Vivian Unamba is the founder and CEO of VIVA Foundation, a not-for-profit, voluntary, service-oriented organization committed to promoting the well-being of the vulnerable women, youths as well as orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in Nigeria
What is the mission of VIVA Foundation and how far have you gone in achieving that mission?
VIVA Foundation was incorporated as Viva Initiative for the Vulnerable in Africa (VIVA) with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2017 as a non-profit-making, voluntary, service-oriented organization committed to promoting the well-being of vulnerable people.
The membership of the organization is open to people with honest interest in human development particularly in the areas of socio-economic empowerment, health services promotion, education, good governance and infrastructure development.
Our mission is to advance the lives of children, girl child, women and other vulnerable groups through educational campaigns, advocacy, training, community mobilization and engagement, capacity development, as well as household economic strengthening and service delivery.
However, the journey of helping people is not a one-off process; it is a nonstop process because the more you help people the more you come across people who are desirous of your assistance. One therefore wonders why despite many charitable organizations working across the world we have not been able to completely eradicate poverty.
This is because every day there are people getting into the cycle of poverty, some are even born into abject poverty and without the right support they will grow up in poverty, get married and give birth to children that will also be deep rooted in the cycle of poverty. So, the cycle continues hence poverty eradication intervention is not something you do on one occasion; it is something you have to do continuously.
Therefore, we have been able to focus on women and children, both of whom are vulnerable members of the society. Women empowerment is also germane to societal development because when you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
We also discovered that the problem in Nigeria is not just about getting formal education because there are a lot of educated youths who are university graduates yet they are unemployed, however, if they have the right skill set they can become self-reliant.
Therefore, we started thinking of engaging youths who have graduated from university but do not have jobs and others who are not even educated in various forms of vocational activities. We reached out to friends who are successful in their businesses to accept these youths and train them in various skills such as fashion designing, wood work and Plaster of Paris (POP) roofing.
It is gladdening that the youths we have trained in vocations such as fashion design are now gainfully employed which is very encouraging and we are not relenting, we will continue to do our best, I believe with the right support we can do even better. We urge well-meaning individuals, those who are established in their different fields of endeavour to be more involved in societal development by providing these youngsters with the right support to become economically independent.
What is your assessment of the impact you have made so far as a foundation?
We are glad to have impacted on the lives of many people particularly women, youths and OVCs; amongst others there are about 100 girls attending junior secondary school who are enrolled in our school support programme in northern of Nigeria.
You will be surprised to hear that their school fees is as little as NGN1000, however, having lost either of their parents they cannot pay these fees. These Orphans and Vulnerable Children who have lost their parents, especially their fathers are helpless since their mothers are not economically empowered to cater for them.
Therefore, before you know it these girls are married off at the tender age of 13 or 14 hence automatically dropping out of school. I remember, at Government Girls Secondary School, Kura in Kano State – which is one of the schools where we provide scholarship for girls – the principal was so overwhelmed by our kind gesture that she said they would put up my picture in their administrative block as a way of showing gratitude.
Although I turned down the offer I will like to say these kinds of experiences are really humbling and encourage us to do more.
Sometimes, we get overwhelmed and feel like giving up however remembering these girls make us feel grateful that at least we are in a position to add value and change lives. I also remember our visit to the IDPs to support them with relief materials and the children were looking at us as if we were from another planet because of the luxuries the believe we were blessed with but which we take for granted; such luxuries mean the world to them.
What are your plans for VIVA Foundation going forward; where do you hope to see yourself in the next 10 years?
We want to be able to help at least 10 million children and youths in Nigeria to optimize their full potentials. This may sound vague but it is achievable not necessarily single-handedly as VIVA Foundation but probably working with other civil society organisations and well-meaning individuals who believe in the same cause.
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