Touching Lives

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The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Restoration Parish, Ejigbo, Lagos, in partnership with Healing Wings Foundation, have successfully touched the lives of over 70 people through affordable quality skills acquisition and empowerment, writes Peter Uzoho

It is a common knowledge in Nigeria that many people in the country are suffering. Yet it is rare to see people who would go beyond mere empathising and rendering moral support, to intervening through practical solutions that can help them out.
However, for the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Restoration Parish, Ejigbo, Lagos and Healing Wings Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, it is time to tackle the problem head on and by extension, bless the entire society.

On July 11, 2016, Healing Wings Foundation, in partnership with the aforesaid church, launched a six weeks skills acquisition and empowerment programme at Ejigbo, tagged ‘2016 Ejigbo Empowerment Programme’, to train people particularly youths and married women who were discovered to have challenges in obtaining such skills elsewhere due to financial constraints.

With adequate publicity and affordable training fee, the programme saw large number of single and married women and men take active part, learning different skills to change their lives and that of others. Some were trained in catering and hospitality management, which entails cake making and baking, snacks and small chops, cocktail and chapman, continental and African dishes, among others. Some were trained on how to make beads, wireworks, shoes and bags. Those who have interest in make-up artistry and facial enhancement were well trained to do a perfect job. Others were also trained on event planning and decoration.

At the closing ceremony of the programme on Saturday, August 27, 2016, the beneficiaries who cut across different denominations took turn to express their joy and gratitude to the organisers for rendering such rare help to them, even when some of them were not members of the church. To them, a burden has been lifted off their shoulder and they can now do something meaningful to themselves, their families and the society at large.
One of the beneficiaries, a non-member of the church, who was trained in bead making, Mrs. Akinlade Tumininu, could not hold her joy and appreciation for the kindness showed to them by the good Samaritans.

“I feel good and I’m happy to come here to learn how to make beads, wireworks, shoes and bags. I’m happy that this NGO brought this training programme close to us. I thank Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ejigbo for giving us this opportunity to come to their church to acquire skills even when some of us are not members of their church. We have Muslims here who came for the training and the church did not discriminate against them; they treated all of us like their members,” Tumininu told THISDAY.

“My sister-in-laws informed me about the programme and I decided to participate. We paid N5000 but to me that money is nothing at all compared to the training we received. I will say we did it free because when you go out there to learn, they will ask you to pay 25, 000, N30, 000 and even more. I can now make beads and wire works, shoes, slippers and bags. I have a provision shop but now that I have learnt this one, I have to open another shop for bead making and other things. I thank this church and Healing Wings Foundation a lot for their kindness to us. They should keep it up,” Tumininu added.

Another beneficiary, a 200 level student of Psychology at the University of Lagos, Mr. Vincent Agboola said, “When I heard about the training I just decided to come and give it a trial and coming here I found out that it was the same training package they give out there. Out there you pay N100, 000 and even more but here, we got it free. Everybody is cooperating and we’re all happy. Our instructors are really taking their time to teach us well. So this is just the perfect place for me. For me, I think I really grabbed something from here. I can do a perfect makeup now,” Agboola noted.
Agboola told THISDAY that the perception by some people that makeup work is for women is wrong saying that many men are making a living through it.

“I don’t think makeup is just for girls alone and of course this is not the first place a man is doing makeup. There are many guys out there doing it and making a whole lot of money. Besides, since women always say that what a man can do a woman can do better. The same way I will say what a woman can do a man can also do it even better,” Agboola posited.
“Also, I’m a very good artist. I love makeup very well. I’ve been doing it before this training, but I came to learn more to improve my skill. Actually, being the only man here has not been easy but at least I’ve been able to get something.

Fortunately for me, the ladies we have are so cooperative. There is no form of racism, no mockery. There is nothing like backbiting, gossiping or whatever. They’re very friendly. So I feel good being with them,” he said.
Expressing his gratitude to the church and to the Foundation, he said “I give them a galaxy of stars. I’m very grateful to the church and to the organisers. They’ve done really well. It’s very rare to see this kind of opportunity. Although, I worship at Christ Embassy, but with what they’ve done for me I feel like joining the church.”

