For Onugha Rosemary; a serial humanitarian, with a passion for educating the vulnerable and children living in slums and undocumented areas, the squalid environment she grew up in influenced her desire for change. In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, she revealed that another passion she habours is to use education to eradicate gender-based violence in Nigeria. Excerpts:
What should people know about you?
I am a cook, and a serial volunteer who is passionate about children living in slums and undocumented areas. I’m a graduate of Microbiology from Ebonyi State. I did my basic Education at Shyllon Primary School at Ilupeju, then proceeded to Ilupeju Secondary school.
How was growing up, and how did you become so passionate about giving?
I grew up from a very poor family background in a family of six children, four boys and two girls. We grew up in Mushin area of Lagos state, in a one room apartment with my parents, siblings and cousins. Each time we want to sleep, everyone takes their position from sleeping vertically on the bed, chair and some would sleep on the mat outside. I grew up without a school bag but a polythene bag; and being sent home for lack of school fees and other common stationary made me place value to a whole lot of things.
Growing up in such environment made me very ambitious because I really wished I could change the situation. It made me who I am, it made me have a picture of who I want to be. It made me aspire for greatness. It was quite unfortunate that I didn’t grow up having role models, I only grew up having people I didn’t want to be like and seeing situation I’d never want to be in.
My environment influenced it. I grew up living in the midst of hoodlums, criminals and people who were comfortable with their lives. I know how damaging these type of environment could influence a child. I’m trying to be a role model, as well as raise them as one. I don’t want them to see these hoodlums and people creating menace in the society as their role models.
We all know how our environment could positively or negatively affect us as individuals. I can never forget the impacts and input of my parents especially my late father, he was strong and strict enough to raise us in a godly and disciplined way. He influenced us, he made sure our environment was not reflected in our lifestyle.
How long have you been into humanitarian works?
I have been into humanitarian works for three years now but took it up with passion last year during an annual orphanage outreach named December to Remember where I was appointed the National Deputy Coordinator of Nigeria.
Do you have an NGO?
No, I don’t have an NGO.
So how do you get funding to carry on with your exploits?
I get funding from my friends, and people who wish to support my project. Although, they are never enough as there are more works to be done, but I am grateful to all my sponsors. I have a lot of projects I would like to embark on targeted at reducing illiteracy rates in Nigeria, but these all involves funding, but I am hopeful that God would see me through. Since I don’t have an NGO but just an individual trying to give back to her society getting finance has always been a challenge though that doesn’t stop me from doing the little I can with what I have. And most times, I don’t get the needed attention because of funds.
How does helping the needy make you feel?
Helping the needy brings a reflection of my background and how I grew up. It gives me a feeling of fulfillment. Seeing the happy faces of children and parents we help makes me feel little by little we all can make the world a better place. It makes me feel good seeing that they can look up to me and aspire to be great.
What do you consider as your most impactful humanitarian gesture?
I have done a lot of humanitarian works and they have been really impactful. Being a National Deputy Coordinator for an orphanage outreach was the most impacting for me. I can boldly say we reached out to over a thousand orphanage homes and street children in 27 states in Nigeria. They were trained in different skill acquisitions programs; ranging from soap, bead making, baking, Adire making etc. Our health care volunteers gave them anti-malarial drugs, treated nets, de-worming drugs and other necessary consumables. They were given food materials, school materials as well as financial helps. We played games and sang with the kids as well. Reaching out to those children under three days was the most impacting experience I’ve had and I’m working to exceed that.
Do you have other interests?
I have interest in the education of vulnerable and children living in slums and undocumented areas. Also, I want to use education in eradicating gender based violence in Nigeria.
Who are your role models?
My role models are Honourable Buumba Malambo from Zambia that built a home for vulnerable children in her community, as well as send them to school to gain knowledge. Also, the founder of La Roche Leadership Foundation, Mrs Osoba, she is a humanitarian with a golden heart. She has a library in her foundation that enables children to read for fun and prepare for examination. She also supports humanitarian workers to create more impact in the society.
Dr. DiPillar Richard who is the founder of Global Goodwill Ambassadors worldwide is also one of my role models. He unites humanitarian workers around the world with the goal of making our world a better place. We also have the opportunity to network with other humanitarian workers outside the country and as well learn from them.
Any word of advice to Nigerians?
Making the world a better place lies in our hands. It’s high time we all take responsibilities for the things happening around us. Waiting on the government to do things is more like a waste of time. We all have the responsibility of making an impact in the society even with little. We should all endeavour to create the Nigeria we want. Try and sponsor a child to school, pay a child’s school fee, get school materials for a child-because education is the key to a sustainable growth in our society. And guess what? you don’t have to own an NGO before doing this.