Hon. Mrs. Beulah Chukwuma is the current Director-General of Imo Foundation, the humanitarian organ of Imo State Government.
Chukwuma before her recent appointment is a guru in the banking industry having spent over 20 years of her career in the industry albeit, at the executive management level.
She has held the General Manager position in several banks including Access Bank and Keystone Bank.
She has also Chartered Accountant, a Chartered Tax Consultant, a member of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and member, Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria.
She also served as Assistant National Publicity Secretary of PCRC and matron, St. Vincent de Poor in the Catholic Communion for over a decade.
In this interview, the Post Graduate Degree holder in Leading Innovation and Change from the University of York St John, United Kingdom speaks on her vision for the Foundation and the many challenges confronting it.
She also used to opportunity to solicited assistance from public-spirited individuals and organizations to partner with the Foundation in reaching out to the needy in the state and saving lives.
Below are some excerpts of the interview.
May we know you Ma?
I am Hon. Mrs. Beulah Chukwuma. I am the new Director-General, Imo Foundation. I just resumed. I have a banking background before joining the Foundation. I ama Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Tax Consultant. And I have been in the financial industry for more than 20 years. I have been in more than three banks at the executive management level prior to joining Imo Foundation. Of course, I came through appointment. His Excellency Distinguished Sen. Hope Uzodinma, our Governor. He saw my CV and he asked me to come. And here we are.
So why did you choose to forfeit your lucrative job for the Imo Foundation that is more of a humanitarian job?
That is the word humanitarian. Having spent so much time in the banking industry, I felt like at this time of my life, I should give something back to society. And that is what Imo Foundation is all about. The whole concept of Imo Foundation aligns itself with what I want to do with my life now. I want to remember the less privileged among us. With the things that are happening globally, there is so much stress; there has been a lot of economic disruptions. And when these things happen, let me use the case of Covid-19 for instance, when things like this happen, it is the less privilege that suffers most and women in particular. Because women are the mothers and we are the closest to the family unit. So I felt like it is time to serve my people, to give back and that is why I chose to come to Imo Foundation. Because Imo Foundation coordinates the humanitarian activities of Imo State Government. What we do here basically is medical philanthropy as well as empowering the less privileged, the indigent people of Imo State. Giving a helping hand to the needy. You know our motto says “If only the Poor can Smile”. That’s what Imo Foundation is all about.
Does this say anything good about the present administration of Sen. Hope Uzodinma, having thought it wise to bring somebody like you to come and man this foundation at a time like this?
You know His Excellency is a very wise man. I am of a strong opinion that he really knows what he wants to do here. Because nobody can care for the needy more than a mother. And I am a mother. That’s the quality he saw and made him say, let this lady come here. He knows my pedigree and he also knows that at a time like this, none can feel the pain of, I don’t want to use the word, poor people. People are not poor, they are economically challenged. They are economically vulnerable. And because he so much wants to impact on the less privileged, the needy, that is why he felt like a woman like me, who understands and knows what to do and who will hit the ground running should sit here today.
Now that you are here, what are your expectations or your vision?
We are in Nigeria at a time like this, we have been hit by Covid-19 like every economy, and our economy being predominantly dependent on oil and you know what is happening in the international oil market now, the price of crude has been hit because of the effect of COVID, so it is impacting adversely on us. So that being the case, the economy as we know it today is not what it used to be. Because it is not what it used to be, every other thing has been affected. The resources are no longer as they used to be. So there is a need to bring a lot of ingenuity in order to make things work here. It is no longer Eldorado. The government is very supportive but now, we need to go beyond government. We need to reach out to organizations, individuals that are public-spirited to come to our aid in addition to what the government is doing for us. And how can we do that? We will do that when people see our activities on the ground. We will see what we do. For instance, coming here immediately, I met on the ground a major case we are managing now. We have a family that is here now, children, co-joined twins. Very few of us know what co-joined twins are. You know when a woman has twins, you see two kids standing on their own separately but these particular children, very beautiful children, they are joined together. Now we are working to separate them. That is the major issue on the ground now. What are we doing? We are reaching out to quickly get their surgery done. So that they can begin to enjoy and live a better life. So you see, there is no rest. As soon as you come, the challenges are even there waiting for you. That is why you need to bring your A-game to succeed here.
