How I Built NGO, Raised Money, Assembled Memberships for Nigerian Poor Communities by Using Internet from a distance in Japan
At the time when I started my NGO, I had absolutely nothing. All my possession was stolen in Nigeria and I came back to my mother's house with nothing whatsoever. Without a driver's license, I lived next two years only confined to the house. My mother, 80-year-old, who is nearly blind with cataract, was the only one who supported me with her small income. For two years, I kept building my NGO silently to support poor communities suffering from environmental pollution in Nigeria from a distant country in Japan. Obviously my good intention was not well understood by the surrounding rice-field communities, and even from the eyes of international community, I was not the most fitting to support the poor persons in Nigeria.
Fortunately, I was ignited by the training team at World Pulse where I was able to forge empowering bonds. They listened, gave me feedback and helped me to develop my journalistic skills. The program helped me to reach out to wider audience in Nigeria and the rest of the world than I ever imagined possible by disseminating the messages as I learned know-how every week online. How did I use the Internet to transform the world? Needless to say, a team of supporters who assist me from technical, emotional to intellectual levels has been very essential. If you find them, treat them like gem, they can really back you up where your weakness lies. Team has filled my short-comings, because I am imperfect with limited knowledge and resources. Here is how I did it.
First, I created newsletters to inform the world about the incidents in Nigeria. The articles were about my own experience, including the way my possession was stolen, prevalent severe poverty, cruel domestic violence and the worst type of petroleum pollution in Africa. I distributed the newsletter by email, facebook, twitter or handing them out to friends and visitors. I also used free website from Wix.com. Wix has amazingly beautiful templates, tools and functions. After creating a homepage, I sent the link to all by email and social media. Then, some people replied with questions, such as “Why aren’t the majority poor in Nigeria fed by the rich oil resources?” I did not know how to answer the question. So I searched for writers and advocates online who were equipped to answer the questions. It did not take long to find them on international journalistic web site—no doubt, the World Pulse played a big part in this. I asked them to post their articles on our newsletters, which they gladly did for free. Not only did they post articles, but also answered questions, that added credibility to the NGO.
Secondly, I sought the best support from the highest sources. Being at the bottom of socio-economic ladder, doing what others were doing would have left me with burning scars and bruises from competition. In short, I needed what no other NGOs were offering. So I offered something very rare. The fact was that I was the only Japanese, but having U.S. citizenship enabled me to live in the Niger Delta; therefore, soon I earned attention from the Japanese government. In November 2013, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced their initiative to reduce 50% of global warming by 2050. I borrowed money to travel to Tokyo and met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 600 miles away from my home. I asked the Ministry to consider the clean-up project in the Niger Delta which is the major cause of the global warming in Africa. There were no other Japanese who offered the same as Japanese government urged its citizens for evacuation from the Niger Delta.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded quickly to my offer saying that they would send equipment to the Niger Delta. Thus, I gained the “highest source” support to my cause, and this has worked out as an “attention getting” for raising fund. Next, because the Japanese government provided nothing other than equipment, I opened the office in the United States, New York to solicit funds and human resource. How did I open the office in New York without getting out of my home and having no money? This was done by online search. Because New York is the business center of the world, mail box can be reasonably manageable from Japan. One spot cost $9 per month.
Now our NGO has NY office address and a support from the Japanese government along with newsletter and website.
These provide us with an extravagant outlook of the international non-governmental organization. Gradually, I have received membership applications from those who read the newsletters. Within a month and a half, I was paying back the debts for the Tokyo trip and mail box in New York. Then I started assembling volunteers to organize activities. This was then achieved by online radio shows. Online radio shows are free and can broad-cast interviews around the world. Some people joined the shows. To make it attractive for participants, I posted icons (or caricatures) and downloaded free music online—the theme song was recorded with the music in the background. Thus, the image of our NGO, SWACIN Inc.— not a heavy bloodshed or tragedy—emerged with friendly face with joyful climate. NGO offers activities for anyone with or without paying Membership fees to enjoy the progress.
After having enough volunteers online, it was time to raise money for clean-up project to employ the poor populations in the Niger Delta. Based on my experience, people who felt they owned the project usually donated fund for the project. Therefore, I informed members the details on what our NGO does by email, newsletters, and survey questions. I called them time to time just to discuss problems or success. I directly tell the members what should be done and how much money is required. Then someone would offer, if not all, part of the solutions or give me advice.
Thus, without stepping out the house, I raised money and built network all over Nigeria, U.S. and Japan. Now I can confidently say, “ANYTHING is possible!” Overall, it is possible to transform the world by using the Internet including raising fund, getting volunteers, and operating the NGO to support the needy. However, the following should be noted for solid ground work:
1. First, you need to really want to solve the problem.
2. Make the project that solves the problems.
3. Know what is required to actualize the project.
4. Think about all the obstacles that get in the way before actualizing the project.
5. Find answers to overcome all the obstacles.
One mistake many people make is to think that money is the only solutions. I agree that much overwhelming purchase needs to be made. Though, allow me to share with you, under very seriously restrictive conditions, it all boils down to the power of persuasion and the belief you have in it. There are many Nay-Sayers all around online or offline who tell you that the program will not work; it is tough to raise fund unless you strongly believe in it. You need to feel numb to these negatives. Unfortunately many people see the power of money more than the power of believing. As the result, they give up pursuing their project because others tell them to do so, but let me assure you, last not least but the foremost; you need to believe in your project. In my case though such strong belief could not be built into me without those who cared and supported my cause from the various parts of the world online.
Secondly, there are situations that no matter how much money poured in, the problems still exist because of inability to prepare for some unexpected incidents. In societies like in Nigeria, for example, there are political and tribal conflicts in the Niger Delta which makes it difficult to clean up the area. The regions are unsettled, governed by gangs and unreliable government. Therefore, I searched online, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in the United States to give me recommendations on those qualified in Nigeria, to which they gladly forwarded the contact of the Nigerian chapter. The person who I was referred to gladly accepted the invitation to work with us, and answered all the questions we had.
Thus, online platform can give us enormous opportunities beyond one’s imagination. One important advice is “If you have question, do search online.” even if you are far and remote you can find answers to questions by networking around the world. Set-up my NGO using online resources and networking were eye-opening to the many benefits of technology. Yes, there are negative impacts and damages such as criminally motivated sites with crackers, spams and virus, but there are, again, numerous solutions and software available online. Finding the answers online is, after all, the key to the sky’s the limit solutions for problems in the world. Please visit our website (http://www.swacin.com) and let us know what you think!