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We Created EYAF to be a Platform for Anam People to give back to society – Anekwe



Christopher Ejike Anekwe, President of Elite Youths of Anam Foundation (EYAF), believes the foundation has emerged as a beacon of hope for Ndi Anam looking for a platform to contribute their quotas towards socio-economic and political emancipation and development in the area.

In this Interview with ROMANUS OKOYE & OLISEMEKA OBECHE after the summit, the EYAF Boss bares his minds on the progress, challenges and the road ahead for the foundation. Excerpts: The 2023 edition of EYAF, summit has come and gone.

What do you think it will be remembered for?

EYAF 2023 summit will be remembered as a summit that marked a turning point in the development of Anam and Anambra West local government area of Anambra state. As we said before it, the summit provided a platform for new intellectual insight as well as a call to action on the various aspects of development challenges facing Anam communities and Anambra West area under the topics: “Human Capital Development: Breaking Socio-economic and Cultural Bounds” and “Anam Transformation Plan: From Mindset to Landscape.

The Foundation this year honored Dr. Emman Ude-Akpeh with its prestigious Pillar Award.

Can you tell us the rationale behind this award?

Well, the award was given to Dr. Emman Ude-Akpeh for his exceptional dedication and support to EYAF. Ude-Akpeh has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the mission and vision of EYAF. Through his financial contributions, he has played a pivotal role in ensuring the Foundation’s continued growth and success. His generosity has provided vital resources that have enabled EYAF to expand its programs, reach more youth, and make a lasting impact in their lives.

His moral support and guidance have been invaluable to the Foundation. Above all, his unwavering belief in the potential of the youth has inspired countless individuals and motivated them to strive for excellence. As a mentor and advisor, Ude-Akpeh selflessly shared his wisdom and expertise, empowering the young members of EYAF to overcome challenges and pursue their dreams. We honoured Dr. Emman Ude-Akpeh with EYAF’s Pillar Award because we believe he embodies the true spirit of philanthropy and community engagement. His dedication to EYAF’s mission has not only transformed the lives of individual youth but has also had a profound ripple effect on the entire Anam community.

His contributions have created a platform for the youth to thrive, fostering a sense of hope, empowerment, and unity. Because of his trustworthiness, several top professionals and businessmen in Anam have found it worthy to join, support, and empower EYAF.

We are blessed to have him and this award is our token of appreciation for his contribution in our success story. We believe that his deed is worthy of emulation.

How many students have benefited from EYAF’s scholarship scheme so far?

I may not be able to give you the exact figure of the number of students we have sponsored so far, but this year we have nine candidates that we paid their West African Examination Council, WAEC’s Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) registration fees with N50,000 cash deposits each. Last year, we sponsored 32 candidates, four each from the eight communities in Anam. In 2021, we sponsored 16 candidates, two each from the eight communities. We have been paying SSCE registration fees for Anam students since we started but the number varies each year depending on the available funds and outcome of the qualification exam that we normally conduct for them.

How do you ensure transparency and fairness in selecting beneficiaries of the scheme?

Previously, the way we did our selection was to select the first four candidates that scored highest from each of the eight communities across Anam.

Then, last year, we decided to go for excellence instead of equity. We said that it would be better to pick candidates that meet the cut-off mark regardless of the communities they hailed from to encourage academic excellence rather than a quota system. In the previous exercise, someone who scored higher may be dropped once the number of candidates to be selected from the community has been reached whereas someone who scored less from another community was picked to fill the quota of that community. This time around, we gave them an exam and declared that any candidate who scored 50 percent and above would be awarded the scholarship regardless of where he or she hailed from. That was how the nine candidates emerged. They would have been higher if more had met the cut-off mark. So, we are giving every candidate from Anam a fair chance of benefiting from the SSCE registration scholarship award.

What measures have you put in place to ensure that the students’ given scholarships are not stranded along the way in terms of remitting the money?

That is already sorted out as the funds are in the foundation’s account and would be remitted to the schools.

The reason we did not want to give to the candidates in cash is that we don’t want to entertain any story on misuse of the money by their parents or guardians. What we do is that we have the bank account numbers of the schools and we pay directly into them for the registration of those students. We don’t give anybody money to avoid misuse. We have never had any challenge in remitting the monies since we started this initiative and this is not going to be an exception. We have in place a credible system for disbursement of the funds for the intended purpose.

What are the challenges you guys are facing in meeting the goals of this foundation?

Well, it has not been an easy ride for us in the sense that EYAF is a non-profit organization. We don’t have an endowment fund. Our projects are executed with funds donated by members. But the beauty of it is that every year, God usually moves people to sponsor our project. Like this year, the money that they contributed, we have disbursed them, and next year, we are going to do the same and I strongly believe that more and more people will come forward to sponsor what we are doing because they are seeing the results.So, I can say that our number one challenge is financial support.

