Hope is a powerful force and probably the most important factor when it comes to overcoming life’s biggest challenges especially in a society as challenging as ours.
Without hope, everything is lost.
Hope, like a seed, is sown through many sources. Some hope implicitly on government to address their needs. Some rely on family members and some hope on God to provide them with a man who will allow himself to be used as an instrument to change the lives of his people.
For the people of Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, especially those in Adiasim Community, their light of hope began sparkling at the establishment of a Foundation called Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation in 2015.
The name of the man behind the Foundation gives a clue of the glad tidings in stock for the people.
Oliver, a name believed to be taken from biblical olive tree, symbolises fruitfulness, beauty and dignity. In fact, ‘extending an olive branch’ signifies an offer of peace. Fruitfulness of the land, beauty in health and dignity of persons through human capital development has been the experience of the people of Adiasim since the advent of the Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation.
Far-Reaching Footprint in Education
Although throwing a few millions around to make public show thus win mass affection has defined philanthropic gestures these days. That has never been the narrative of Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation.
Ebong chooses to channel his altruistic gesture towards causes in education and health as well as soft loans and grants to small-scale entrepreneurs.
Comprehending the truism of the words of Brad Henry, former Governor of Oklahoma, United States of America that, “No other Investment yields as great a return as the investment in education. An educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy”, Ebong’s footprint on education investment was conspicuously stamped in 2016 when he donated 500 modern school desks to pupils in five different primary schools in Adiasim.
This was accompanied by 100 tables and chairs to teachers of these schools. The Foundation went a step further to donate free exercise books to several schools across Essien Udim LGA in support of the free and compulsory education policy in Akwa Ibom State.
Those in secondary and tertiary institutions are not left behind.
Yearly, the Foundation ensures that not less than 30 privileged students across the community are given scholarship and bursary to aid their educational pursuits.
Currently, 25 students are under the full sponsorship of the Foundation in tertiary institutions across Nigeria.
Be that as it may, not everyone will want to make their livelihood through the route of formal education. What provision does the Foundation have for them?
Phenomenal Imprint in Skills Development/Entrepreneurship
The prevailing indices in world economies offer clear indications that the skilled jobs and entrepreneurship may just be the needed pedestal towards hitting the accelerating gear of industrialisation ongoing in the Akwa Ibom State, coupled with other envisaged economic fortunes.
In fact, according to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for more than 84 percent of total jobs in the country.
The Ministry also notes that the MSME enterprises in Nigeria also account for about 48.5 percent of the gross domestic product, GDP, as well as about 7.27 percent of goods and services exported out of the country.
Most economies, particularly those of developing societies like Akwa Ibom State, march on the shoulders of small and medium-sized businesses. This is because MSMEs are characterized by dynamism, innovations, efficiency, and their small size allows for a faster decision-making process.
Understanding the imperative of this sector to the growth of a Community like Adaisim and the State at large, the Foundation saw the need to train the people of Adaisim community on how best to explore this sector.
Impressively, about 30 persons have so far received business grant from the Foundation in order to boost their business while some who were yet to have one are given capital to commence theirs. Also, about 50 persons are undergoing skills acquisition trainings in various vocations, 20 of whom have already received startup empowerment from the foundation.
Indeed, the foundation understands that there is no better time for them to assist the people to tap into the enormous opportunities in the Nigerian skill and business sector other than now!
The aforementioned benevolent gestures are just a tip of the iceberg about the beneficent nature of the man, Oliver Ebong.
The Foundation does not fail to contribute to the sector that serves as the proverbial fulcrum of other sectors-health.
Epochal Mark in Health
The Foundation’s footmark on health development was loudly engraved in the community on July 28, 2018 at the commissioning of a healthcare facility in Adaisim community which was remodeled and donated by the Foundation, in partnership with Engr. Onur Kumral, a Turkish businessman and investor. Of course, birds of a feather flock together.
The commissioned healthcare centre, originally a colonial era built dispensary, was demolished, expanded and rebuilt with modern facilities by Engr. Oliver Ebong. The healthcare centre was now equipped with Children’s ward, Women’s ward, Maternity ward and Examination room.
Interestingly, the Foundation went further to establish a routine of supply for drugs and other medical consumables, thus provide free medication to the people of Adiasim community and its environs.
To crown his effort in healthcare service, the Foundation has partnered with Pro-health International to provide free healthcare services to infants and the aged, no matter the ailment.
Since the commencement of the gesture in 2018 till date, the people of Adaisim community and her neighbours have been privileged to enjoy enhanced medical care.
