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by Nelly Ating
Faced with severe poverty in his community, a Catholic Priest has accepted another call. He is on a quest to provide opportunities for better education, health care, and livelihoods support in his hometown Mbausu, Vandeikya, Benue State through the Torjir-Agber Foundation (TAF) he founded in 2009 – in memory of his late parents he lost at very tender age 2009.
Mbausu Vandeikya is a peasant farming community with potentials to use agriculture to transform their lives. Within every compound in Mbausu one can find an orange orchard with at least 50 trees but also spread on the ground are spoilt oranges, rotting due to lack of market access. Only four public primary schools’ are available, albeit dilapidated and the nearest public health care facility is very many kilometers away. Natives of Mbausu like many other communities in Benue State do not have access to the government. The people only get to see government officials during elections, a situation that encourages vote selling, it is seen as the only opportunity to benefit from the government. This system has failed to yield any positive return for the community.
Fully conscious of this reality, and having witnessed a pregnant woman deliver her baby in a wheelbarrow–the baby later died–while trying to access a long distant healthcare facility in Vandeikya, Father Agber, is working within his community abandoned for decades.
Growing up, Father Agber narrates to NewsWireNGR, that he was brought up in the rural Abenga community of Mbausu, he had no access to good educational opportunities, it took the intervention of a philanthropist who ensured he went through high school and thereafter, in the seminary trained by the church to his becoming a Catholic Priest. He said, the life-changing opportunity to access education has made him fully convinced that more people can escape poverty if more children have access to education in their immediate community.
TAF’s focus on practical solutions that restore hope and provides opportunities for people and communities to transform their quality of life. Since 2009, with the support of TAF over 10,000 people within Mbausu and the neigh-boring villages have gained access to better health care services at the Abenga Health Center, 200 babies successfully delivered at the clinic, and supported 50 people living with HIV/AIDS including 20 widows. The foundation has built and also operates the Ray of Hope Academy where 266 children have access to quality education. TAF activities have also helped to provide direct (construction) and indirect (skills acquisition training) job opportunities for youths in the community, trained about 40 government school teachers, provided learning materials to about 2000 children through Read Nigeria intervention campaign. TAF also established a micro-savings and lending association to support local women to boost their businesses.
The Program Coordinator for TAF decried the deprivations people in Mbausu face. Most people/communities at the fringes have nearly no access or contact with government. They only get to see elected officials during election seasons. “People in rural communities are often vulnerable, due to disconnection from government and basic amenities. As a result, they lack basic infrastructure and public services that are essential for socio-economic development and a better quality of life.” TAF aims to bridge this gap by “connecting families in rural communities with information and resources that will enable them to transform their lives and communities for inclusive growth.”