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The Makoko Dream

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The Makoko Dream

Emmanuel Agunze

Getting funding for your youth-friendly social idea.

By Emmanuel Agunze

Emmanuel Agunze is the founder of The Makoko Dream (TMD).  TMD was founded in 2016, with the goal of enabling children in Makoko to dare to dream for greatness, via the means of education and literacy.  Makoko is  a slum community of approximately 300,000 people; roughly half of the people live on the water, in wooden shacks built on stilts in the blackish, thickly-polluted lagoon in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria.  Most of the houses lack public water, electricity, or waste disposal. Makoko waterside settlers are exposed to water-borne diseases like Cholera, Dysentery, Malaria, etc. Travel is via canoe, along the vast maze of waterways throughout the community.

One of the first steps to take, in order to achieve global positioning is to create clear Mission, Vision, and Values (MVV) statements for your NGO. Without this, your purpose can appear to be muddled, and will not be appealing to those who are seeking to partner with you.  In addition, if you do not clearly define this, you may find yourself getting involved in a number of activities and initiatives that do not even relate to your mission. This, of course, takes time away from mission-critical activities.  On a global level, it’s imperative that these be established, as it is a common business practice; it is expected that any successful organization will have clear and meaningful MVV statements in place.

The mission of TMD is to reinforce the philosophy that “Every Child Counts” by enabling the children of Makoko to have access to quality education and developmental activities, encouraging the empowerment of young girls and women, and collaborating as a community partner to address educational, social, economic, spiritual, and overall health issues and needs.  One touch…many lives. Our vision is that one day, all children in Makoko, in Nigeria, and in Africa, will have the opportunity to attain a quality education, develop their talents, and achieve their dreams. Slum communities like Makoko will develop and maintain the sustainable infrastructure needed to have healthy communities with desirable living conditions. Our values are that our work is guided by our faith in God.  We will demonstrate unconditional love for all, regardless of race, wealth, or creed.  We will operate in a manner that demonstrates integrity, respect, diligence, quality, adaptability, selflessness, empathy, and economic responsibility. While our primary focus is to try to get the children of Makoko into school, we are also considered a community partner, and are heavily involved in a wide variety of community issues, programs, and improvements, as well as initiatives to empower young girls and women. 

I am a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow. I consider this to be a critical step in my success.  So, the second step I would recommend is to take advantage of any fellowship programs, educational programs, or any other opportunities that will equip you with the business knowledge you need to run an NGO.  Do not be fooled into thinking that you already know everything you need to know.  Quite simply, you do not…and you never will.  Always continue to learn and grow.

When I returned to Lagos, Nigeria, from the USA, I immediately set out to utilize the knowledge I had gained to take action on various initiatives for TMD.  As an example, in August, 2018, we opened a new tuition-free school on land in Makoko, and enrolled 155 students, giving them a ray of hope of a brighter future by being educated and in school. At that point, we had a school on water, with 200 students, making a total of 355. We did free uniforms for ALL of the 155 children and got school bags for 110 of them. We also got exercise books, textbooks, chairs, benches and Marker boards for the school. 

From this point on, things literally began to explode for TMD. I attribute this to the system I implemented to leverage my MWF experience, which I call THRIVE. 

T – Stay in TOUCH with other Mandela Washington Fellows from other countries, the MWF team, Institute partners and your schools. That’s the only way they will know what you’re doing, and make your work bigger.

H – Be HUMBLE. After arriving back in your home country, you have so much experience you want to share. But be humble enough to want to listen to others. That’s the only way you can grow. 

R – Build RELATIONSHIPS. You’ve received business cards, e-mails, etc.  Don’t just keep them as souvenirs; build relationships with those people.  Send e-mails, make calls, give people feedback on what you’re doing. Initiate contact, keep in touch, and continue to build the relationship. 

I – INCREASE the tempo. There’s a tendency for you to want to come back and relax, because a lot of things will be going on, and you’ll be so overwhelmed. And, you’ve just completed an intense, exciting fellowship program.  But I encourage you to increase the tempo, and you’ll be better able to deal with the many things that are happening. 

V – Be VISIBLE. Nobody will blow your trumpet the way you can. Be visible on social media, traditional media, etc.  This is another way people will know what you’re doing.  For example, you can tweet to the MWF program, and if they retweet your post, it goes out far and wide.

E – Be an EXAMPLE. When you are an example, you can be someone that people can call for other things. 

See Also

In order for your organization to THRIVE, you need to plant seeds…everywhere. Some will not bloom right away; they may need time to grow first. Continue to tend to them and nurture them; but give them the space they need to grow.  As an example, while I was in the USA, I met a number of people through the MWF program.  I kept in touch with many of these people, and provided updates to them on what TMD was doing.  But in addition, I met someone at a social event, and just planted a seed with them about TMD.  I kept in touch, and today, this individual is a very active volunteer with TMD, and has helped to grow our global presence in the USA.

Today, TMD has 640 children enrolled in school.  In addition, we have been actively involved in partnering with other organizations, in order to collaborate and make improvements in the lives of the Makoko people.  We are continuing to grow our global presence, and have already received numerous donations, contributions, and improvement initiatives from our global partners.

As part of our mission to encourage the empowerment of young girls and women, and collaborate as a community partner to address educational, social, economic, spiritual, and overall health issues and needs, we have collaborated in a number of programs to address the health and well-being of young girls, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the Makoko people in general. These resulted in the provision of health care, needed drug remedies, first aid boxes, mosquito nets, sanitary pads, birth kits to ensure safe deliveries, baby supplies, educational materials, food, etc.  

A number of these initiatives have been geared toward educating young girls on how to stay clean and healthy, how to utilize sanitary pads, how to calculate and anticipate their period in order to ensure proper care, how to prevent teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, etc. At the end of one such training session, the girls had their palms stamped as Ambassadors, who will take a stand for educating other girls in their community. 

In addition to these efforts, TMD routinely encourages young girls to go to school and follow their dreams, rather than having to face teenage pregnancy, and/or marriage at a very young age.  If girls in Makoko do not go to school, this is typically the future that is laid out for them. TMD promotes the empowerment of young girls and women, and assists them in trying to build a better life for themselves. As part of this, we encourage abstinence from sex for these young girls, which of course directly relates to HIV/AIDS prevention. 

I recently worked on the Organizing Committee and served as Emcee for the “She Thrives Africa” event, in Lagos, Nigeria. The event was organized by the Mandela Washington Alumni Association of Nigeria and supported by the US Embassy and Consulate. Six Makoko Dream School girls and five volunteers attended with me.  This was a major event geared toward the empowerment of women. The reality is, the more that women feel empowered, the less they will be facing unwanted sex, teenage pregnancies, and/or HIV/AIDS. Involvement in this event also promoted our global positioning.  In summary, there is more to HIV/AIDS prevention than using “safe sex” methods, preventative medications, etc.  Encouraging young girls to be empowered, go to school, build a life for themselves, and fulfill their dreams, rather than engaging in sexual activity, can also be an effective approach.

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