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NGOs - SDGs

How these Nigerians in Diaspora are seeking inclusion and social justice for persons living with disabilities in Africa

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Green Onyx Foundation co-Founders, Nwamaka Agbakoba and Ijeoma Popoola (Source: Nwamaka Agbakoba)

Green Onyx Foundation is dedicated to supporting the holistic well-being of individuals living with disabilities or are affected by disabilities. The foundation is on a mission to ensure; in the places where they work, that vulnerable populations living with special needs are safe, supported and adequately cared for.

About The Foundation

Green Onyx Foundation is headquartered in the United States. We work primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa with footprints in the United States and Canada. Oftentimes, individuals with disabilities are overlooked and are not celebrated for their unique abilities and allowed to bloom as they were purposed to do. In providing support(s) as an organization, we hope to bring regeneration in a sector so often overlooked.

Although their project plans are Africa-wide, the first projects kick-off in Nigeria because both Founders are Nigerian by birth. They had also previously pooled their personal efforts together on social media to benefit the inclusion space in Nigeria. Their decision to work together in Africa is simple. Both know and understand how challenging navigating disabilities and achieving the highest possible quality of life is. It is quite the challenge in places like Nigeria. In more developed nations, the journey to inclusion has not come without a fight for persons with disabilities to be afforded human rights at the very minimum.

Some of this has only been achieved through self-advocacy. Where there are such high incidences of poverty and the public sector just does not work for various reasons, how do you start to advocate for these rights? They see themselves as a support to handhold and show what is possible through education. At the same time, they are wise enough to understand the issues in the land. They want to provide practical support to families where possible, and to disability support services such as orphanages that rescue children whom their families cannot care for. These children staying with their birth families sometimes endangers them. Some of the pressure on families is societal so attention needs to be focused there as well.

Green Onyx Foundation is committed to making an impact seeking inclusion and social justice for people living with disabilities on a national and international level.

How They Work

The Foundation sponsors and creates educational, advocacy campaigns educating on various types of disabilities and healthy attitudes towards the same. They act as a resource center for parents with special needs kids, seeking out and passing on resources to enhance their children’s quality of life.

Their aim is never to duplicate efforts where they are already existent. Green Onyx Foundation (GOF) in instances where services are existent, will partner with, amplify, and provide backing through collaborations, capacity building and/or channeling funding to verified local organizations that provide critical support services to persons living with disabilities, building inclusion, creating awareness, and supporting entrepreneurial activities in the disabilities sector in Africa.

The first year has been one of putting formal structure around the Foundation, getting to know the organizations in the space, what their initiatives are and building strategies for engagement. They have executed pilot projects to understand what works and delivers the greatest impact in an ecosystem where there is so much lacking both on private levels as well as from a public sector perspective. By this they mean that you can speak all the grammar that you want on a high level until you are blue in the face, but if you are not supporting in ways that a person can have basic sustenance, then you will very soon start to find that you no longer have an audience. Their approach to tackling disabilities is therefore multipronged.

Impact Story and Aspirations

To date, they have been able to raise approximately NGN 10 million in friends and family drives. The funds they have raised have gone towards cash donations, food items, rent, holiday donations, pandemic relief, and physiotherapy for children in a special needs orphanage. What they have also done in some instances is to directly match donors in the diaspora who want to give to causes in Nigeria but might have been burned previously due to lack of integrity. Based on the relationships they have built in the sector; they are able to responsibly match make donors to causes within the disabilities sector leading to higher levels of impact and accountability recorded.

They have also provided mentorship to persons with disabilities as well as support providers in the space. Their hope is that as the team expands, they will have the bandwidth to undertake more mentoring opportunities through staff and volunteers. Research is another area of interest to them because having quality data will attract more willing and better guided donor funding as well as investments into the market. They say investments because there is a need to build universal infrastructure to accommodate everyone including people with disabilities. Accessibility is a fundamental right and we also must remember that not everyone who lives with disabilities lives in poverty.

Their hope over the next nine months of 2021, is to have formed at least three Corporate partnerships to raise funding that will enable them to begin to create content for television, radio, social media, and print in English, pidgin and at least the major Nigerian languages to formally kick off their campaign for disability rights. Their messaging as always will be to deliver education and advocacy in the simplest, most relatable means. They also hope to have made the connections needed within the public sector to help facilitate the bits of our work that the private sector cannot achieve.

