We reached out to the founder of Enene Nsed Akonjom Foundation, a Nigerian – based NGO that works to help meet the needs of the voiceless members of society. They aim to solve basic problems in areas of health, education, food and shelter.
Enene Nsed Akonjom talks to us about the importance of creating the foundation, challenges faced, success stories and how her faith has been crucial to her perseverance despite of the challenges. We are excited to shed light on Enene Nsed Akonjom in OURS, with this informative interview on her mission.
Why do you think it was important to create this foundation?
Creating a foundation was my own way of giving back to the society. The vision was born when I volunteered for the Positive Development Care Foundation (a non governmental organization that is one of the best in catering to vulnerable people, specifically surviving with HIV and AIDS) in 2005 in Calabar, Cross River State, after graduating from university.
Here I had the opportunity to meet with vulnerable people in their numbers with all kinds of problems. In the course of my work with them, I was upgraded to be a project accountant which mean I was responsible for disbursing funds for different missions. “My boss would often say Enene you’re not a true accountant, because if you were everyone would not be so in love with you, you’re too generous.”
I was suspended from my office for giving out funds to beneficiaries during my field activities, beyond what the allocated budget allowed for. Whenever you’re in the field, you see problems you can’t help but try to solve, even when they have not been budgeted for. This motivated me to establish my own foundation with my own strategies, goals, vision and blueprint to tackle urgent humanitarian issues.
I have always given beyond boundaries. My mum still tells me how at the age of three I would give out her expensive jewelry to her friends who visited our home and appeared not to look nice and how I would give my clothes to my village friends who wore torn ones whenever we played together.
What kind of programs does the organisation have in place to implement change?
Project Save Rural Primary Schools: This initiative is aimed at making public primary schools very enviable, through the provision of basic facilities the children will be enjoying over time, depopulating private schools, in other so to assist poor parents who desire high standard of education for their children save funds which would have been used to pay huge school fees in private schools to make ends meet.
Children in most rural primary schools across Nigeria lack all that makes learning fun as children, a conducive learning environment- they lack, chairs, tables, toys and other learning aids. In most of the schools visited, teaching ends for the day once it starts raining because of their leaking roofs, broken ceilings and rotten wood. The classroom walls are so dirty, only worsening the school environment.
The children have shredded the mat given to them to seat on ,using it as play item as a result of lack of play toys, they also play with very dangerous weapons like brooms sticks, stones and sand. The story behind the sand is so unpleasant, these primary schools lack toilet facilities, so children and adult defecate right behind the school most times when it rains the water behind and the one in front meets, this leads to the soil around been infected with several germs, the introduction of toys will go along way to reduce infection through playing with sand, the danger of using broom stick to play which could lead to a child being blinded will be reduced and also the fear of a child’s head getting broken with a stone by another child is reduced too. It all boils down to preventing child mortality.
During our need assessment tour our team decided to make school renovation/reconstruction our CORE. We knew that if something isn’t done quickly, it would only be a matter of time before the rotten wood/ceiling would fall down onto the heads of the children. We have supported three schools in Ebonyi and Cross River State respectively between 2015 and 2016 with complete renovations of classroom blocks, donation of chairs, tables, toys, books, bags, uniforms etc.
Our school rehabilitation/reconstruction program in rural primary schools across Cross River and Ebonyi State have increased enrollment of children into the public primary schools we worked with by 60%.
What are some of the most important short and long term measurable goals the organisation would like to achieve?
In the long run children will be taken off the streets where they will be able to pursue their dreams, poverty will be eradicated through our periodic empowerment programs and youth will be able to make better choices.
To expand, providing more support for rural children in the area of quality education, ensuring their learning environment is conducive, conducting value re-orientation programs for youths and increasing our spread on women/youth empowerment through capacity building trainings and skill seminars.
What are some of the greatest challenges and how can the public contribute?
Finding financial means for implementation of activities is one of our greatest challenge. The largest amount of support comes from international governments and donor agencies, especially from Western countries. The funding is usually short-term and directed at specific projects which make it hard to implement activities in a sustainable way. Limited capacity, lack of local resource mobilization are also some of our challenges.
Truly an NGO cannot achieve its goals for a better society on its own. Community needs are too numerous and society’s problems are too complex. The public can assist the NGO move its organizational goals through volunteering their time to support programs technically, through material donations and through partnership with other NGOs as well.
How do you collaborate with the government to further your mission?
Yes, we seriously bridge the gap between the communities and the government. We work hand in hand with the gatekeepers of the community, identifying problems through advocacy visits, need assessment procedures, supporting them in prioritizing their needs and helping them draw scale of preference to determine their felt needs. We do two things to achieve this, we serve as Advocates to the communities where we raise our voices in the media, through radio and print media on issues affecting communities as well as develop proposals for government and private organizations seeking for financial and material resources to further community programs. Donors have been very supportive over the past seven years.
What are your days like?
Hectic always! Advocacy visits to communities, conducting needed assessment inspection (identifying, defining community problems and determining the way forward to solving the problems, conducting mentorship/counseling sessions with youths/mentees, checking and replying to mails, making and returning calls, following up with weekly targets while watching my favorite movies- mafia movies. And so I have said goodbye to my accounting career to fully dedicate myself to this cause.