Their instructor in bead making, Ms Tolulope Oyewole, said “It has been a wonderful training so far. The students coped very well. They are the types that understand things easily; they grab whatever I taught them easily. In fact, they’re the creative types. They have really learnt a lot. They can now make beads by themselves and go out to sell. Now that they’ve been equipped with the basic skills, I encourage them not to go and sit back. They should move forward. They should go online; watch YouTube and videos and search for more information to keep them up to date so that they will improve further in their skills,” Oyewole said.

Speaking to THISDAY about the programme, the Minister-in-charge of Restoration Parish, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ejigbo, Pastor Festus Adepetun, said the purpose of the skills acquisition and empowerment programme was to train people who were discovered to be idle due to lack of jobs.

“We discovered that many of our people are jobless and cannot provide the basic needs of life. So we want to assist those who are interested. Most of these people if they go out to learn these things, they will be asked to provide huge amount of money and other things which they will not be able to provide. But here, within six weeks they have been trained at more affordable cost and they were able to grasp those things they would have gone outside to learn,” Adepetun explained.

“You can see that in some families, the married women don’t have job at all and they have to depend on the husband to provide for everything in the home. But if they are trained in one skill or the other they will be able to support their husbands in ensuring that the family has food to eat,” Adepetun noted.

“Apart from the training, there is a soft loan of about N50, 000 and N100, 000 for them to access in order to support their businesses. The convener will only collect three per cent interest at the end of every month. There is a body in charge of that and only those who are serious will be approved for the loan. Those who are certified to be trustworthy and can be able to comply, we will sign for them and the loan will be given to them,” he added
“The empowerment was for both our members and non-members. We printed flyers and distributed them everywhere, asking people to come and learn something to bless family and society. We didn’t collect much money from them. We only asked them to pay for their certificate.”

The Pastor stated that the empowerment would be a continuous thing. “In the next two or three months, we will allow people to come back for another round of training. Our members that participated in this training were up to 15. This is the first time we are having such programme in our church here,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Convener of the programme whose is also the Project Director, Healing Wings Foundation, Pastor Samuel Oladunjoye while giving insight into the initiative said the NGO started about seven and half years ago, explaining that their major focus from the onset was cancer screening and cancer awareness.

“Then I travelled to like four to five countries doing cancer awareness, vaccination, and medical check-ups. But five years ago we looked at it that people are suffering. We discovered that a lot of people were not coming up again for the cancer diagnosis. So in the process, we now decided that we have to look for another way we can touch and change the life of people. So the idea of empowering people came to us. We reasoned that people are doing at a cost ranging from N80, 000 and above which was so high for most people to afford,” Oladunjoye explained.

“We thought that as an NGO we have to do something to take this challenge off the people. Immediately, we went out, sampled people’s opinions and discovered that a lot of people want to learn something to be on their own but there is no means. Some of them said the cost was too much for them. We decided to assist them. We asked them to register with just N5000 and come and receive the training. With the N5000, we looked for professionals in those areas to come and partner with us in the project,” Oladunjoye noted.

“Having gotten the professional trainers, we started looking for churches that would partner with us through making training venues available to us. So that was how we started the empowerment programme,” he said.
He noted that the Foundation has trained over 8,750 people for the past four years and that more than 85 per cent of them are on their own doing what they were taught adding that over 500 families are feeding from the business as evidenced from the testimonies being received from them on regular basis.

Explaining some of the initial challenges they faced when starting the programme, he said “Most times, we have to go hungry; no food to eat but we continued doing it because we believe that somebody’s life is being touched. God sent us to try our best to ensure that people that do not have the opportunity to go and pay huge amount of money to get the training are trained through this project and we also ensure that they a good quality training in line with our motto which is quality and service to humanity.”

Speaking on what inspired him to come up with the initiative, he said “The inspiration came from the fact that a lot of people are suffering without people helping them. I heard it clearly that in making other people happy that is when your happiness will come. So all that I do now is to make sure that somebody is happy and we believe that when you touch somebody’s life your life will not remain the same.”
He reiterated that up till now, the major challenge the Foundation is facing is finance, noting that if there are people to sponsor the programme, the job would be easier.

Advising young entrepreneurs, he said those young people who are out there looking for white collar jobs should go and look for something else that can better their lives instead of idling about. Citing a biblical injunction, he said “God said I will bless the work of thy hands.”
“Secondly, for young entrepreneurs, the beginning may not be easy they should do what they have passion in and continue and then back it up with prayers,” he stated.