CHINWE NWOSU: BURNING AND RUNNING WITH A PASSION TO DEVELOP YOUTHS
She is not only a young lady but one burning with a passion to help fellow youths. Her passion propelled her to gather a group of young girls and talk to them during her long vacation in second year as an undergraduate. Little did she know that the little seed of gathering a few girls will metamorphose into an NGO that has been touching lives? Joseph Dinwoke of brojid.com sat with her to find out what motivated her start and NGO at her tender age, the challenges she encountered, her survival secrets and the impact of her NGO, Personality Development, has made since inception. She sheds light on marriage and the female folk.
Sure, you will be inspired…. Enjoy.
Please may we meet you?
My name is Chinwe Nwosu Laurel, the founder of Laural Personality Development. I am first of four children from Imo state. I am a student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, currently in my final year studying Biochemistry and Microbiology.
What informed your stating an NGO at your age and level in life?
Well, I can’t place my hands on anything now, but it was initiated by the fact that I hate to be idle and have a passion for impact on society. So, when I found myself idle, I thought that it was an opportunity for me to do something that I am passionate about. It didn’t really start as an organization. It was actually something that was built from passion. I just wanted to bring together a group of young girls, talk to them about things I felt are good and things that are good. That was how it all started and now it has grown big.
When exactly did you start?
I started on the 8th day of August, 2012. That was my second year long vacation.
sometimes when you go to meet supposed funders and you are telling them to support the vision and they tell you, ‘You are still a young girl; what you should be thinking about now is how to get married.’
Ever since you started, what are the challenges you have faced running this NGO and going to school?
The basic challenge is financial but not so much of a challenge because I am able to present what I do to people and share the vision with them. That way, it’s not difficult to get them to fund Laurel. Also, sometimes when you go to meet supposed funders and you are telling them to support the vision and they tell you, ‘You are still a young girl; what you should be thinking about now is how to get married.’ And that’s one of the things that informed my vision at Laurel because when I see young ladies that their dream is to get married, I felt disappointed.
Are you saying that if I propose to you now, you won’t like it?
No! I am not ready to get married. It’s not anytime soon. ( General laughter)
What was your response to the discouraging comments you got?
I had read books and equipped myself for what I am doing now. So, for me to have started should have sent a signal to you that I prepared to face what comes with it. I knew things like this will come.
What kind of books did you read that spurred you to start and keep going despite the discouragement that came with it?
I read John Mason’s books. He is one person I read his book and I was happy about it. I read the story of Henry Ford, My Life and My Work, Ben Carson and Helen Keller. Helen Keller is someone that thrills me when I read her I start wondering what am I even doing on this planet. In the area of sales, Brian Tracy has been a wonderful mentor there and Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant within you. These people have been pretty awesome and when I think about them, I just realized I need to do more.
When you started your NGO, what was your parents’ reaction?
My dad was not totally in support of it because he thinks it’s going to affect my education. But my mum is fully in support. My Dad gives support when he just has to give but my mum is fully there.
Someone told you that you are too young to start an NGO. Don’t you think you are truly young?
I have got that questions, tons and tons of times. I don’t think I am too young. For me, age is not a barrier, whether you are young or old. I can start a conversation with a fourteen year old boy and be jotting as long as I am learning something from him. Age is not a barrier; it’s just a number that indicates how long someone has lived on this earth.
But are you saying that experience doesn’t count?
Nooo!!! I didn’t say experience doesn’t count. But those that are experienced all started one day. Nobody just sprang up with 10 years experience. For me, I have learnt to take my mistake as a stepping stone. I still don’t undermine that fact that I am still learning them one day I have loads of experience and I will have like 20 years experience to share on running and NGO.
How do you balance running and NGO with going to school?
In my second and third year, it was a challenge. But I got to take a management course (an audio programme) and it has been good since then even though it’s still a little bit shaky like now when the timetable for the exam is out, it means that everything about Laurel is going to be pursued.
What are your dreams for Laurel?
One of my major visions that keep me going is that I want to see a generation of self aware women who will serve as a hub for positive change in your society. In the long run, we want to see self aware, independent women who are virtuous. It’s a rare combination, but we will get there.
Is your goal at Laurel to change the mindset of every young girl despite other influence from the media and bad role models in society?
