A product of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), Chidinma Peace Mbanasor, has continued to maximise the ideals of the scheme to benefit humanity after service, writes UCHENNA INYA, from Ebonyi State.
For some time now, the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme appears to be among the most vilified establishments in Nigeria with all manner of people saying many unsavoury things about the programme.
It was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian civil war. The unfortunate antecedents in the national history gave impetus to its establishment by decree No. 24 of May 22, 1973.
It thus came into being “with a view to encourage and develop common ties among the youth of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.” But as a developing country, Nigeria is plagued by the problems attendant upon a condition of under development, which includes poverty, mass illiteracy and acute shortage of high skilled manpower.
This is coupled with most uneven distribution of skilled people that are available and woefully inadequate socio-economic infrastructural facilities. However, the scheme has, on occasions been knocked by critics, who have consistently advocated for its scrapping.
In the midst of the seeming brouhaha though, are some determined youths who seemed naturally inclined to the programme’s objectives. One of such is Chidinma Peace Mbanasor, a nursing graduate from Abia State University Uturu, Abia State.
She served as a batch C corps member with the National Obstetric Fistula Centre in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.While still at her place of primary assignment, Mbanasor, worked at specialised units of the hospital, like Pre and Post-operative wards, Family Planning unit and Cancer unit.
In the course of her work, she identified a cause that was not only a contributing risk factor to the occurrence of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) but also in the recurrent cases of failed surgeries and difficulty in reintegration into communities after repairs. VVF and Recto-Vagina Fistula (RVF) are sicknesses of ignorance and poverty.
Though, a non-communicable disease, VVF over the years, has been erroneously associated with young mothers in the northern part of Nigeria. The women characteristically live a life with blighted hope in silent agony.
Society too, often times, ostracise them from humanity. Mbanasor’s passion for community development seemed to have inspired her to lend her support to the VVF and RVF sufferers. She had defied the odds to organise skill acquisition training in the area of air freshener production.
She also trained them to make bleach, liquid soap, buns, queens and wedding cake, puff, egg roll and pop-corn. The women thereafter were empowered with raw materials to start off in their communities.
The project got an overwhelming support from the public and a strong institutional backing that will ensure continuity. Plans were perfected to follow up the trained women as well as to help them form a co-operative society, scale up and standardise their business. About 79 participants comprising 62 VVF survivors and 17 hospital cleaners were registered for the pilot scheme.
The flag-off ceremony of the programme, which was held on August 17, was graced by top ranking members of the hospital management led by the medical director, Prof. Sunday Adeoye, Dr. Kenneth Ekwedigwe, head of nursing services, Mrs. Nkolika Nwachuk-wu, and head of medical social works and Mrs. Ifeoma Mighty-Chukwu.
The project was packaged with the following objectives: To empower the women to be self-reliant economically, prevent them from strenuous activities/business which may lead to breakdown of the repair, facilitate their social and economic reintegration and equip them to be financially independent, thereby reducing rate of recurrent unwanted pregnancies.
Others are to contribute to the hospital’s thematic mission of restoring the dignity of the woman, improving on the family income by empowering the mothers to become active contributors to family income without jeopardising their health and comfort, build their capacity for them to in turn train other women in the interior parts of their states and to educate patients on what VVF is and what it is not, the causes and the preventive treatment as well as send the trained ones to their states to educate others.
Following several consultative meetings, Mbanasor, developed a project proposal and embarked on aggressive fund drive, having secured the approval of the NYSC, Ebonyi State.
Letters of request for fund were sent out to various government agencies, public and private firms, members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, clergy and her family members.
Incidentally, the responses were massive as she was able to raise aboutN3 million for the project. This effeort earned Mbanasor a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Fired by this award, she has followed her dream with another successful programme meant to impact another60 newly repaired patients of the disease at the NOFIC, held two weeks ago.
The excruciating pains, stigmatisation and economic challenges of the patients pushed her into doing something to ameliorate their sufferings. The participants attended sessions on skill acquisition and entrepreneurship, hygiene, and reproductive health.
They were empowered with free start-off packages in their chosen areas of interest. Mbanasor was awarded a public diplomacy grant by the United States Consulate General in Lagos to carry out the project.
“The majority of these VVF survivors are peasants, petty traders, and housewives who have difficulty supporting themselves let alone their families. The situation becomes even more complicated when they are abandoned by their husbands and family members.
“Equipping women who have undergone fistula repair with self-sustaining skills can strengthen their capacity to care for themselves with a view to helping them reclaim their lives and return to their communities with pride and independence after treatment,” she said.
Mbanasor further noted: “The joy in putting smiles on the faces of the patients can only be equated to the joy of bringing one back to life. The true definition of a life well-spent is a life lived for others and dedicated to the service of humanity.
I am delighted to restore the lives and dignity of these women that the society has condemned and ex-communicated.” In her remarks, the representative of the United States Consulate General, Anita Foster, commended Mbanasor for her gesture which she noted will put the women back on track on return to their homes to begin fresh lives.
She called for more empowerment of the patients after repairs, adding that one of their greatest challenges was how to survive after repairs. Foster promised that the US consulate will continue to partner with the Chidinma Peace Mbanasor Initiative to empower and rehabilitate victims of VVF.
In like manner, the Chief Political-Economic Section of the United States Consulate General, Thomas Hines, noted that the Consulate first met Chidinma when they visited the Fistula Centre in August 2015 during her service year at the centre.
At that point she was leading rehabilitation and empowerment project for obstetrics fistula survivors and the programme was impressive, moving and worthy, he said.
“It is pleasing to observe her development as a leading public health and human rights advocate who advances children and women’s health and well-being.
Mbanasor has been widely recognised for her leadership, and in 2016, she was selected by the United States Government for its flagship Young African Leaders Initiative programme.
As a Mandela Washington Fellow, she participated in an intensive six week civic leadership programme at Wagner College in New York City. “It is a great pleasure to see that Mbanasor has capitalised on the Young African Leaders Initiative to continue to make a difference in many people’s lives.
Of particular note is the emphasis to enable women to reclaim their lives and return to their communities with pride and independence.” On her part, Public Affairs Officer of the Consulate General, Darcy Zotter said: “We applaud Mbanasor’s renewed focus on VVF survivors and for taking the bold step of providing support for them.”