By Andrea Nduul (YES 2014-2015, Nigeria, placed by PAX in Santa Fe, NM)
I often tell people that my journey to self-discovery started during my YES exchange year. The supportive environment of my host community helped me grow as a person and encouraged my involvement in community service. The generosity and acceptance my host family provided made me understand that everyone is different and unique in their way, and one thing that brings us all together is love.
The people of the Logo Local Government Area of Benue State are naturally full of peace, love, and cooperation. This community was so safe and peaceful that, during my childhood, I would sleep outside at night with my siblings without worry. The community was made up of hardworking commercial farmers and petty traders, and people lived peacefully until the Fulani Herdsmen Crisis in 2012, when a Muslim-Christian conflict ignited. Many people in the community fled to Gboko. I decided to apply for a 2021 YES Alumni Grant to provide a safe space for conversations in hopes of rebuilding relations and reminding my community of the power of love, mutual understanding, and peaceful coexistence.
The Love and Peacebuilding Workshop was a program for 122 people in the community. My team and I organized the workshop in January 2022, and it featured lectures from trainers on peace, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurship as a strategy for rebuilding and developing one’s society. During the second day of the workshop, community stakeholders with the power to support and contribute to the cause were invited, including both Christian and Muslim community members. One speaker, Dr. Bem Ugoh, one of the prominent sons of the affected community, gave a lecture on conflict resolution and encouraged the youth to never give up on the community. As sports are often a powerful and effective way to generate a sense of togetherness, the project also featured a football (soccer) match at the local community field to mark the end of the project.
One of our project partners, the Micelians Multipurpose Cooperative, offered our youth participants tools available through their cooperative, including free membership to the cooperative, opportunities to apply for farm loans, and access to a program for youth to own commercial motorcycles to aid in rebuilding the community through enhancing commercial activity. With coverage of the program being aired on the radio by Ashiwaves FM 99.9, I estimate 35,000 people heard about the project and its objectives.
With the help of our partner organizations, my team and I will be able to track youth community members and check in on their progress and use of the opportunities provided. I want to acknowledge the support of the YES program and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for funding the project. I thank the YES Nigeria alumni network (YAAN) alumni team, Micelians Multipurpose Cooperative Ltd, Ashiwaves FM, the people of Gboko and Logo communities, and Dr. Bem Ugoh for their immense help.