Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Her name does not ring a bell in social circles as she is relatively unknown in high society women, but Pastor (Mrs.) Roseline Onovughakpor of Jesus Ministries Bible Church, Okwe, a suburb of Asaba, Delta State, is a household name among the needy and the less privileged.
Almost every segment in the physically challenged community has suckled from her milk of human kindness through various forms of empowerment, including scholarship for students with physical challenges and financial grants to enable women start business.
At the last count, over 1,000 persons among the physically challenged have benefited from her gesture, with hundreds of widows also having access to economic empowerment through her initiative, Jesus Rescue Mission, a non-governmental organisation.
As a result of her exploits, the Association of Indigent and Persons with Disability recently honoured Mrs. Onovughakpor with a lifetime achievement award as the Amazon of the Needy and Less Privileged, to encourage her to do more for those genuinely in need in the society.
National president of the group, Mr. Ifeanyi Joseph Chikunia, told Daily Sun that Onovughakpor was selected for the award after a meticulous survey of her activities in improving the lives of the less privileged.
“She has given financial empowerment to people who are physically challenged. She has some in her church. She is providing scholarship to the physically challenged. She said in whatever area we need her support, she will be there for us,” he said.
Reacting to the lifetime achievement award, the recipient, Mrs. Onovughakpor, said she was fulfilled to be honoured for her philanthropy. particularly as it affects the needy and the less privileged.
Onovughakpor said she was inspired by biblical provisions, and not out of sympathy, to do what she is doing for society, and encouraged other well-meaning Nigerians to reach out the those in need.
She said: “I feel good and fulfilled. My inspiration was not out of sympathy, it is the word of God that says ‘when I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink; and when I was naked, you clothed me.’
“When I look into the scripture, I say that is the major thing that God want us to do as His children because He also said, occupy till I come. And these were the things He was doing when He was around. So, I am the body He is using.
“Whatever Jesus was doing then, I should be found doing it, that is where my inspiration comes from, occupy till I come, and feeding, taking care and loving the needy and being there with the less privileged, they are my best. So, I got my inspiration from the word of God.”
Onovughakpor confirmed that those who have benefitted or are still benefitting were over 1,000, adding that 500 widows were presently in line for empowerment.
“We have about 500 widows on line. We give out scholarships; we give grant loans for young women to do business so that they can assist their husbands. We also go into the markets to look for people to empower so that they can support their homes,” she added.
According to her, in the process of carrying out these gestures, she has encountered tough issues that she has, however, been able to overcome.
“There are challenges once in a while but the ability to overcome is always there, so I won’t call it a problem. It is something that you cannot solve that you call a problem but if you can solve it, it is not a problem. I may be tempted to say that there are no problems because every challenge that comes my way, I am always able to hand it,” Onovughakpor said.
She admitted getting assistance from some individuals, members of her fellowship and immediate family, adding that she has never received any support from government or any of its institutions.
“I don’t get assistance from government but a few persons have assisted, by the grace of God. My fellowship members also assist. I have a doctor that treats people for free, and also gives. She helps to pay school fees.
“My first son also does a lot. My blood flows in the family, they take pleasure in doing this. They even run faster than me in this. My husband is a wonderful man who is encouraging me all the time; all my children take pleasure in giving, they are my first and major sponsors.
“My message for wealthy Nigerians is that they should not consider themselves wealthy. They are poor people if they cannot reach out to the needy without any hidden agenda.
“Most of these people, when they give, are either asking for votes, you see them throwing bags of rice around and after the election you won’t find them again. It is wrong.
“You are abusing the gift of giving. For you to be really wealthy, give without expecting, otherwise you are not wealthy,” she said.
Her husband, Bishop Johnson Onovoghakpor, an estate surveyor and valuer, corroborated her statement, saying that an NGO, through his wife, also gave support of N100,000 each to 25 women, and N50,000 each to some traders.
He said he wife was doing a lot for humanity, adding that he had to key into the humanitarian gestures when it became obvious that he could not change his wife.
“As a matter of fact, when we got married, she will wanted to give out everything, including foodstuff, and I would be asking her questions. I discovered that, when she gives out, in a few days, more than the quantity she gave out would come in. So, I accepted her way of life.
“I keyed in and encouraged her to give. She is training some children in school from secondary to the tertiary level. She is doing much for humanity. Whatever I can do to help, I will, we are working as a team,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chikunia has called for more support for physically challenged persons in the areas of education, economic empowerment and other logistics, to make life more comfortable for them.
“We have actually articulated so many programmes. First is education, which is the best legacy to be bequeathed to children as parents. Even as a guardian, it is the best legacy to be bequeathed to your ward.
“With education, the people can fend for themselves and there would be independent living, there will be economic empowerment. What we are asking for is equal opportunity. There is also skill acquisition.
“So, people are not intellectually gifted, but through the work of their hands they can actually create wealth. One thing that we have found out, especially with respect to the physically challenged, is that when a particular part of the body is deformed, God has a way of advancing other parts of the body.
“So, when you give room or opportunity to those physically challenged, they will be able to harness their potential that will even surpass the expectations of able-bodied men.
“What we are trying to do is to encourage many Nigerians to look away from empathy and sympathy for people who are physically challenges, rather to begin to empower, begin to provide the enabling environment, the level playing field that will make people like us succeed.
“I am physically challenged but I am PhD holder, I am an executive director of a reputable company because of the opportunity I was given. We are trying to do same for every Nigerian who is physically challenged, we want to build an academy where we can bring them together and train them and give them education.
“The greatest challenge we have is mobility. If we have buses for instance, for students who are physically challenged to move them from the hostel to the classrooms for lectures, it will be a tremendous support. So there is a wide field where the support can come in,” he said.