge for us to be able to meet this target in few years to come by the grace of God.

As a woman leader in the field of social services and community development, what unique perspectives or experiences do you bring to your work?

I must say that this path isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of emotional strength, financial strength, time and passion to walk this path.

The key to being a successful social service leader and community developer is empathy. No genuine love for humanity means don’t step into it.

One of the ways I interact with marginalised women and girls is that I show them my vulnerable side too. We all as humans have some vulnerable aspect of life we face. I never go with the perfect face and ear else you lose them. I go to the field with the face of I have been there and I was able to go through it. If I could, you too can.

The pain these people carry is one that no one should downplay. These are real people with real experiences haven to sleep through each day bearing burdens which they didn’t bargain for. The best we can do as change agents, innovators and caring social workers is to show that we too are humans with blood flowing through our veins because they need those who can relate and bear their burdens so they can open up and find healing.

Do you have experiences or insights from your work and outreach that highlight importance of women’s participation in leadership?

As a woman in various leadership positions, my input is often significantly felt because as a woman I leverage on my natural abilities as an incubator, and a multi-tasker. I also deploy other natural abilities in me. When allowed to lead a woman is capable of building long lasting solutions, set an all-round-based structure which includes all that will eventually produce unsurmountable results.

The leadership style of a woman is usually different and significant because of her physiological build up.

I remember in one of the committee’s I served in, recently, there was a bit of confusion on what project to carry out seeing that we had limited cash available and the time too was short to carry out this particular task. I was called upon to see what could be done and the suggestions I came up with was bought and with minimal budget we were able to execute the project with great results.

Finally, what message do you have for young women and girls who aspire to follow in your footsteps and make a positive impact in their communities?

Making a positive impact in society is a good dream and a welcomed one at that but while you may be aspiring to make impact first of all build your character. Know who you are, give honour and respect to mothers who have gone ahead of you. 

Be humble no matter how brilliant you are. It’s the character you build today that will determine how far you will go. 

Know how to apologise when you have crossed the line. It’s a beautiful thing when your work is acknowledged but never forget that the reward for hard work is more work. Know that it’s a journey you are in and it takes time to matter.

Do not jump the gun before it’s shot, do not cut corners. Any class you jump today just get ready, you will come back to retake the classes, just give it time.