My Oilfield African Story

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Echoes from My Oilfield African Story


My name is Ifunanya (Ify) Anyaegbu and I was born and nurtured in a nuclear family in Africa. I went to school in Nigeria and the experience I had prepared me for the journey ahead.  Growing up I always knew I had a special calling, an extraordinary mandate to support people. All my life I have been a dreamer and God has been faithful to see majority of my dreams come through. My school experience offered me a lot to learn, I especially loved Science subjects and history, and these helped shape who I grew up to become, an accomplished Engineer and humanitarian.

 

As an Engineer with the world's leading provider of technology to the oil and gas sector, I can comfortably say I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of life. Due to professional demands and undertakings, I was transferred to work outside the shores of Nigeria; I have lived and worked in this clime for over six years now.

 


My story will be grossly deficient and incomplete without the mention of my childhood passion, you see, growing up I knew I had a special calling to be a beacon of light and hope to the less privileged, the underserved, the unreachable. And just like an idea whose time has come, I founded and convened “The Foundation for Advancement of Child Education and Youth Empowerment (FACEYOUTH)”, a red and white charitable organization. 

 

And this is where the journey begins, welcome to ‘My Oilfield African Story’!

 

I am sharing my story; not because I want to brag about my accomplishments which by the way I am very proud of, but I want my life story to be a template and springboard to youths, who are having doubts about dreaming dreams!  My story also has all the elements of inspiration for today’s youth, especially the youth from developing countries like mine. 

My life is a testimony of defying the odds and challenging the so called impossible and making anything you dream of possible. I want to implore all the youths out there, “Never stop believing”, you can be anything, anything you want to be. Today, when I flash back, I am filled with so much nostalgia and shudder at the tortuous route that got me where I am today. I became who I am today by sheer determination and utilization of plethora of talents and skills. If there is a truth I know in life, it’s the fact you can make it, if this can be my story, then it can be yours as well. Let this truth sink in, you are specially and wonderfully made for a moment like this, so go bask in your glory.
Growing up was amazing, I practically lacked nothing, I had a fun filled and enjoyable upbringing, so don’t expect a fairy tale story of grass to grace. My story serves a key role of demonstrating the fact, that life is a cycle of peaks and troughs, highs and lows, which is why I am motivated to give other young African talents the same opportunity I had to showcase their talents to the world.


My vision at FACEYOUTH, is to equip and empower young talents especially of rural Sub-Saharan African origin with basic tools that will enable them get the best elementary education and vocational skills, which by default will guide them towards their future goals. My vision is to see a liberated and emancipated world, where every youth attains their highest natural educational potentials without any hindrance. Youths need to go back to the drawing board and understand that life can throw anything in one’s path and thus, should be prepared. I really want the youth to believe that anybody can become anything in future. 

 

My childhood story


I had the most memorable childhood and we were all confident and fearless, ready to conquer the world. I was born and grew up in Enugu (Nigeria) around the 80s and early 90s. There was no distinction between the rich and the poor in our small civil service town. My parents were civil servants. In the 60's my dad had his Nigerian government sponsored Bachelors/Masters degree in the United Kingdom and Netherlands. He had a Ph.D. from the University of Ibadan and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka respectively. He worked in the Ministry of Finance and facilitated the African Development Bank (ADB) Rural Electrification projects that gave electricity to most rural communities in old Eastern region of Nigeria, and most countries in West Africa. He also worked with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the World Bank assisted programme, he trained and supported his siblings and other people not related to him and travelled wide and far. Mum went to the Teachers Training College before gaining admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study Agricultural Sciences. Now you know where I got my talents from and why integrity matters to me.

 

As a child, I went to Ekulu Primary School, the best government funded primary school in Enugu in the 80s and early 90s; I was in the same class with the son of Nduka Eya, the then deputy Governor of old Anambra State. Today, you probably wouldn’t find the children of Nigerian top government officials or politicians in government funded schools as it is common in other developed countries. If our government patronise our public education, it would create an enabling environment for our children by setting the same standard for both public and private schools. Unfortunately, you only get a better opportunity in Nigeria if your parents are rich and can afford an excellent education for you. Here in the UK, parents have a choice to either enrol in a government funded School, which is free or a private school, and everything is transparent online. So it is the parents’ choice of an option most suitable for them, depending on their time, earnings and budget (we do not have that choice anymore in Nigeria as private schools are on the increase yet our children and youths are becoming more of educated illiterates).