About The Founders

Founder

Nwamaka Agbakoba has a business background with a BBA, Finance from Kent State University, Ohio and an MBA, Emerging Markets Finance from Kogod School of Business, American University, Washington DC. Nwamaka has spent several years working in the International Development sector including at the World Bank and on programs in Nigeria funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Outside of her formal career working in the International Development and financial sectors,she pride herself on being a serial entrepreneur. The common thread between the ventures she has been involved in is social justice.

Working on disability issues comes from a personal place for her. She identifies as a person living with disabilities. The conditions she live with are Rheumatoid Arthritis and a chronic lung impairment. She is also a Mom whose young child lives with Cerebral Palsy and a couple of co-occurrences. The awareness of these societal issues and her personal issues cemented her interest in focusing on helping other parents and persons living with disabilities navigate this difficult road by educating themselves enough to find a voice to become their own advocates.

Co-Founder

Ijeoma Popoola is a very strong advocate and resource for persons living with disabilities. She has experience as a Special Needs Educator with a Severe/Profound Special Education certification. Ijeoma has three master’s degrees in Special Education Administration, International Relations and Human Relations. She is currently a Doctoral candidate pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Administration and Leadership. Her Doctoral research is focused on special education in Nigeria. Ijeoma is also Founder for Mrs. IJS Kids which is a knowledge house that disseminates information on building an inclusive educational system both from the public sector and educator perspectives.

Ijeoma’s journey to working on disability issues started as a burden on her heart to be of more assistance to her neighbors. As a Mom of three daughters, she strongly believes there is a Proverbs 31 woman inside each one of them that will drive change in the world to include persons with disabilities in every career field. Ijeoma’s passion continued to grow after she took on a job teaching in the public-school system in Oklahoma. The rapport she was able to build and the ensuing impact on kids who have severe disabilities, and their parents was an affirmation on what can be achieved with the right tools, systems, and nurture. It prompted her to keep enhancing her knowledge on inclusion in the educational system.

Connect by email at info@greenonyxfoundation.org

 

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NGOs - SDGs

Mercy Ships and Mission Aviation Fellowship renew partnership to bring life-changing surgery to African patients

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Mercy Ships and Mission Aviation Fellowship Team (Image: Supplied).

Humanitarian aid organizations Mercy Ships and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) have renewed their partnership to help bring life-changing surgical care to isolated communities across Africa.

Mercy Ships operates state-of-the-art hospital ships, providing free surgeries and healthcare services to sub-Saharan nations with limited access to safe surgical care. MAF’s purpose is to bring help, hope and healing through aviation to people living in isolation and poverty.

The renewed memorandum of agreement between these two faith-based charities enables Mercy Ships to extend their reach further inland to a broader spectrum of the population across Africa, bolstered by MAF’s logistical support. This partnership, launched in Madagascar, will enable teams to access hard-to-reach areas and transport patients in need of critical surgical interventions. This collaboration provides opportunities for those in the most remote and inaccessible regions of the country. Further joint initiatives are being explored in other African nations.

“Traveling by road in Madagascar can be incredibly challenging due to the rough terrain and poor infrastructure,” Michael Jurgensen, MAF Madagascar Country Director, said. “In many cases, reaching remote villages can take days by car, draining valuable time and energy. However, with MAF Madagascar’s support, the [Mercy Ships] patient selection team can cover vast distances swiftly and safely, enabling them to visit multiple locations within a short period. Flying not only saves time for the selection team, but also ensures the team can travel to evaluate and select patients from the most isolated and underserved areas for surgery on-ship at a later date.

A 2016 study of Madagascar revealed that only 20% of the population can access surgical services within a two-hour timeframe, and up to 95% would face financial ruin if they required surgery (source: BMJ Global Health). With a scarcity of surgeons — approximately 1 for every 100,000 people — the prospect of receiving necessary surgical treatment seems unattainable for many (source: WHO).

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Bernard van den Bosch, who has worked for both MAF and Mercy Ships, and current Director of the Africa Services Center at Mercy Ships, expressed his enthusiasm: “We are confidently re-engaging with MAF because together we are stronger. The country of Madagascar has many hard-to-reach areas, and MAF is the key to accessing them. Non-profit organizations can ‘compete,’ but ultimately, we all serve the same goal. I see many opportunities for future collaboration and intensive joint efforts.”