Beyond the issue of the co-joined twins, are there other cases you have here presently?
We have other cases. There is a family that came three days ago, their daughter is having a kidney challenge, almost to the point of kidney failure. They are on our neck, they are asking for our help. And we are also working to see what we can do to be able to help them. There are so many of them. They come every other day. If you spend a week here, you will be surprised. Some of our people come, they don’t have money to pay school fees, they come to Imo Foundation, they don’t have food to eat, they come here. Some are blind people. There is a family is here, the husband is blind, he has a family, and Imo Foundation has to care for them. So it is just like that. It goes on and on. There are so many of our people. If they need surgery, Imo Foundation comes in. So from the way we run this place, it is purely a humanitarian organization arm of Imo State government.
Concerning the co-joined twins, is there any estimate on what it will cost to see to their successful surgery?
What we tried to do is to achieve a good milage as quickly as possible. Of course, we have a major challenge, there are experts that are supposed to come and really take over so that they will be able to give us specific cost but they have not been able to come because there are restrictions of movement. We are already in touch with UNTH, Enugu but unfortunately, they can’t come and it is not something they can manage from afar. As soon as they come, we will be able to come up with specific amounts we are really looking at to get the surgery done. But of course, while they are here, they eat, the babies are eating and their caregivers are eating. Because the father of these children is really economically challenged. They come from a family of six now. Unfortunately, the wife died delivering the twins. So the other four children are on him. He is taking care of them. So he is not able to do anything for them. Thank God their case was discovered and they came here. And since they came, His Excellency has been taking care of them there. All their basic needs are being provided by the Governor. While waiting for things to clear a bit, so the experts will come and then take over. But what we are also going to do in Imo Foundation, we are not just going to take care of these children, by the time we finish with the children, we should also think of how the family will survive. Imo Foundation will go the extra mile to ensure that the head of the family, their father is gainfully employed. We will assist him to be able to stand on his feet to take care of his family so that the family can quickly recover from this trauma and move on.
So what effort has the foundation made in seeking partnership towards offsetting these challenges before it?
Even before I came here, Imo Foundation has some partnerships or NGOs that have been working with them. Even Imo people in the diaspora, they come to our aid. We organize medical missions here, from time to time but you know this Covid-19 pandemic has been a major challenge because all our partners outside can not come in. Everybody is waiting for things to really calm down before we can fully swing into action. Like I said earlier, we do health philanthropy and what we have tried to do is to do like the first aid here. It is not what it use to be because knowing Imo Foundation maybe by the time you came here today, you may have seen a large crowd of people but we have tried to avoid that for now for the safety of the staff and the people too with the hope that very soon, things will clear and we begin to that which we are known for.
From your observations since you assumed office here, do you have any advice for Imolites or the general public particularly in the face of the current pandemic?
If I am to speak, everybody knows what is happening now. We are in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic. The whole world is facing this challenge. It is not a Nigerian thing. In fact, almost every country in the world has Covid-19. First I will say to Nigerians, Imolites in particular, don’t give up. God is in control. But, you know that God’s works with us, so we also have to do our part. And what do we have to do? The government has been doing a lot of advocacy, please if you don’t have anything to do outside your house, stay at home but if you must come out, like those of us that go out every day, we need to earn our living, we must be careful. Please wear your mask. Right now, the mask is not optional, you need to understand that putting on that mask is a way for you to protect yourself and protect your loved ones and also protect everybody else around you. Wear your mask as much as possible. Wash your hands. Like every other person, I am encouraging a lot of hand washing. Wash your hands as often as possible. If you can wash your hands every 30 minutes, if it is possible, do that. If it is one hour, you can do that, wash your hands every interaction, wash your hands. But if you are not able to wash your hands, please remember to use your sanitizer, rub it all over your hands to help you when you can not wash them. And finally, don’t touch your face because the virus is looking for wherever that is open to pass through and enter your body. It can enter through your mouth, it can pass through your nose and then your eyes. So just tell yourself, don’t touch your face. In a time like this, you need to not touch your face. And we need to be very prayerful and ask God to intervene. Pray for our doctors and the health workers who are on the front line of this pandemic and also pray for our government, they are fighting. They are doing as much as they can to safeguard our people. And let us be responsible citizens by doing our own beat to ensure that this Covid-19 will be a thing of the past soon.