No. Laurel does not have a goal to change every young girl because we can’t achieve it. But Laurel has a goal to reach as many young girls as it can. We are actually looking at 150 girls in two years. This might look seem too small but we are not just building the people to be positively changed but be agents of positive change. So, it’s like a ripple effect. We really invest our time in training whoever we get hold of.
Who are your team members or are you working alone?
No. I am not working alone. I have team members. We have a team of seven – two young guys and five young ladies and wherever we want to do a project, we have volunteers. And they are passionate young people.
You have been running Laurel for over two years now. Have you benefited in any way financially?
No. At present, we are doing some restructuring and am sceptical about asking for external funds because I don’t really know the look Laurel is going to take in the long run. We might come out a lot different from what we have now.
Our last project was my personal fund. But again, a gain lot from Laurel – the fulfilment – when someone comes here and says, ‘Thank you, I haven’t gotten to this level at this point if not for Laurel.’ For me, it’s more than money. It’s something I can even give my school fees for. I hope my dad doesn’t get to hear this. (General Laughter). That fulfilment is awesome!
Who has been sponsoring your projects?
Basically, family and friends. I must really thank my friends. I ran a train–the trainer-session here in Nsukka at the University of Nigeria Library. Every single fund that was spent there was raised by my friends. Even those that don’t have given as little as N500 and it was awesome. It was like a miracle of the five thousands. We had quite a lot remaining. My parents and aunt have also sponsored my projects.
Once I say that there is something that’s happening and I need money, they will just say ‘Is it that thing that happened the other time?” And they will sponsor.
What is it that when done for you, you will be able to achieve all that your goals at Laurel?
Every goal I have at Laurel? Wow! That’s a very big question that I have not even thought about. One of the things I know that would really help Laurel to achieve all their goals is passionate, young people coming around is to volunteer passionate young people coming around to volunteer. So, if you have a similar goal and you are a young person you could care key into the vision of Laurel. The next one is financial. I don’t put finance at the forefront because for me when I have people, I have everything I need. Finance is also there. Once you have passionate young people, you can go places no matter how bad it is.
It has been found there are people that start an NGO for selfish reasons. That is, they start an NGO, apply for funding, then eat the money. How do you conceive one who is interested in sponsoring your projects you are different from the crowd?
My age should have told you that I don’t have such an idea. I am giving almost my all to make this happen now. This is something I want to dedicate the rest of my life to. I have been going through training, personality development and I intend taking a course in developmental psychology over now. I don’t really know how to convince you, but with time, everybody will know.
Could you please share some of your success stories since you started the pursuit of your vision?
Our strategy has been different for non-obvious but cool reasons. We initially started with a holiday programme and trained thirty people during a holiday and we got testimonials from parents, about 10 of them. And from the personal interviews we had with the girls, they said that they have discovered exactly what they want to do with their lives and these girls range from 11-16 years of age.
At present, we are working with about five girls in our current project – Project Empower. One of them took JAMB and we were able to
I don’t like it when people see marriage as an end in itself and for some ladies; they don’t have purpose before going into marriage. I found out that many ladies don’t define their purpose before marriage and they don’t even have a shared vision with their partner. If you don’t have a purpose, you won’t even have a vision to share with your partner. I am not against marriage, I am only against entering a marriage without any purpose just to fulfil social obligations.
When was in your most discouraging moment running Laurel?
Those times I am dead broke because I have invested all my money in Laurel project and I have asked family for money, friends and everybody for money for a project and now I need my personal money and you start asking them. At those times, I just keep calm and miracle always happen. Money somehow comes in.
The way you sounded about marriage suggest that you disapproves ladies getting into relationship on campus.
That is not what I am saying. I don’t like it when people see marriage as an end in itself and for some ladies; they don’t have purpose before going into marriage. I found out that many ladies don’t define their purpose before marriage and they don’t even have a shared vision with their partner. If you don’t have a purpose, you won’t even have a vision to share with your partner. I am not against marriage, I am only against entering a marriage without any purpose just to fulfil social obligations. I believe marriage is a beautiful union.
Please, who is your Mentor?
I don’t really have a mentor, but I have people I look up to. Someone that her story inspires me greatly is Helen Keller.