MTN Foundation, through its ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative is changing the narrative, as over 10 million Nigerians are benefitting from its current nationwide humanitarian projects. Martins Ifijeh writes
While many Nigerians complain of epileptic power supply, there are communities that do not have the luxury of complaining of insufficient electricity. They do not know how the basic amenity feels like, because it has never been brought to them. When evenings come, such communities are at the mercy of the moonlight and candlesticks.
Ojerim community in Mbube East, Ogoja, Cross River State was one of such communities. Since the past 20 years when they last had a working transformer, they have been commemorating darkness year in year out.
In fact, youths of age 20 and below in the community did not know what it felt like to enjoy electricity. They had wished they could even complain like other Nigerians who were complaining of poor power supply. Theirs was total darkness for two decades. They had resigned to fate and taken it like their way of life, until the community was nominated to enjoy the ‘What We Can Do Together’ initiative of MTN Foundation.
Soon Ojerim community took ownership of a 500KVA transformer which was installed to serve the tens of thousands of its dwellers. It was the best thing that had happened to them in decades. Those who had packed their televisions started to bring them back in their sitting rooms. Now they looked forward to watching ‘Tales by Moon Light’ or other programmes they had left behind 20 years ago. They would come to find out the world had moved on since then and 21st Century programmes have taken over the old television series they were used to.
Among the most happiest persons in Ojerim for the gesture was the head of the community, Chief Francis Alakpa, whose joy knew no bound. He said living to see that Ojerim had come back to its glory after 20 years was a fulfillment for him. “Our people have been in pains for over two decades, while neighbouring communities enjoyed regular power supply. Today, we have cause to rejoice because our hope has been restored,” he said.
Like Ojerim, the Umuzocha community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State was among the disadvantaged communities in the country. They had no power supply. Since their previous transformer packed up, no government or stakeholder came to their aid. They went back to living the lives of their fore-fathers where no one bothered about electricity.
But like a lion that scavenges for its cubs, MTN Foundation, through the current phase of ‘What We Can Do Together’ initiative, found Umuzocha, identified their biggest need and brought succour to their door step. A 500KVA transformer was installed for them. Electricity is back to the community. For Umuzocha community, it is breathing life to a dead situation.
One of their community leaders, Chief Chukwudi Nnajide, who had initially expressed skepticism about the authenticity of the programme, described it as a real noble gesture that will benefit the community for many years to come.
The nominator of the project in Umuzocha, Mr. Charles Okoli, recounted his ordeal as an off-campus student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) Awka, with issues of epileptic power supply during his studies. “Studying at night was an issue because when I get back from school there is no electricity. The only transformer serving the community packed up due to overload. I am happy I championed the cause to make this huge impact to improve the lives of people in my community,” Okoli said.
Ojerim and Umuzocha are not the only communities that have benefitted from the distribution of transformers under the current phase of the initiative. So far, 40 communities across 40 local government areas have taken ownership of 500 KVA transformer each in the phase two of the project.
Away from distribution and installation of transformers to communities in need, ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative also identified lack of adequate affordable and accessible healthcare as a major cause of high mortality rate in the country, especially maternal and infant mortality, hence the initiative supports government in this regard.
For instance, in Ilupeju in Oye Local Government, Ekiti State, the Primary Health Centre serving the community lacked some basic tools to run smoothly. The community was therefore among the several communities selected to benefit from healthcare palliatives under the scheme.
MTN Foundation, in supporting the state government’s drive to achieve a sustainable healthcare system, donated medical facilities to the community’s Primary Health Care. The equipment donated include, one hospital bed, standard hospital mattresses, pillows, urinary bed screens, stretchers (manual and collapsible), stethoscopes, delivery beds, weighing scales, Snellen charts, baby weighing scales, foetal doppler, manual suction machine, vacuum extractors, BP monitors, sterilising sets and others.
Deeply excited about the development, Matron of the Centre, Mrs. Sarah Ogunmola thanked God and the Foundation for the donations. She said, “we no longer need to refer patients who need to hear their baby’s heartbeat to hospitals in distant places again.”
Awe Modupe, a student with the Midwifery Services Scheme also said, “I never saw that coming, it was like a dream come true. We weren’t expecting anything from anyone at this time when everybody is complaining about the economy. When I saw the foetal doppler hand machine donated, I was overjoyed. In fact, I am still very happy. I just said to myself that God has finally answered our prayers.”
