Feature: Jennifer Pearse, Founder of GiveBackNigeria

When did your passion for service related work begin?

My passion for service started through a Spring Break trip I took while at the University of Maryland in April 2012. I joined the alternative breaks program alongside 12 other schoolmates and a trip advisor to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota whose inhabitants are the historic native Americans of the Lakota Sioux tribe. I had just joined with the intentions of getting a community service experience on my resume and Chicago was my first choice because I wanted to use the opportunity to see the city, but little did I know my real passion in life was about to be revealed to me in a community I never knew existed.

The simple acts of kindness, brotherly love, team work and accomplishing goals for fellow human beings really opened my eyes to the importance and outcome of one taking social responsibility. It additionally opened my eyes to how we as citizens not taking part in being solution providers made our communities stagnant and generated tension especially with those who feel marginalized. But most importantly, it showed me how much of a difference my contribution makes towards community building.

 How many years has GiveBackNigeria existed?

GBN initially was founded as the EM-Powerment Project in December 2013. Our first project was the first stride library project focused on youth setting up free libraries in rural areas for their peers. By 2014, the vision grew larger and we decided to change the name to encompass the mission and vision of getting every young Nigerian involved in community service. As of today, we have been successfully running for about 3 years and 7 months and have a network of over 90 champions who have and continue to take part in our programs around Nigeria whether visiting from diaspora or living in Nigeria.

 

 What are Give Back Nigeria's initiatives?

GiveBackNigeria has three initiatives which are:    

  1. Our first stride library is a platform for the Nigerian youth to set up & rejuvenate free library spaces in schools & orphanages.
  2. Our Peer mentorship outreach provides a platform for our volunteers to tutor and train their fellow youth on topics of their choice.
  3. Our Community Feeding Projects we set up community soup kitchens and food outreach programs to feed the homeless, provide foodstuff to low-income families while raising awareness about hunger and food insecurity.

In general, our programs are targeted to get young people from diverse backgrounds to serve together towards a common goal while being solution providers and mentors to others in society.

What has been your favorite GiveBackNigeria project?

In general, every project means something special to me especially because of the common goal it aims to achieve and the platform it provides to promote national unity through the common acts of love. One favourite experience however was our visit to Ajegunle in December 2016. We supported the initiative ‘Dreams from the Slum’ and it was really a revelation for most of our champions (volunteers). During a point of the outreach, because of the limited resources we had to give only children who were beneficiaries of our host organization and most community youth were agitated and expressed frustration towards hunger and lack of care from government. In fact, they mistook us for government aid officials. But the conflict they brought was necessary because by the time we diffused the chaos and explained to them our mission and intentions, they were elated and in fact took responsibility to make sure we understood their plight while taking us on a tour around their community as a sign of appreciation and respect for their peers taking time to care for their neighbours. The experience justified our mission that indeed when everyone takes part in social responsibility a sense of community is initiated. 

5.) Give Back Nigeria has come so far in a relatively short amount of time. Where do you see Give Back Nigeria in five years?

Thank you for saying that, in my eyes I think we are just scratching the surface. In Five years, I see GBN as a fully encompassed movement among Nigerian youth. I am certain that in among major universities, secondary schools, and youth community groups and national movements like NYSC we will have champion teams focused on impacting lives in their local community through their acts of social responsibility.

 

How can we get involved?

Everyone can get involved by contacting us through our website www.givebackng.com and send us their information and interests and we take it from there. It is a national movement aimed at getting every young Nigerian involved no matter your experience with social good or community engagement. 

 What would you say to someone who may be overwhelmed or doesn't know where to start when it comes to service work, especially in a place like Nigeria?

 I will firstly tell them there is no need to be overwhelmed because the thought and intention they have has already justified that they are ready to serve. Firstly, you should start in your local community because truly charity begins at home. Talk to friends, family and well intentioned individuals and you’ll see people are ready to join you to be the difference you want to see. Another option is also volunteering with local NGOs or community service initiatives in your society and getting experience, knowledge and tips as this is how I started.

Where can we find you on social media?

You can find us on:

Twitter: @givebackNigeria

Instagram: givebackNigeria

Facebook: givebackNigeria

Website: www.givebackng.com

Email: info@givebackng.com

 

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