“My hope and prayer is that Nigerians will get to understand the meaning and richness of heart that comes with assisting the less privileged and the youths”
Lady Veronica Eche is a nurse. She obtained her Nursing certificate from the Glasgow College of Nursing and Midwifery, Scotland, over four decades ago.
Now a social worker, Eche is the founder of the Hearts of Diamond Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). She spoke to Daily Sun recently, in Lagos.
What is the Hearts of Diamond youth Empowerment Initiative all about?
The Hearts of Diamond Youth Empowerment Initiative is formed to help raise responsible youths for a better tomorrow. These people could be disabled or special. We believe in investing in them because we look at them, as those will bring a better tomorrow. For so many years now, we have empowered many disabled people.
How did you delve into social work and what do you make of it in Nigeria because that term is really not too familiar with Nigerians?
I have been engaged in social work all my life even as a nurse. And even as I was growing up too, I remember how much I helped some of the youths in the neighborhood I have always loved to help people in need. However, I formally went into it about 10 years ago when I started this youth empowerment initiative.
Social work is a very difficult job in Nigeria. Most often than not, people would think that you are doing it because of money. In our own case, we spend our money to get things done and help people. We run our office without financial help from anywhere but we are not complaining. We love what we are doing. It may be difficult but the joy of reaching out and helping them is where I find my fulfillment.
My hope and prayer, however, is that Nigerians will get to understand the meaning and richness of heart that comes with assisting the less privileged and the youths.
You recently empowered some physically challenged youths and helped to produce a musical album for one of them. What can you make out all that?
Five special persons were empowered. Paul Pighi Dawariebi was one of them. We helped him to produce his musical album that he had yearned to produce, for a long time. We made about 600 copies for him to market. That is a way of helping him to earn a livelihood and also actualizing his dreams. It was launched and he was happy to see his dream come true.
We did all that to be able to raise money for his accommodation because at the moment, most of them are sheltered at the National stadium, Surulere in Lagos. For others, their condition is so pathetic that they stay live under the bridges both in the rain and under the scourging sun. They are daily being exposed to the harsh weather.
We have also empowered some able bodied youths, paid their school fees while arrangements have been concluded to produce a musical album for another special person on wheelchair.
You seemed to have empowered the physically challenged than the able bodied youths. Is there any special reason for that?
I think its about the sympathy their condition evokes. Secondly, they are pushed aside by the people and the government. How I dabbled into that area is that I got to the stadium for exercise and I saw a lot of them there. Some doing exercises while some just stood aside and only stared at the ones working out.
Upon inquiry, I discovered that most of them don’t really have anyone to help and nobody to check on them. So, I decided to see how many I could help. I know that it is difficult for one person to do it but I know that from raising awareness, they will probably come out to do more things for the disabled.
For the able bodied ones, you can tell them to go and learn a trade but for the disabled ones, it is quite difficult for them. However, we are mixing both the able bodied and disabled as much as we can. Just last week, we paid school fees of a boy whose mother is a widow. We hope to continue doing that until he graduates from school.
Helping the needy is a very sensitive work especially in this part of the world. Could you share more of the experiences you have had over the years?
We have approached a lot of people, individuals and corporate bodies to help when we have an empowerment programme, but majority don’t usually pay any attention to our request or help. We have noticed that most people just like to show off with donations to less privileged people. It is a wrong notion to think that when the money is given to the NGO, it will be diverted for personal use.
Talking about being discouraged from helping, people are afraid to help others for reasons best known to them. How best do you think people should help the needy in our society?
You see, when you want to delve into anything, you should pray first. Prayer is the key. There was a youth that told me he needed a laptop that he has passion for movie production, editing and the rest. So I bought a laptop for him. At first, I didn’t want him to come to the house and pick it but on a second thought, I prayed over it. I looked around and asked myself, what can he steal? I gave him my address, he came around and picked it and he was very happy. That gave me joy. People are afraid to help because they look at people suspiciously. So, Nigerians that are afraid of helping people or bringing them closer shouldn’t have fear in their mind when helping people.
For those who want to delve into social work in Nigeria, enumerate the challenges they will face starting up and how to tackle them?
The truth is that if you are greedy, you cannot be a social worker or run an NGO. You must be passionate to help and assist people. Since I started this NGO 10 years ago, I have not borrowed or collected money from anyone.
I solely bear the financial knowing that this is a path I have chosen. Whatever it takes, I will take it because giving and helping these people is where my joy comes from.
After a decade in this vocation, what would you say that you have achieved?
Running an NGO like mine is lifetime project. My desire is to build a legacy that will outlive me. It is not like buying and selling of goods. It is a humanitarian venture.
If you must measure your achievement, you must look at the number of people you have affected positively. My hope is that those coming after me will continue from the foundation, that way, we will build a better and brighter tomorrow.
Do you think you have achieved success so far?
I think we have. We are putting smiles on the faces of the youths.
Your advice to women who want to set example for others to follow.
Women are the nation builders and can also be the nation destroyers. Women should try and imbibe the culture of giving. It costs nothing to give out. We should understand that the more you give, the happier you are and the better our society becomes. I believe that if we all light one candle in our different corners, after a time, the entire nation will be lit up in joy and peace. We should learn to invest in humanity. Assisting the poor is more enduring and gives more happiness. We should do that which gives inner joy. I would advise women to dwell less on material acquisition but learn to help the poor.