Going back to my childhood, I knew I wanted to be an engineer when I was five years old. President Babangida had visited our school in 1986 and asked me what I wanted to be in future; (NTA, please find that clip for me). You see, military presidents visited schools outside the country’s capital often and sometimes on short or no notice, to carry out inspections and audit. Today civilian governors/politicians are too busy to even appraise the commissioners (Some of them are by the way their friends or business partners), much less of visiting government owned schools.


As children, we also played at common parks, the existence of common parks for us made it difficult to commit crimes because everyone knew everyone’s parents and it was easy to get your child’s odd behavioural report during the play dates at the parks or common play areas. Today parents will rather leave their wards at home with video games than going on play dates with other children. Today in Nigeria, if you cannot afford an expensive private school that has sports facilities, then your children will not be able to explore their sporting skills.

 

My life and work experiences

 
I remember vividly the day I travelled to work abroad, it was my first expedition, I was thrilled and excited, I felt well prepared and ready, at least in my own books, a common Nigerian girl, coming to work offshore in the United Kingdom (UK) for the first time. But to my chagrin, it was a rude awakening, there was nothing thrilling about the first time I landed in Aberdeen. The transition and switch was analogous to day and night, I had left Lagos that day while it was 32 degrees Celsius and landed in 0 degree Celsius Aberdeen, with showers of snow. It was a brutal welcome, there was hardly enough time to adjust to this change in weather conditions because I went straight for my offshore survival training where we were briefed on the day’s activities, which included underwater survival training in a pool. 
My heart practically sank, in my mind I muttered “Are you kidding me, in that weather?”.  I thought there was no way I would get into the pool in that cold, but I was reassured and briefed on safety measures and was allowed to ask questions, critical questions, for the first time, I truly appreciated our weather back home. But, as a tough cookie I am, I marched on and became resolute and defiant of the seemingly unusual weather. This singular personal conviction really helped me to overcome the fear of cold.
Well, I eventually passed my underwater survival training sessions, and I also realized that the water was actually warm, although you will still feel the cold once you got out of the pool. 
The next day I flew out to the deep water oil drilling rig offshore; It was my first time seeing near frozen sea. Although my offshore crew/team were nice, admirable and highly professional with stellar work ethics, yet I still couldn’t adapt to the cultural and environmental shock. After a long stretch of three weeks, I came back as a survivor but unavoidably, told my Manager that I would like to return back to Nigeria! Yes, I practically chickened out, I didn’t want to work in the UK anymore. My manager stood his grounds and refused to shift his stance. Well, I hunkered down and six years afterwards, I’m still here, and also naturalized as a British citizen, within this period, I have had the most awesome time and met the most amazing friends and colleagues in the UK. Finally my patience, tenacity and determination paid off and there being my most interesting life journey and experiences. I also learnt the act of giving back in the UK, which inspired me to startup FACEYOUTH.

 

 

Inspiration behind taking FACEYOUTH public

 

Prior to FACEYOUTH, I co-founded a non-registered charity with a few friends and colleagues in the oil industry which took care of underprivileged talented young girls in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Promoted/championed more oil industry opportunities for women. Taking FACEYOUTH public was a decision I made because I could no longer cope with the burden of taking care of underprivileged children in my care. Some of my partners and co-founders were affected by the down turn in the oil industry. I also took more than  40% pay cut when my contract was changed from expatriate to local status without the normal three months prior notice. Obviously I was disturbed and demotivated because I wasn’t prepared for the shock and I had these children in my care I didn’t want to disappoint. I unsuccessfully negotiated for a different package and thought about quitting because I didn’t want my mood to affect my productivity or track record, but I really didn’t want to be seen as a 'quitter', I don't give up easily, I make the best out of every opportunity. It was at this point I decided the time was ripe for my charity work. I knew I could juggle it; after all, it is still the same me who managed a full time job with distance learning MBA; did the interior decoration business as well as sold stuff just to support myself while I was in the university and I still graduated with very good grades. Not even once did I have a carryover or repeat any course. My entrepreneurial skills eventually inspired me to go to business school and learn being an entrepreneur the smart way. This skill is now useful for the cause I'm promoting.

I promised God that while I didn’t save much due to the number of children in school that I am responsible for, everything I have earned and learned in the UK in the past six years will be used to make other young African talents dream come true. I am dedicated to this cause and it has become a part of me because till date, I run currency conversion in my head before any purchase and I have been teased about patronising bargain shops despite the reputation of my employer which affords me the ability of a luxurious lifestyle, but I have chosen to use my resources to impact on people’s life and give another child the same opportunity that I had to show his or her talent to the world.