Oliver Ebong Foundation understands that investing in African health systems is an opportunity to accelerate economic development and growth, contribute to saving thousands of lives, prevent life-long disabilities, and move our society closer to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
What is more, Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation is not concerned about projects alone. The Foundation is renowned in stepping in the gap to help where and when it matters most.
For instance, when some communities in Essien Udim had security challenges leading to some Communities finding solace at Internally Displaced Persons Camps, the Foundation donated food items, among other household items to support those affected.
Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation in the Eyes of the Public
The benevolence of the Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation has been greeted by commendation across the State.
Governor Udom Emmanuel who commissioned the healthcare centre commended Oliver Ebong for his numerous supports to education, health and human capacity development.
Represented by the then Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and currently, a Member of the House of Representatives, Onofiok Luke, the Governor said, “This is a testament that you love and value your people. You understand that Government cannot do it alone and that is the reason you have decided to make these sacrifices. The seeds of kindness you sow shall grow big and bear great fruits of blessings to your community and yourself”.
The Foundation has defied the story of the proverbial prophet who is not respected at home.
Mrs. Alice Inyang, a trader in Adaisim community said, “We are very happy that Engr. Oliver Ebong has demonstrated love by giving back to the society from the little he has.
“In the past, plenty of our aged and infants have lost their lives because of lack of adequate medical facility and care. With the provision of his free healthcare services in a world-class health facility, things have changed positively.”
Ekpeyong Asukwo, one of the beneficiaries of the Oliver Ebong Foundation scholarship scheme, have this to say about the Foundation: “I really do not know how miserable my life would have been and how I would have further my education if not for the scholarship given to me by Engr. Oliver Ebong Foundation.
“Now I am a final year student of civil engineering and will be graduating next year. This foundation has given my life a direction. May God Almighty bless him and his family.”
For Obong Paulinus Mkpa, a traditional father in Adiasim, Engr. Oliver Ebong is among the greatest philanthropists the State has ever had.
He said, “We as a people are so proud to have him as a son. The philanthropic works he has done will help define the future of our community. We pray God’s blessing upon him and the grace to succeed in all his endeavours.”
In long years to come, the tales of the great works of Oliver Ebong will continue to permeate every nook and cranny of our society thus show the veracity of the words of American Broadcast Journalist, Germany Kent, who said: “Live your life in such a way that you’ll be remembered for your kindness, compassion, fairness, character, benevolence, and a force for good who had much respect for life, in general.”
The Driving Spirit behind Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation
Indeed, the vision of giving hope and opportunities in challenging society led Engr. Ebong to set up the Oliver Ebong Okon Foundation in 2015 which has given his growing humanitarian service a structure.
As Ebong’s business footprint expands, so has his appreciation of the challenges facing the society and his desire to do something about it at a larger scale.
2016 and 2018 marked a watershed for the Foundation, when Ebong joined hands with International Partners like Pro-health and business friends like Engr. Onur Kumral, a Turkish businessman and investor to address education and health needs of his people.
This partnership is gradually giving the foundation the wings to fly and contribute to other parts of the State.
The development and vision necessitated a restructuring and realignment within the operations of the Foundation and how it works to deliver on Oliver’s vision with Mrs. Annastacia Oliver Ebong serving as the Chairperson of the Foundation.
Oliver says his drive is simply to see a self-sufficient society where there is peaceful coexistence.
He said, “We want to see self-sufficiency, self-dependence, good health, security, peaceful and healthy coexistence in our society. Our target is especially the underprivileged.
“Government cannot do everything, that’s an established fact. Even when we had economic boom, government was still challenged not to mention now that we are in perilous times. This is the time that individuals who have been blessed should contribute their quota so that the underprivileged can have a little sense of comfort and hope.
“A comfortable person who is surrounded by people who are not comfortable, that comfort can never be sustainable. It is only a matter of time before they pour their frustration on you and your immediate family.”
Yet, there is a deeper reason to his benevolence to the people – love for humanity.
“I get very disturbed to see disadvantaged people around me. The inequalities can be assuaged if we love humanity and be ready to share the little we have,” Ebong noted.
Glaringly, through the great footprints of his Foundation, Oliver Ebong has lived the call by Canadian based Philosopher and Entrepreneur, Matshona Dhliwayo who said, “Use your mind to solve problems for others; your heart to feel compassion for others; your mouth to speak for others; your hands to help others; your feet to visit others; your ears to listen to others, and your life to better others.”
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