Queen Babafemi Aina is the Founder, Hope Without Borders Foundation (HWBF); a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) which caters for the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. In this chat with ENE OSANG, the one time Corporate Affairs Manager with a Diplomatic Visa Magazine discusses her passion for the poor and why she resigned from a high profile job to care for the needy.
What motivated you to start the NGO?
My motivation to start the NGO is my passion to help the needy around me. HWBF is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to improving lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the society. Our vision is to become the primary partner for governments, corporate organizations, institutional donors and individuals who seek to contribute toward making the society a better place for the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.
We are committed to empowering unemployed youths economically, socially, morally and psychologically through vocational education and support programs. Our activities cuts across organizing social events, competitions, youth fun-fairs, mentoring and entrepreneurial programs as well as character and attitude development.
The second objective is to Work with government and partners to bring quality healthcare services to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society; health is wealth as we all know and this foundation seeks to promote every issues concerning health in all corners of the country, relating to HIV/AIDS campaign, Child Health, Maternal Health, Healthy Lifestyle Campaign, Healthy Nutrition, Malaria, Cancer Awareness Campaign, and all that matters to health.
Our third objective is to work with government and partners to provide shelter for the homeless and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This is a structure of the foundation that is taken with so much concern because the unpleasant sight of how these people live after being displaced is heartbreaking. In the past, people have suffered displacement due to natural disasters like flooding, internal uprisings, and now acts of terrorism. Hope without Borders Foundation, believes that within the period of such occurrence, the foundation will give hope to these people and show them love.
How did you learn about the Internally Displaced Persons by the Boko Haram sect in Wasa village?
I was working with Diplomatic Visa magazine as Corporate Affairs Manager where I was invited to attend national days of different countries and other diplomatic engagement. I miss the diplomatic community but I resigned to start the HWBF because I felt the street needed me.
We visited the IDP camp at new Kuchingoro, Durumi and that of Wasa in the outskirts of Apo here in Abja, and of all the camps WASA IDP camp which is the farthest of them all, with a very poor road network lacked most basic amenities and this became the motivator for us at HWBF. We asked the IDP’s of their most immediate needs and they said they don’t need food nor clothes but they need medical attention and education for their children.
The school located there is quite expensive for most of them so the kids have stayed two years without education.
We decided to provide the education first because that is what I could afford as it is a self-funded project which we tagged #Educational Project.
What are the facilities put together in this Educational Project?
We are putting together complete educational facilities for these children. From the classroom to the school clinic, to their school uniforms, their books, desks, writing pads, school shoes, electronic gadgets for the infants, sports and recreational facilities.
What number of children are we looking at as beneficiaries of this project?
At the moment, we have a total number of 60 children and 30 adults. We have made uniforms for the children, bought exercise books, text books, tables and chairs, children laptops for learning, white writing board, and all necessary writing materials needed for a school start-up.
On the 9th of May, we launch a classroom that will accommodate 60 children. This is to accommodate 30 Nursery children and 30 Primary Pupils all in one day. We have also mapped out two sessions for the school, which is the morning and the afternoon session, and soon we will have a bigger space that will accommodate everyone.
Also, we have made provisions for adults’ education in our centre which started on 16th of May this year and their classes run from 3pm to 4pm after the Nursery and Primary Sections. We have five teachers at the moment and they are going to be paid monthly, they have filled their employment letters, provided their bank accounts and we have all the bio-data of the teachers and children that are beneficiaries of these project. Also, the acceptance letters from their parents written in English and Hausa signed to accept their children to be trained. We believe with this educational project for these children, they would be able to fit back into the school system until the government is ready to relocate them to their various states.
As part of our objectives, we have healthcare projects and empowerment project coming up soon for the IDP’s and we want to use these medium to encourage healthcare organizations and non-governmental organizations whose objectives are on health care services to please find time from their busy schedules to visit the IDPs and attend to their medical needs especially the children and pregnant women.
What do you hope to achieve with this project?
HWBF is committed to actively raising the quality of life for every child; we want all children regardless of race, creed or circumstance to achieve their full potential, and our task is to make it happen. The full development of every child is a goal that is important today as it was then and I know we all share in this goal. The Foundation recognizes good reading skills established in childhood as the foundation of fulfilling, and ongoing education. We will keep up the work we have started and together we will bring hope, happiness and improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Where are you from?
I’m from Ukanafun Local government area of Akwa Ibom state.
You are from the south-south yet assisting northerners, what really inspired you?
What inspired me to start the NGO is my passion to help the needy around me. The state am from doesn’t really matter when it comes to helping the needy. We are all human, so religion, colour, sex and nationality is not a barrier. That was why when I taught of the best name the NGO should be called, giving hope to the less privileged without borders not considering the religion, sex, colour and nationality of who is in need.
HWBF is not limited to my country Nigeria because its mission is to improve lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the society across the world, but charity begins at home. I must assist people around me in my own little way.
What is your opinion on the increasing number of IDP’s in Nigeria?
The increasing numbers of IDP’S is really heartbreaking. It’s very difficult to get an accurate figure of the IDP’s now because fresh cases are emerging which are caused by violence, storms and flood. Nigeria has the largest population of IDP’s in Africa which was 3.3million according to Global overview 2014 and was released by Internal Displaced Monitoring center (IDMC).
The increasing deadly attacks on people and the destruction of properties, farmlands and businesses have forced many people to flee to nearby towns and villages for safety, and violence is now almost on a daily basis in some part of the country.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been able to set up camps at different locations in various states to accommodate the IDP’s for the time being until government provides a permanent solution. I believe government must be challenged to manage the welfare and the future of the IDP’s but we encourage the government to provide basic needs like healthcare, education, empowerment, food and water for a brighter tomorrow.
How did you select the children who are benefitting from the educational project?
We choose one of the IDP’s to coordinate all the children and parents and inform them about the Educational project; we made him submit names of all the children in the camp so we could group them by age to know the classes they fit into. He submitted 2,119 names of children but we couldn’t afford to train that number of children because am the one funding the project since we haven’t gotten partners nor donors yet. We started with 100 children which we had to divide them into groups to be able to meet their needs. We could afford to train 60 children for both nursery and primary then 30 adults for adults’ education for now.
Do you think government is catering for these IDP’s as it should?
The government is challenged in catering for 3.3 million IDPS but I believe the government can look deep into this situation and provide more support towards catering for the needs of the IDPS. The IDPS in Nigeria is really a call for urgent intervention.
Does your husband support this project?
Yes he does, He gives all the necessary support needed for me to never give up on my passion.
How do you manage work and the home front, any challenges?
It’s been very challenging but with the support from my husband it’s been quite easy because sometimes I have to go to the camps over the weekend. I inform him earlier so he can also manage his schedule to fit into mine and he takes care of the kids.
What would be your message to Nigerians?
My message to Nigerians is that we as individuals can assist the internally displaced persons in our various state by visiting them frequently to donate food and show them love, these makes them to have a sense of belonging that they have not been forgotten.
Hope without Borders Foundation provides a platform where individuals can “adopt a child” and train the child through school. The child does not live with you but stays with the parents in the camp. We provide the bio-data of the child and the parent to them who are training the child and at the end of the term we send school report to them to know how the child is improving. A monthly donation of 5,000naira will make a difference.