There comes a time in the life of every society when an idea is born which, not only touches the lives of its people in many positive ways, but also has a generational impact on them with tangible and long-lasting footprints in the sands of time.
For Benue State in North Central Nigeria, that time came 7 years ago when Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF), the Non-Governmental Organisation of the First Lady of Benue State, Dr. Eunice Ortom was born to offer development and humanitarian service to humanity through its core thematic areas of Health, Economic Empowerment, Governance, Education and Research.
Since its official unveiling on May 14th, 2016, ESLF has not only stayed the course of its vision of “a society without barriers to decent living”, but has been steadily expanding the frontier of its mandate of delivering development and humanitarian services to vulnerable persons.
Whether it is in the provision of succour to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, or the granting of scholarship support to indigent students so as to keep their dreams alive, or extending financial grants to support entrepreneurs, the Foundation has, in the last seven years, remained committed to improving lives.
In health, ESLF has carried out nearly 4000 free surgeries and one hundred thousand medical consultations and treatment of various kinds of ailments during its free medical outreaches targeted to reach all Council Wards in the State as well as during the Camp-To-Camp Free Medical Outreach for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in IDP camps at Gbajimba, Uikpam, Daudu, Makurdi and the Primary Healthcare Centre at Obagaji in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State. Only recently, the Foundation gave financial support running into millions of Naira when it gave each of 20 cancer patients various sums ranging from Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira to Half a Million Naira to support their chemotherapy, surgery and other forms of cancer treatment in various hospitals including Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) Makurdi, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, and Federal Medical Centre, Keffi in Nassarawa State.
In addition, ESLF has, in the last 7 years led advocacies and sensitisation actions to curb cancer and tuberculosis as well as carried out mental health awareness programmes spotlighting the dangers of illicit drugs and substance abuse among other unhealthy behaviours.
Currently, the Foundation is set to raise the bar in the delivery of health services with its soon-to-take-off Integrated Health Facility (IHF) that has a Maternal and Child Unit for specialized health services for our women and children, a Mental Rehabilitation Unit to offer mental health and psychosocial support services including drug and substance abuse rehabilitation, counselling and a range of Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) initiatives, as well as a Vocational Skills Training Centre.
In Education and Research, ESLF has awarded scholarships to over 1000 vulnerable persons, some of them Persons with Disability (PWDs) who have graduated successfully and now lead meaningful lives.In the same vein, since inception, ESLF has organised 7 editions of the Foundation’s Annual Literacy Project and Read Aloud programmes, as well as held science exhibitions where outstanding students and schools won prizes including cash awards.
In the first ever science exhibition held in 2019, Princess Adeja International College, Gboko won a cash prize of 2 Million Naira for developing a flood early warning system, NKST Secondary School, Adikpo won 1.5 Million Naira for producing an automated traffic triangle to reduce road crashes caused by broken down vehicles at night and Ameeuwa Model College, Adikpo won 1 Million Naira for producing fruit plucker to help in plucking and preserving the premium quality of fruits from trees. The prize money by ESLF was meant to deepen scientific research and fund further innovations in the winning schools to help solve societal problems.
Furthermore, in economic empowerment, the Foundation in 2018, sponsored 4 youths including one female shoemaker, Winifred Agu to China on train-the-trainer courses and upon their return to the State have been stepping down the master training they received to other trainees thereby giving more youths a new lease of life and livelihood.
Similarly, through its Economic Summits and other skills acquisition programmes, ESLF has trained many beneficiaries in various handicraft including fashion design, production of re-re-usable sanitary pads, detergents, disinfectant and deodorants among others and supported them with start-up packs and take-off grants to enable trainees sail smoothly in the world of business.In addition, ESLF within this period has supported farmers with improved rice and maize seeds as well as improved cassava stems for cultivation to improve their agricultural yields. Some of the beneficiaries including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and persons from IDP host communities have testified to the increased yields they have enjoyed giving a boost to their economic fortunes and restored their hopes despite the daunting challenges thrown their way by protracted crises and attacks in their ancestral homes.
The bold attempt by ESLF to host the ESLF Football Tournament 2022 aimed at harnessing the sporting potentials that abound in youths of the State cannot be over-emphasized. The tournament, targeted at young footballers with the will, skill and drive to make a difference through soccer, offered many youths the chance to be discovered for football trials both nationally and internationally as the grand finale and closing ceremonies which held in June 2022 was graced by football scouts and icons from across the country including the legendary Super Eagles Coach James Peters, Coach Augustine Eguavoen, Ex-Super Eagles stars and 1996 Soccer Olympics winners, Tijani Babangida and Emmanuel Babayaro as well as the Benue-born former BCC Lions captain and Super Eagles midfield maestro, Moses Kpakor.
In Governance, driven by the desire for gender balance, ESLF through its Founder, made inroads that have shattered many glass ceilings as an unprecedented number of women now sit at leadership and decision making tables in the State both as appointees of government and as elected officials representing their people. This push for gender equity in leadership culminated in the emergence of 9 female Chairmen out of 23, being the highest number of female Council Chairmen ever recorded in the State since its creation 47 years ago.
ESLF has also been instrumental to the development and institution of policies and legislations that protect and promote the rights of women, girls and other vulnerable persons including domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act and the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act in the State which it achieved in collaboration with other CSOs.
Currently, Dr. Eunice Ortom, through ESLF and Office of the First Lady of Benue State, has responded to the cries of widows to propose and push for a Bill to eliminate harmful widowhood practices in the State, as well as another bill to ensure women inclusion in traditional leadership to enable them contribute to decisions at the traditional level.
Also, the State First Lady through the instrumentality of the Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum, inaugurated the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Advocacy and Policy Implementation Committee, a crack team mandated to provide a wide range of multi-sectoral responses to the menace of SGBV in the State, and most recently, got funding support to establish the DOHAPITU Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) at BSUTH, a One-Stop-Shop (OSS) for the provision of services to SGBV survivors.
As ESLF marks its 7th anniversary this May 14th and the many milestones and achievements it has recorded in service to mankind, the Foundation is poised to vigorously sustain the pursuit of its vision for humanity and the boldest statement of its unflinching disposition is the imminent take-off of the ESLF-Integrated Health Facility (ESLF-IHF) in the next few days. The Facility, made possible by the remarkable support of ESLF partners, ambassadors, philanthropists, well-meaning individuals and organisations, is the single most unequivocal proof that ESLF has come to stay and will continue to serve humanity well into the foreseeable future.