 

 

FACEYOUTH as a nonprofit organization did not have a smooth take off, the conception was shaky because I didn’t get the nudge and thumbs up from a few family and friends. When I told them about my non-profit startup plans, they dismissed the idea as alien and something usually associated with politicians, philanthropists, super rich, celebrities, public personalities. You see I was seeking for genuine validation, but I know better now, when you are called, you Must Go!
Some did not believe I have the zeal and mettle to see the dream to fruition. I was discouraged by the people I believed will stand behind me because I obviously didn’t fit into the ‘group’ despite the brilliance of my vision. This was a turning point in my journey, but if you know me, you will know when my mind is made up, nothing can stop me, absolutely nothing.
So, I pressed on, I stuck to God and a few good friends that had implicit faith in me and with my sheer integrity, hard work and perseverance I trudged on, and it came to pass. Throughout my journey, I learnt one thing, “it’s never how far we go in life, but how well”. Need I say more, in the course of starting my organization, because I wanted it to be a volunteer driven organization to save cost, I spent months, trying to sell my vision to 'friends'. It was another learning curve, some friends gave myriad of reasons, ranging from busy schedule to stark criticisms and rejection. At the end of the day, majority of my friends didn’t buy into my vision. They saw it as bogus and daydreaming, but to their chagrin it came to pass. Coincidentally, I started having a give and experienced swift progress, when I stopped trying to convince and sell my ideas to people.  I decided to completely trust God instead, and this was how I got the job done, Total strangers came to my rescue.

 

So, I commenced my groundwork while visiting Nigeria, I researched on the basic prerequisites for setting up nonprofits and shockingly discovered that the word ‘Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)’ is being misused or highly over rated, this is because NGOs are not properly regulated and evaluated in Nigeria. A lot of people do not even know the difference between non-profit and not for profit as everything is registered under the umbrella of NGO. Also, many miscreants use the NGO portal to fleece and exploit people. Amazingly, before I landed in Nigeria, some miscreant had already printed a letter headed paper in my name with an organization’s name on it, with fake signature and had written a Nigerian top goverment official soliciting for assistance, without my knowledge or approval. 
The Nigerian NGO research experience changed my approach and strategy, I adopted the lean principle poka-yoke (mistake proofing), to minimize fraud (One of our strategy is Teach us how to "fish", don't give us "fish". Support young African talents to be great "fishermen").

FACEYOUTH was eventually birthed and look how well we have done.  

 

The whole experience served as learning curve in my life, I have since decided to target like minds, so together, we can go and impact our various communities.  
In the course of starting FACEYOUTH, some friends gave me names of strategists to contact for professional consult, and I actually called one after so much persuasion, but was rudely shocked, she lacked the depth and grasp of what I needed. I became the chief strategist of FACEYOUTH and we have now secured several partnerships with credible companies and people that I’m very proud to be associated with.

I also decided to self-fund the start-up of this project because I was weary of the wrong people adulterating the vision and using it to cause mayhem. Indeed, there are so many genuine nonprofits out there in the midst of the fake ones. You just cannot be too careful. In the past, people went on missions to help communities build homes, volunteer at schools and develop the community. Today most people are all selfish, only thinking about themselves and wards, forgetting the genuine act of selfless giving without expecting anything in return.


In self funding the start-up of this charity, I intend to show young people that you can all make a difference and impact your communities no matter who you are. You can go and build a toilet in your alumni or community, the children there will forever remember you.

 

You see I do not have to be a politician or super rich personality to achieve these. I just want to demonstrate and teach young people the genuine act of selfless giving (love/charity) by creating an enabling environment for them to realise their full potential, so that together we can change tomorrow.


At this juncture, I will pause, this is just the tip of the iceberg, my story continues......... the full recorded documentary will be released at FACEYOUTH official launch.

 

To be continued…… My Oilfield African Story© 2016 by Ify Anyaegbu.

 

 

Kindly support our ongoing projects by downloading FACEYOUTH anthem on any online digital music store; iTunes, Amazon music, Spotify etc (Just search for 'FACEYOUTH Anthem')


One download 79p or 99c is equivalent to approximately 300 Nigerian Naira (NGN), this will buy at least ten exercise books and help make a life long dream come true!

By default, all the proceeds from our music sales will go into supporting our ongoing e-Learning Centres for Rural Communities (eCRC) project, purchase of school supplies for underpriviledged children and sponsoring some of our awareness/fund raising events. - http://www.faceyouth.org/index.php/get-involved/music-aid

 

Copyright © 2016 FACEYOUTH, Unpublished Work. All rights reserved.