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
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.
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.
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