Emmanuel Ezekiel had always wanted to be part of the people providing solutions to Nigeria’s pressing problems. After weeks of study and scouting, that opportunity to knead his dreams into reality finally opened up to him one day.
“In June 2022, I had the opportunity to participate in a United States Institute exchange program in Seattle, Washington. One of the milestones I had to execute for the program was a project in my home country. The project aimed to solve a specific problem in my community,” Ezekiel recalled.
After brainstorming on the project topic to work on, Ezekiel settled on one which he called “Discover the World through Books.” He enlisted young volunteers, including Sadiya Yunusa Bello and Rhoda Isah Kalla and, together, they successfully executed the project. But Ezekiel burned for more.
“Following the project’s success, I still wanted to do more, so I approached Daniel and Umaru, expressing the desire to continue making an impact on a larger scale. This conversation resulted in the founding of a non-profit called Start the Future Initiative,” he told Prime Progress.
On January 24, 2023, Ezekiel and his team met on the premises of Gombe State University to begin planning large-scale activities for the new outfit.
“Start the Future Initiative began with a well-meaning passion to do more for the community by touching more lives. It also came into existence with values such as integrity, teamwork, diligence, empathy, and accountability,” he explained.
Ezekiel also informed Prime Progress that his sheer passion to serve the community in a greater capacity was the driving force behind the initiative. He explained that he aimed to create an ideal future by addressing problems afflicting the present.
Among the initiative’s areas of focus are leadership development, gender-based violence, climate advocacy, quality education, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding. Part of its projects include a climate awareness campaign in schools within Gombe State, tree planting, awareness creation, and donation of waste-disposal cans
“As a youth-led organization, we focus on creating awareness of diverse issues, conducting workshops, and visiting schools. We initiated our efforts with a Student Representative Council Presidential Debate at Gombe State University, the first of its kind since its inception.
“As part of the projects we carried out, the Waste Recycling and Afforestation Project in Gombe State involved transforming pure water sachets into interlocks, planting trees, and donating trash cans to five secondary schools. The project successfully raised environmental awareness, promoted waste management practices, and created a greener and cleaner school environment,” he said.
His desire to enhance the quality of life sparked inspiration for his initiative, Ezekiel said. He also seeks to ensure that he impacts his generation while making his community better.
“On Tuesday, January 24, 2023, we started as a team of three, but as we continued to work and advocate for a better community, we now have about eight members. We’ve reached out to about 2,306 persons and aspire to reach 10,000 people in the next three years,” he added.
Word from a member of staff
Mane Umaru, the team lead of Start the Future Initiative, said that as a team of eight holding different positions, they plan and execute several projects together. He describes their work as a rewarding journey.
“The greatest for me is the joy of making an impact and contributing our quota to the peace and development of our community and the world on a larger scale. We execute this through numerous programs that span across awareness and sensitization, fostering democracy, protecting our environment, empowering both women and youth to become independent and lots more,” Umaru said.
Umaru said that Ezekiel has been pivotal to the success of the numerous programs the initiative has executed. Umaru also described himself as passionate and dedicated to the work he does.
An Ardent Follower, a Chance to Grow
Iffu Samuel, a beneficiary of the initiative, said that he learnt about Start the Future around May 2023 during one of its programs tagged “Leadership and the Minorities.”
“It was a training set to instill confidence in people living with disabilities, and also for young girls. I was privileged to be in attendance, as the conversations and seminars held in the programme boosted my ability to speak publicly with confidence and also sensitized my mindset about people living with disabilities and the less privileged,” he said.
Samuel said that ever since, he has remained a zealous follower of the organization’s workshops and programs. He is certain that all his gathered experience has brewed and refined him into being more confident and actively involved in making decisions that will be a remedy rather than a tragedy to society.
“With the knowledge gained from the initiative, I have been able to also sensitize others in my small sphere. I am glad I am able to do so because that way, I am able to ensure that as a participant, I also pass down this wealth of knowledge to others,” he explained further.
Samuel also said that the initiative has done a lot in its few years of work, and he is elated to have been a part of it. He believes it has served as a defining moment for him, teaching him to give attention to the opportunities that come his way. He now takes it seriously.
“I hope they keep up the pace at which they are moving because what they do gives hope to the layman and gives the masses hope that things can change for the better for those who are willing to dare for achievement,” Samuel said.
On setbacks confronting the outfit, Ezekiel told Prime Progress that human resources that fetch people with the same zeal, zest, and passion to impact the community have proven a hard nut to crack.
“Funding has been a major challenge, and we hope for more access to opportunities. While we still await grants and support from bigger individuals and organizations with an interest in what we do, we rely solely on personal funds that help us carry out our activities,” he expressed.
As the organization winds out to its first anniversary, Ezekiel said the team plans to scale up activities, becoming an Africa-wide initiative. This way, it hopes to be a leading voice that creates real and sustainable growth for individuals and society at large.