There is no better way he could have let his passion make a difference in benefiting humanity and helping bring change into our world than his community and civic engagements through his organization, Hope for African Children Initiative – a volunteer-driven social development organization increasing access to quality education for out-of-school children in Nigeria.
The passionate actions and interventions of Noel Ify Alumona, the founder and director of the organization have shown that there could also be nothing more rewarding than using one’s skills and experience to help people in poor communities expand opportunity for themselves and their children and work with them to fight issues such as social exclusion, gender inequality, poor governance that keep them entrenched in poverty, lack of access to inclusive education etc
On the 18th of December, 2017, Noel Ify Alumona led a group of about 50 volunteers to Makoko, a slum community in Lagos known as a hub for the greatest number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Makoko, home to an estimated 100,000 people, has received a lot of attention from the media both local and international for its uniqueness as a floating community and for its challenges with demolition threats from the government. In July 2012, government officials destroyed dozens of residences in the community after giving residents 72-hour-notice of eviction. As much as the lagoon adds to the fascination experienced by visitors to the community, it also contributes heavily to the waste management challenge it faces. Polythene materials tossed into gutters and drainages at other parts of Lagos somehow find their ways into the lagoon and then sticks to the bases of the wooden homes in the community.
However, that is not to rule out the fact that many of the community dwellers really do not care much about sanitation. Many children in the community also do not have access to education and other learning opportunities.
The occasion which witnessed mentorship, career talks and skills acquisition for over 1,000 children living in the slum was in accordance with the advocacy program of the organization.
With children under 15 years of age accounting for about 45 per cent of the country’s population, the burden on education and other sectors has become overwhelming.
“While many children in the slum do not go to school, the slum environment, poverty and lack of school facilities are enough challenges in ensuring quality education and satisfactory learning achievement for the children living in the slum area. It is not rare to see cases of 100 pupils per teacher or students sitting in the small classroom space of school buildings which are usually on water because of the lack of classrooms,” the organization said.
An example was that of Queen Esther, an 8year old little girl who had never been to school in her entire life but was awarded a scholarship to cover everything about her school from primary till she finishes her secondary education. Recounting his encounter with Queen, Noel Ify Alumona had this to say.
“I met her at the slum in Makoko, paddling a boat all by herself. There was something so extraordinary about her; her charisma, her pretty smiles, her calmness. This beautiful girl is about 8years old, with a crown on her head. Her name as we found out later is Esther. While our volunteers went through the Makoko slum, our attention was caught by the crown on her head and her carriage as she passed us, paddling the boat by herself.
I tried exchanging pleasantries with her but she couldn’t speak nor respond in English. She, instead, responded with pretty smiles. We got off the boat, called her and requested to see the family. After our enquiries, we got to know that she has never been to school at all because her family could not afford to send her to school. Well, the good news is that we offered her a full scholarship to cover both her primary and secondary education, including school materials and uniforms. This is under our HACI SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME which aims at ensuring that no child is left out of the classroom. Esther’s case really taught me that wherever you find yourself, you should always stand out. She wasn’t just the only kid we saw at the slum, but she was exceptional. She stood out. Her smiles, her crown, her carriage, she paddling herself all by herself. …they all made her outstanding,” he said.
“By January , she will be enrolled into the primary school and everything will be provided for her.
She is just one amongst thousands of children in Makoko and in Nigeria that haven’t got the privilege of being to a classroom to learn how their lives can be better let alone the world. We may not know the plight of children like Esther, until someone who’s close to us finds himself or herself in such a situation. Wherever and whoever you can help, ensure you touch a life at least. Send one child to school, and you end up giving a whole community a facelift,” Noel added.
For Funmi Obayemi, a mother of one of the children who benefitted from the scholarships expressed appreciation to the organization, saying they have helped her child secure a bright future by sending him to school. However, for Akhigbemi Odowa, another mother, such programs should not be a one-day affair. She wished that such interventions should happen often in the community. She also expressed appreciation to the organization for coming at all but urged them to work on making it a more sustainable exercise.
For Ikechukwu Ugwuanyi, a pharmacist and one of the board members of the organization who was part of the 50 volunteers that participated in the reach out, “the intervention will go a long way in making the expected impact of improving lives because the organization, engaging the community on their behalf is a young vibrant NGO that has displayed remarkable passion for adding value to the lives of children born in the slums.”
Six other children also received scholarships to continue with their education, while school materials, school bags, sandals and writing materials were distributed to about 1,000 children who were there at the event.