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New beginning in charity work

Okorocha’s daughter opens shelter for stranded, poor women, children in Imo

From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu

The charity spirit of her father had infected her early in life. Thus, as she was growing up, Mrs. Uloma Rochas Nwosu, founder, Elfreeda Foundation, a basic need initiative that is providing open shelter for homeless women and children in Owerri, Imo State, was looking up to a day when she would be in the position to also help the less privileged like her father.

She had over the years developed deep love for the less privileged in the society as she watched her father lent helping hand to the needy.

Indeed, Governor Rochas Okorocha had involved his children in his philanthropic work even before he became governor.

For Uloma, it was a dream realised as she at the weekend unveiled her foundation situated on Justice Oputa Crescent in New Owerri.

According to her, while they lived in Jos, Plateau State, their father would take them out every Friday to Mashalashi Nduma to give foods to poor women on the street.

That humanitarian service, she said, affected her so much that each time she saw a person in need, particularly women and children, she would be moved by emotion to stop by to lend a helping hand.

Uloma who is the wife of the Imo State Chief of Staff, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, may also have honed her humanitarian spirit in the two years she worked at Rochas Foundation, owned by her father, as director general.

So, as she unveiled her foundation before a large crowd at the prestigious Imo Trade and Investment Centre, her father, Governor Okorocha, heaved a sigh of relief, saying that at last one of his children has been bold to step into his shoes by coming out to continue to help the less privileged in society.

Declaring how happy he was before the array of dignitaries that attended the occasion, including the wife of the acting president, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, and wife of Enugu State governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, Okorocha said it was always good to give.

Unveiling the Elfreeda Foundation on Friday, Mrs. Osinbajo, thanked Uloma and her husband, Uche for establishing the open shelter for the less privileged.

  “It is a great joy to be in this beautiful hall and all the great talents that are here. I could only imagine that ElFreeda Foundation was a dream, but now, it has become a reality. The hand of the Lord is very strong to make dreams come true.

“I am not surprised at what I see today about ElFreeda Foundation and all I can whisper is, ‘I’m so proud of you, my junior sister and daughter, Uloma.’

“I know the parents of Mrs. Nwosu who themselves are deeply involved in humanitarian organisations that have been helping the less privileged in the society, so I am not surprised that their first daughter has also followed their footsteps.”

Mrs. Osinbajo called on the Okorochas and the Nwosus to keep up their act of generosity and also pass it over to their next generation.

Speaking in a similar vein, wife of the Enugu State governor said she was not surprised at what she was seeing at the unveiling of the foundation.

“I personally love what I am seeing here today, the lives she will touch with it, the lives she had touched already. Let us support her by contributing towards her cause financially and morally,” Mrs Ugwuanyi pleaded.

Also speaking Governor Okorocha said: “Over the years of my struggles in life, I have not so much been at home or stayed with my children for long, but we have always been there to impact the necessary discipline in our children. Today, Uloma, you have made us proud.”

He thanked the wife of the acting president for coming to Imo to flag off the foundation of her daughter.

“Just recently, the first ladies of Nigeria were gathered in Imo State including Hajia Aisha Buhari to attend my wife’s August Meeting. Today again, the wife of the acting president is here, we are really grateful”.

Uloma’ mother, Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha and her husband, Uche were equally grateful to Mrs. Osinbajo for coming to perform the opening ceremony of the foundation.

On the eve of the unveiling ceremony, Uloma had conducted a select group of journalists round the foundation facility, which has three main buildings.

The first building has the lunchroom and the thrift centre; the second is the dormitory, which she christened Safe Haven while the third is the resource centre.

Explaining how the thrift centre works, she said: “Most of the clothes you have seen here are donated to us. Some of them are going for N1,000, N5,000; like my children’s trolley because I have twins, and since they have overgrown them I donated them to the foundation. We have washed and cleaned all the items donated, recycled them to be useful to someone else.

“We will sell to outside guests while the sheltered guests get the items free. At the end of the day, if it is N1 or N2 we realised it is coming back to the foundation. So, we want to make people to understand that all your old clothes and other used items not needed in your household, you can just give them to us, we will recycle them and put them to use. In the long term, we also intend to have a farm where we can engage the women.”

She said those to benefit from the foundation are homeless women and children.

“The shelter guests, as I said, will get these items for free but the public will buy them at token prices. For instance, God forbids someone got raped and she ran to this place and she doesn’t have a cloth, she will get a cloth here, someone wants to go for a job interview and she checks her wardrobe and she had nothing, she can get a makeover from here, but for the public, this is a way to support what we are doing, whatever that is realised here will be ploughed back to the foundation.

“We are partnering with about five NGOs in the state; we can’t do it alone, we partner even with the Ministry of Women affairs because some of the women run to them. So, they also help us in our accreditation process so ensure that these women are the ones the foundation is really intended to help.

“It is a temporary shelter, so they come in by 6pm and go out by 9am. Most people don’t understand why I said they should leave by 9am. I don’t have the capacity to house them from morning till the evening, it’s not sustainable for me; two, the psychological effect on them to know that I am going out and I have no choice but must make something for myself because I might come back and not have that bed again because we will give the beds out according to priorities and whoever needs them.

“If you know that you are going out by 9am, the skill acquisition centre we are taking you to, you will know that you have to learn that trade quickly, if you are going to the farm you will know you are going there to work. Some people are on the street because, may be they don’t want to work, so we are also trying to change their mindset. We have trained counselors, but for the time being, it is the Ministry of Women Affairs that are do screening for us.

“We will keep our sheltered guests up to 30 days after which we will stop because we believe we have given you all the skills on the platform to enable you get back to the street. For those who work in the farm there is a startup for them where they can be on their own later.”

Before she decided to begin the open shelters, she said she had made a lot of enquiries to know the worst thing that could come out of it, pointing out that people talked about legal issues which they have cleared even as they keep perfecting the initiative.

On why she christened the dormitory Safe Haven, she said: “I called it Safe Haven because they will get sanity at least for one night. I had the opportunity of working in my father’s foundation as the director general, the Rochas Foundation, for two years and I learnt over time that no matter what you do and how great it is, there must always be loopholes, but the most important thing is out of ten people, if you are honestly able to change the lives of two persons, that will be fine because at the Rochas Foundation, we realised that we were training a commissioner of police’s son in a school that was meant for the poorest of the poor, a free education school. But I don’t want to be dismayed by this attitude of some people. So, if out of 20, two are genuine, we know that God ‘s covering is taking care of that. And we don’t accept boys over the age of 10. We presently have 50 beds but have capacity for 100. That’s why we are calling on people to get involved.  For now, that is what we have.”

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