In Bauchi State recently, the Foundation partnered with the government in improving the education sector and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Nigerian children. Extreme joy, excitement and gratitude best describe the feelings of the pupils, parents and teachers of Gamawa Central Primary school, Bauchi, as they received brand new sets of school desks and chairs as part of the ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative, Phase 2.
Receiving the items, the Local Education Authority and Assistant Head, Gamawa Central Primary School, Auwalu Habu, appreciated the Foundation for adding to their efforts as the donation, he notes, will surely grow the learner’s self-confidence to attend school, feeling warm and comfortable.
According to the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, “In the first and second phases of the initiative, over 170 schools have received furniture donations with each school getting an average of 60 sets of furniture. In cumulative figures, about 30,000 pupils have benefited from school furniture donations under this initiative.”
Having also identified lack of access to safe water as a major worry for millions of Nigerians, the initiative also tilted its bias towards this area in order to help Nigerians in preventing diseases occasioned by unclean water.
Residents of Ibrahim Waziri community in Yobe State recently woke up to a pleasant surprise of having water borehole drilled in their community. For the majority of the residents, the provision could not have come at a better time, particularly with their continuous struggle against water borne diseases in the community.
The Chief Imam of Ibrahim Waziri community, Mallam Aliyu Musa, commended the Foundation for heeding the call of the community and implementing such a worthy project, stating that it will positively impact the entire community.
One of the community leaders, Mohammed Goroma said, “communities with safe water have healthier members, whose bodies are more resistant to illnesses that come with tragedy and displacement. We are happy that the construction of this borehole is a relief to members of this community.”
MTN Foundation’s ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative was launched in 2015 as part of its 10th year anniversary to impact over 10 million Nigerians in various communities across the country.
According to Ugboma, the initiative was borne out of the need to give every Nigerian the opportunity to make a difference in their communities. “In Phase one, 200 communities benefitted from 200 projects in four focus areas of: transformers, boreholes, school furniture and orphanage donations. The beneficiary communities were selected from a pool of over 10,000 nominations received across the country. At the end of Phase one, 20 communities received a 500KVA transformer each. Another set of 20 communities received a 650ft borehole each, while 94 schools in various communities received 100 sets of school furniture each and 66 orphanages received household item donations.
“When the idea of this initiative was conceived, we wanted to do something refreshingly different for our communities, and attempt to redefine the concept of social giving. The initial goal of this project was to thank Nigerians by implementing 200 projects across 200 communities in 200 local governments across Nigeria,” said Ugboma.
Speaking further, she explained that all the projects were selected based on nominations from members of the public. “At the end, 200 communities were chosen to benefit, and announcements were made in the newspapers and social media. Today, I am pleased to report that all the 200 projects have been successfully implemented.
“In Phase two of the initiative, 200 communities were selected from a pool of over 80,000 nominations following a rigorous screening process. Through this process, 20 communities were selected to receive a 500KVA transformer each, 80 schools to receive 60 sets of school furniture each, 80 PHCs to receive modern medical equipment and another 20 communities to receive a 650ft water borehole each. While some of these projects have been delivered and installed in the beneficiary communities, installations and deliveries are ongoing in the remaining beneficiary communities across the country,” she added.
She said at the end of the ongoing Phase two of the initiative, a total of 349 local government areas and 400 communities would have benefitted from the various projects in the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. Adding that it is estimated that the projects in their various capacities will impact over 10 million Nigerians across the country.
While noting that this was a healthy development that will impact the socio-economic growth and development of community dwellers. She said the advent of electricity to communities that previously were without electricity, would bring economic activities to become visible there.
“Those without access to clean water will have a better experience with access to clean and hygienic water through the installation of 40 650ft boreholes in 40 communities across the country. These will impact on their healthy living as they will no longer be prone to water borne diseases.
“The story is also inspiring for over 170 schools across 170 beneficiary communities that have received about 15,000 sets of furniture. This will see about 30,000 students benefiting from this gesture. This donation will improve the learning environment and ultimately impact their academic performance positively.
“This is a new lease of life for the communities that have received medical equipment in hospitals across the country. This has improved access to quality healthcare by rural dwellers,” she said.
She added that the initiative was well received and lauded by various community dwellers across the country in the areas of education through the donation of school furniture; health, through the donation of medical supplies and economic empowerment through the donations of transformers and boreholes. “These projects will go a long a way in improving the quality of lives in these communities as they expressed in excitement,” she added.
On his part, Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr. Pascal Dozie maintained that “as a responsible corporate citizen, one must give. We prefer to call it social investment; for these are the people who patronise us on a daily basis and we see it as crucial to invest in their welfare.”