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Published On: Fri, Oct 31st, 2014

I’m inspired by my childhood experience to work for teens – Idika-Chima

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Idika-Chima (1)Ijeoma Idika-Chima, is a child protection officer of Global Youth Ambassador, United Nation’s online volunteer and Mandela Washington fellow. Also, she is the founder of Teenz Global Foundation (TGF), an Abuja based Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO). In this interview with Stanley Onyekwere, the 23 year-old graduate of English Language from the University of Abuja, who hails from Ebonyi state, reveals how her childhood experience inspires her to work for teens especially the vulnerable ones in the society. Excerpts:

As a child protection ambassador, how do you go about tackling issues affecting young people?

I focus on maximizing the education sector for the child. Recently, my organization was able to give scholarship for one academic session to five teenagers in secondary schools. And we are hoping to continue with them next year as well as increase the number. It is looking at implementing our apprenticeship programme for young people especially teenage girls in rural communities. And within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), so far, we have visited over 18 public schools in several communities, where we reached out to teenagers with trainings for them, including their teachers. We have also had mentorship programme that cuts across leadership, communication and entrepreneurship skills as well as career counseling, because we found out that these are some of the challenges that many young people are faced with, as they grow into adult hood in the society. Equally, it is within the FCT that we have a television programme that focuses on issues that are affecting young people, which we are looking at improving on the content as we continue expanding our reach. We also have our magazine-the TGF that we distribute to teenagers. It is an educational magazine that will help re-orientate their minds towards positive change. Our target group is mostly vulnerable children; that’s those who are ophans, those from poor and broken homes. And we also work with parents and teachers.

What are the major challenges you face while pursuing your NGO’s objectives?

Number one challenge is access to funds for the project implementation. So far, we have worked in six states and the FCT, where we had affected the lives of over ten thousand teenagers, since 2011, and we are hoping to do more. Then, we also face the challenge of inadequate human resource, as we need to increase our staff strength, as most of the time we always had to rely on help from volunteers, to be able to implement most of the projects we do. I think those are the two major challenges, but we are also looking forward at getting a conducive operation office space.

Where do you draw your motivation from, to do what you are doing?

I was inspired by my childhood experience. As a young girl (teenager) that was growing up, I went through quite a number challenges. Because those experiences, I had go through tough decision making process at that early stage of my life. And I also discovered that a lot of teenagers these days are really into social vices and crimes in the society, because it is within the period of they are faced with lots of critical decision making in life. And they are not really well guided for them to know what to actually decide on at that point. So, basically my early experience, my passion for children and the desire to impact positively the life of teenagers.

Recently, you had to traveled to the USA, where you participated in a leadership workshop for a select young Africans. Tell us about it…

I was selected as the youngest Nigerian participant at age 23, to participate atthis year’s Young African Leaders Initiative sponsored by President Barack Obama, in the USA. And I had training on civic leadership, aimed at enhancing my leadership skills in the area. Also we were able to meet with organizations that do similar work to what we do here in Nigeria. From that, I was able to learn new strategies and approach on how they implement their projects. Again, the trip has really helped to improve on what I’m really doing, which to empower teenagers with life skills and promotion of access to education. Also, being able to meet other young African leaders from other countries in the continent, who are doing the same amazing work like I do here, I was able to draw experience from them, including looking at the challenges they face comparing them with the ones I face here (Nigeria). So, with the interactions with other young leaders from across Africa were more of being able to identify that the change we need in Africa begins from us that are young leaders. And that means that we have the power to be able to impact positively on our respective communities, and that we can actually bring about positive change if we were able to do no matter how little, to affect the lives of people around us. Generally, one thing I brought home from the Americans, is their humility and value for young people, which is what in our own society, we need to start learning that young people are actually the future. This is what we must realize- that it is time we start investing in the next generation, else we will end up breeding with a crop of adults, who really do not know actually what to do or become in life.

Idika-Chima

During the programme, you met face to face with President Obama, how was the feeling like?

I really can’t explain how I felt, as it was unexplainable. But, I felt great. Because, we were all there, and he (President Obama) walked in; and we were really seeing him live and direct. It was something that at a point I couldn’t just believe that it was real, I said to myself that may be I was dreaming. But at the end, it was awesome. We also had the opportunity with President Goodluck Jonathan, who was there for the US-Africa leaders submit, including top US government officials.

From the interactions you had with other young persons from other parts of the world especially non-Africans, what were their perception about Nigeria?

For the average young Americans, they tend to see not just Nigeria but Africa at large, as a people still living in primitive age. They look at us with this perception like do you people have cars, do you leave in houses? Because they that we live on the trees and all that. So going through the Yali programme, we had the opportunity to really change this perception held by some Americans, for them to see that we in Africa, not Nigeria alone have bright and talented young leaders who are going to chance the fate of the continent away from what they have come to know it in the past.

Miss Ijeoma Idika-Chima

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