Lending a Helpful Hand: The Benue Flood Project
Ibrahim Ezekiel is the current president of the YES Alumni Association of Nigeria (YAAN). His efforts, alongside other alumni members, provided relief to over two hundred households affected by the Benue flood. Read Ibrahim’s account of the Benue Flood Victims Relief project:
My years as the president of the YES Alumni Association of Nigeria have been memorable and richly rewarding. One of the memorable moments was when we did a project to raise support in relief materials for the families and households affected by a devastating flood in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria. In the month of August, the rainy season is at its peak in Nigeria. This unfortunate incident happened on August 27, 2017. It ravaged communities in Makurdi. According to Thisday Live, about 110,000 people were rendered homeless. The disaster washed away villages, farmlands and food storage facilities, among many others. As a result, camps were set up in Makurdi to accommodate those rendered homeless. Thousands of people were registered in the camps from over 500 households. Due to the nature of events, cases of malaria, typhoid fever and diarrhea were reported.
Interventions came in almost immediately from the state and federal government in support of the victims. They also received aid from both local and international NGOs, charity groups, philanthropists and many other campaigns done in support of those affected by the disaster. This prompted the early closure of some of the camps though others closed due to insufficient food supplies to sustain the victims at the camp. It is on this note that YAAN organized the Benue Flood Victims Relief Project – a campaign to raise support and gather relief materials for the affected persons.
Halima Umar (YES alumna 2007-2008, Nigeria, hosted by IRIS) shared the idea of the project with us, welcomed it and she led the project with assistance from the leadership of the association’s chapter in Benue state. In YAAN, we believe that nothing is too small in terms of rendering help. In that vein, we developed campaign materials and rallied support from all members across eight states where our members reside. Through the month of September we collected household materials such as beddings, blankets, detergents, stoves, as well as food items, cash support and other essentials. In response to the social media campaign, we also received donations of various kinds from individuals and organizations. Though we could not gather all we had wanted, items received included clothes for children and adults from our friends, family, neighbors and well-wishers, beddings, vitamin enriched meals from the All Things Possible Ministry USA and the U.S. Nigeria Law group, and monetary donations from friends within and outside Nigeria which we used to purchase additional food items and malaria drugs for children especially and adults. We made purchases based on needs assessment conducted in the target community by the president of the Benue State chapter, Micheal Ugese (YES alumnus 2011-2012, Nigeria). Besides donations received, the eight cohort states contributed funds meant for their monthly project in support of this central project.
Adullateef Abdullateef (YES alumnus 2016-2017, Nigeria) and I set out to Makurdi on Friday with all the supplies that was collected from other states. The outreach to the community in Naka road, Makurdi Benue state, was carried out the next day, Saturday October 7. The community is one among many badly affected by the flood, still the residents have returned to their homes following the closure of the camps. Many of the households are struggling while some are slowly recovering. The goal of the project is not to eliminate all their problems, but to offer help where we can and create impact in our own little way. There are over 200 households in the community, and support was given to each of these households. Abdullateef and I represented the national body from outside Benue state.
Together with the team in Makurdi, we arrived to Naka road. The evidence of the flood was vivid; we saw slumped houses and water-locked roads. The chief and elders of the community received us warmly and in little time the community members gathered. We introduced ourselves and the purpose of our coming and told them our outreach was a result of our collective mission and commitment to making our communities better.
We then began to distribute the items among the families. Names of the households were called from a list made available to us by the secretary of the community and each came out to collect a package. We handed the medical supply to the community’s medical personnel to make available as the need arises. While that was happening, Blessing Ogbu (YES alumna 2013-2014) was distributing dresses specifically sewn for children. We received a donation of many bed spreads, and therefore some were transformed into children dresses by one of our alumni, Ummulkhairi Aliyu (YES 2009-2010). Adults, both men and women, also received clothing support from the project.
Towards the end, the chief of the community expressed his sincere gratitude to the association and all that contributed or worked hard to bring aid to them. He said though government had shown support, it ended at the camps. They find the recovery process challenging, so he is in high spirit seeing that intervention has come to them from their own children. The secretary of the community urged us to continue the good work; he also assured us that they will take proper care of items handed to them for the benefit of the community. Men, women, youth and children rallied around, a woman exclaimed in undeniable happiness, and said they had support coming to their communities but this is the first time they received the items by hand. “It only ended up in some people’s homes at other times,” she retorted.
It was a sunny day, the heat of the afternoon, hunger and long waiting hours began to overshadow the merry moments. Undoubtedly, this project has restored hope to so many. To see joy in the faces of the children as they rallied around to collect the items was memorable. It was not just the beneficiaries hearts filled with joy and warmth, but ours filled also as we noticed how eager the community members were to collect the supplies. Came at the right time, I thought. It was at that point we said our closing remarks, appreciated the community leaders and members for their cooperation, and prayed for more ease as they recovered from the unfortunate incident. Pictures were taken, and the team drove off.
Ibrahim and other YAAN members continue to help in aiding families who have been displaced due to the flood. The group has hopes of raising more money to provide food, disinfectant, and other necessities to those still suffering.