We don’t have enough funds to do the kind of things we would have loved to do through this foundation. However, that is not stopping us. In life, I have learned that if the will is there, somehow, the provision will come.Another challenge is the poor attitude of our students. Sometimes, these beneficiaries are not showing an encouraging attitude. Over the years, even last year, we have had a situation where we paid for SSCE registration of candidates and they abandoned the WAEC examination that we paid for. Imagine a situation where you spend your money paying for someone to write an exam and the student will abscond insisting that they did not wish to sit for the examination. What we do is to write to the school and demand for refund of our money because we do not have enough funds to waste. The way we operate is that the school we register for the students, we demand for their results at the end of the day. So, once the student is not able to sit for the examination, we demand our money for accountability’s sake. So, the challenge here is that our students don’t value what we are doing. In spite of that, I think we are getting better each year.Naturally, one should expect that this kind of imitative being championed by EYAF would be highly patronized by top political, traditional and community leaders as well as other eminent citizens in the area including NGOs.

To what extent have these people connected to the project so far?

Anyway, I wouldn’t say categorically that our political leaders are not interested in what EYAF is doing. The truth is that we have written and approached so many people in the cause of this project but due to one reason or the other they did not come forward to help. We still believe that someday, they will identify with us once they are convinced that we are trying to make the desired impact in Anam.However, two leaders have been lending their support to us. Hon. Patrick Obalum Udoba (Ezeego), the member representing Anambra West at the Anambra State House of Assembly has been very supportive and approachable.

He will tell us to go ahead that he will assist us and he never fails.Another person who has assisted the foundation greatly is Hon. Victor Jideofor Okoye (Obata-Obie). Last year, he paid for five persons’ WAEC registration fees. We are grateful to these guys and others too numerous to mention for their support in this project.Generally, the support we are receiving from our political elites is not too encouraging but we are not moved by that. I know that if top political leaders had been behind this initiative, we could have done more because one person can single-handedly inject millions of Naira into what we are doing and it will go a long way in helping us achieve our goals. But they will not do it, because they prefer to do things that would make people sing their praises to high heavens whereas we are not ready to blow anybody’s trumpet.One thing I have learned is that most politicians don’t usually do charity unless they are campaigning for political positions.

If a person is vying for a political position, once you approach him for support, he will show up and make promises and after the election, he abandons you to your fate.But we are not discouraged by the poor response we are getting from some of our political elites because the structure we have established is to ensure that the foundation does not depend on political patronage for survival. We are apolitical in nature because we created EYAF to be a platform where Anam People can give back to society. So, whether politicians are positively disposed to support us or not, we are not perturbed or moved.

The topic of this year’s summit resonates with the socio-economic development challenges facing the Anam and Anambra West LGA. Going forward measures will EYAF put in place to ensure that the ideas bounced and recommendations made at the summit did not end up as mere talk-shop?By the way, let me disclose that we are ready to share the softcopies of the lecture papers on the social media platform so that anyone interested can go through them. Normally, our tradition is that for everything that is taught at this year’s summit, we will go back to the drawing board, study them, and adopt them into our action plan. Some of the things we are doing now were derived from the suggestions made during lectures delivered a few years ago.

One of them was given by Dr Chuks Ajie from Umudora Anam. So, we are taking our time to process them and make use of them for the greater good of our people. For our people who witnessed the lecture, we expect that they too will not end up as hearers of the good news but doers of it. The task of transforming Anam or Anambra West is a collective one and if all of us play our part, we will make the desired progress.Is EYAF ready to partner with relevant stakeholders and groups in this project of Anam transformation?Exactly, we are an organization that is committed to working with relevant people and organizations that are ready to invest their resources, ideas or skills for development in Anam. We are not even interested in taking the glory. As long as the project is about giving back to society, we are ready for such a partnership.What makes EYAF unique and well-accepted by well-meaning Anam youths?EYAF is unique because of the idea, vision, and determination of those behind it to make it a foremost non-profit organization.

You see, when the idea came, the drive was education. And you can’t talk about education without the involvement of the learned ones so that they can tell others who have not yet seen the light to do so. We have been able to distinguish ourselves because we are blessed with men and women of intellectuals and experts who were ever ready to put their resources, knowledge, and skills in this project. It is very hard to see any other NGO in Anam that can attract such a large number of intellectuals.We are also unique in the way we plan and implement our programmes/projects as well as manage our human and material resources. The unity of purpose, and organization of EYAF is exceptional. Whenever we gather, we don’t fight or engage in things with a political mindset.

What should we expect from EYAF by the time it celebrates its 10th year anniversary?

Well, we expect the foundation to be the talk of the town because of the massive impact we have been able to make in Anam. Ofcourse our mission is to touch lives, not just that of students but including parents whom we have met at the PTA meetings and August Meetings. We expect that by the time this organization is ten years old, it must have gained enough credibility that enable many people across Anam identify with it.

That is where we are going and it is beyond students affair. We want a situation where everybody will bring whatever he or she has for this common project of transforming Anam. If God blesses you with money, bring it for the project. If God gives you talent, time or anything else you can use to support the foundation’s initiatives.

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