Bastiaan de Waal, Africa Regional Director of MAF, added: “By transporting Mercy Ships teams with our aircraft to the interior of Madagascar, we provide help, hope and healing to residents with the surgical care they desperately need. The need is high in these areas, and these people in isolated communities are equally entitled to care. We are pleased to partner alongside Mercy Ships to support this often-forgotten group. Being each other’s hand and foot is what we are called to do and we have a shared synergy of vision and values.”

This renewed collaboration between MAF and Mercy Ships exemplifies how strategic partnerships can enhance humanitarian efforts, ensuring that more people receive the critical medical care they need. The two organizations previously partnered from 2014 to 2016 in Madagascar and have worked together in Liberia.

Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, the Africa Mercy®, has been docked in Toamasina since February and is delivering surgery and training. The ship is actively collaborating with Madagascar’s Ministry of Health to identify the most pressing needs and strengthen the country’s surgical systems through its education, training, and advocacy program.

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NGOs - SDGs

Climate Launchpad: Beyond competition, a catalyst for change

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Climate Launchpad Competition 2023 Image.

Despite the success of The Climate Launchpad Competition 2023, Climate Launchpad through the support of Climate-KIC and Irish Aid provided additional support to the participants of the competition through the Post-Climate Launchpad Accelerator. Given that the majority of the participants are early-stage businesses, capacity building is a necessity. The post-competition support is divided into 2, The masterclasses that are being handled by the Climate Launchpad Global team which has participants from over 7 African countries, and The national capacity-building session handled by the Climate LaunchPad Nigeria Team. 

The Masterclass session featured a business-changing session on important modules like funding options & Instruments, Gender and Climate, Communications and Storytelling, Climate Impact etc.  The national capacity-building session focuses on marketing strategies, practical and optimal use of social media and analytics. As an early-stage business in Nigeria, one of the major challenges you face is reaching and communicating with your potential customers at the market entry stage. The modules were selected after feedback from alumni of the competition. 

The modules have been proven to be useful as we have started seeing the tractions of the businesses on social media. Overall, the post-competition support program has been no short of helpful to the businesses. We had 5 active participants from Nigeria who have expressed their gratitude for the post-competition support. Each of them will be given a grant of EUR200 to facilitate their marketing and social media usage.

The National Lead for Climate Launchpad Nigeria, Oluwatosin Ajide affirms the importance of the accelerator program “If we have more competition dedicating their support beyond just the pitching like Climate Launchpad does, We would have more green businesses with solid foundations”. He also thanked the Climate Launchpad central team and the sponsors the Climate-KIC and Irish Aid for their constant support in building the green ecosystem in Nigeria.

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NGOs - SDGs

GEANCO Foundation and Archewell Foundation Announce Mental Health Initiative for Nigerian Youth

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The GEANCO Foundation and The Archewell Foundation has announced an expansion of their partnership, currently serving girls and young women across Nigeria with menstrual health products and education, to include mental health resources and training for young men and women. 

This expanded partnership kicked off with its inaugural Mental Health Summit, taking place over two days and serving nearly 200 students in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and co-Founders of The Archewell Foundation opened the Summit by delivering inspiring remarks to the young people in attendance.

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GEANCO intends to hold summits throughout the country over the next year, providing teenage girls and boys with the information, skills, and coping mechanisms necessary to flourish mentally.

“Youth in Nigeria are critically underserved in terms of mental and menstrual health”, said GEANCO’s CEO Afam Onyema.  “I am deeply grateful to The Duke and Duchess for partnering with us to address this crisis and provide this vulnerable but inspiring young generation with what they need to thrive in body, mind and spirit.”  

A strong stigma also surrounds mental health in Nigeria, which is critically neglected in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3% of the federal government’s health budget goes to mental health, and while up to one-third of Nigerians have mental health challenges, fewer than 500 mental health professionals serve the country’s 200 million plus citizens.  Nigeria’s teens and youth in particular have little to no access to mental health support.

The expanded partnership will also continue the ongoing work to support young girls with menstrual health products and education. An estimated 37 million women and girls in Nigeria experience “period poverty”, meaning they are unable to access or afford menstrual products like pads, tampons, and underwear. Because of the material difficulties caused by period poverty and the deep stigma surrounding menstruation, millions of girls in the country miss school every month, crippling their educational advancement and deepening Nigeria’s already vast levels of gender inequality.

GEANCO Foundation provides critical health care and education services in Nigeria. Its David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship provides full tuition, medical care, and social and emotional support to young female victims of terrorism and gender inequality in Nigeria.

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