Witnessing the heart-wrenching reality faced by many Nigerian children – the struggle to access quality education, welfare, and enduring harsh living conditions – Prayer Ikegwuonu, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Naza Agape Foundation, is on a mission to address these pressing challenges.
Growing up in a rural community in Plateau state, Prayer says this early exposure ignited a deep-seated desire within her to be a catalyst for change.
“At the tender age of 16, I took my first steps toward making a positive impact in my community,” the founder said.
“I began visiting orphanages, dedicating myself to igniting hope in the hearts of underprivileged children. My volunteer work expanded, encompassing various organisations, and I became a beacon of hope for those in need.”
This commitment to effecting change led the CEO to kickstart the Naza Agape Foundation, a non-discriminatory, not-for-profit organisation that has been in operation since 2018 and has impacted the lives of thousands worldwide, with a primary focus on Nigeria.
The foundation’s history begins in July 2018 when Prayer participated in a ‘Book Drive’ educational project initiated by Covenant University’s 13th graduating class.
The project’s goal was to collect a million books across Nigeria to enhance education, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education.
“I was able to form a strong team that donated 2,000 books to about seven low-income community schools in the state during the project. At that time, a major crisis in our state got more than 2,000 people displaced in an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp,” she said.
“I then started teaching the children for free consistently for more than seven months. More than 300 children benefited from the classes; I also formed a team of 20 dedicated teachers who were impacting the lives of the IDPs daily.”
“That was where the Naza Agape Foundation started. Since our inception, we have put training and teaching of girls at the forefront of our outreaches, projects, and programmes.”
Through the support of family and friends, the foundation got donations such as foodstuffs, clothing, footwear, school supplies like books, writing materials, whiteboards, and other stationeries. These donations were used in catering for the internally displaced people, especially children.
As we progressed in our humanitarian journey, we started receiving generous donations, international grants, and meaningful partnerships. “So far, the foundation has impacted 18,000 lives globally, especially in Nigeria,” she says.
“This occurred through events like sending less privileged children back to school, impact project, support for IDPs, book donation campaigns, and free extra, moral classes among others. Those indigent children are in secondary school, while some are in high institutions.”
Speaking on the foundation’s initial challenges, the founder says, “In the early stages, our foundation faced limited funds to help crisis-affected children, especially the 400 out-of-school kids.
“We also encountered resource constraints in training brilliant minds from an IDP camp. Furthermore, we lacked experienced volunteers, had issues with documentation, and low media coverage,” she says.
Also, competition for funds in the social impact space, retention of volunteers, self-care, and burnout are major challenges, she notes.
To overcome these hurdles, she sought international donations, partnered with organisations, and improved her documentation and media presence.
“Today, our foundation thrives on social media with a growing following, enabling us to reach more donors and foster collaborations,” the founder says.
Prayer’s leadership transcends borders. She serves as a cabinet minister at the Republic of Women, a global digital state committed to gender equity and women’s empowerment.
Her influence is felt on global platforms like World Pulse, where she passionately advocates for women’s voices and social change.
In Nigeria, Prayer co-founded Girlified, a company revolutionizing menstrual hygiene with eco-friendly products. Last month, they distributed free sanitary pads to 500 girls and provided education on health management, climate change, and the importance of environmental preservation in health care.
As a former delegate for the Global Youth Leaders Project, she collaborates with young leaders worldwide to co-create sustainable solutions to global challenges, with a strong focus on grassroots development.
Her dedication to transformative change continues through her role as a trustee and member of Strategic Action for Community Development Nigeria (SACD Nigeria), where she plays a pivotal role in driving social impact.
Prayer’s remarkable work has won her numerous accolades both locally and internationally.
Beyond her borders, she became a Global Goodwill Ambassador and proudly held the Amazons of Arewa Ambassador title in Northern Nigeria. Naza Agape Foundation, under her leadership, gained global recognition for its humanitarian efforts and was featured in United People Global for its support during the COVID-19 era.
On her workforce, Prayer says that the not-for-profit organisation has about 500 volunteers across the globe.
Speaking on long-term goals, Prayer says, “We aim to become a world-class outreach foundation geared towards raising leaders that will transform their nations by bringing an end to poverty and making a global impact.”