‘When you have try to give, when you learn please try to teach’
Sonnia Agu is the founder of G-1st International Foundation, an acronym for God First, an NGO designed to propose solutions to social problems that affect the well-being of Nigerians. She is a devout believer in the Nigerian dream with over seven years of strategic and diversified professional experience in Social Work, Media, Aviation, Oil and Gas as well as Business Development. Agu is a certified Harvard Business School entrepreneur, self-motivated millennial and social entrepreneur. She is also a member of the Pan African Youth Commission and an executive board of director for the Nigerian chapter and has won numerous awards for her selfless service. In her bid to make Nigeria a better place, her foundation has partnered and volunteered internationally with organisations including Growth Foundation, London; SOS Foundation, Gambia; Lawrence Hope Foundation, South Africa and Food for Life, Hungary. The Civic Engagement arm of G1st Foundation is The Sapiosexual Club which is Nigeria’s first social will association, open to both local and international membership, driven by intellectual capacity and social enterprise. The Club employs a novel approach to empower young Nigerians so they are stirred and inspired to take social development seriously and apply their creative minds to contribute tremendously to the all-round progress of Nigeria and the advancement of the entire human race. The Sapiosexual Club now has a membership strength of over 10,000 young professionals and birthed a vibrant community of high achieving entrepreneurs, civil society leaders and public servants. In this interview with IJEOMA-THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for driving social change.
Tell us about your growing up
I was born and bred in Lagos. I attended Christland Primary School, then Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Oyo State. I got into University of Lagos where I studied Creative Arts, until my third year and then moved to Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus where I graduated with a first- class in Public Relations and Advertising. I then started my masters in critical aspects of Media and Communications. To further deepen my knowledge, I recently got certified in Entrepreneurship in Emerging Societies from Harvard Business School.
What informed your decision to start the Sapiosexual Club?
I have always had an innate desire to change the narrative and do good. I come from a very charitable family as well; I remember growing up with people always in front of the house with one issue or the other. The ice cream truck pulls up and the whole street lines up because my dad is buying for us all. We had over 30 cousins and extended family in the house every holiday as my dad was the one they looked up to, the list is endless. My Mum would take all our clothes and have us give to charity always. So, moving back to Nigeria and the things I saw broke my heart. I had to struggle too. Even with my First Class, I was working at the airport where I had to push wheel chairs and earn not up to N70,000. Men and women with children earned way less. I was transferred to Cargo at some point and it was crazy as the men I saw had families and they earned lesser salaries and were expected to live right, not steal, come to work Mondays to Saturdays for peanuts. I need not tell you my NYSC experience. The truth is, people are suffering.
Tell us about some of your activities
We have monthly gatherings, debates and a platform that allows us continue our intellectual conversations which are centered around entrepreneurship, work- life balance, human personal developments and relationships. We try to also change people’s opinions and narratives especially when the issues of Nigeria come to play. We also have a mandate to carry out monthly charity works and good neighbourliness projects; during the past election, we managed to register over 5000 Nigerian youths in
Lagos and encouraged young people to carry out their civic duties.
What has been the impact of G1st International Foundation as an arm of the community?
With our foundation, we have impacted, empowered and partnered with other charity foundations across Africa and the western part of the world. Our flagship initiatives-Essence of Nigeria, Girls in Nigeria and the Hub Project- respond to issues in the areas of civic engagement, education, girls/women empowerment and community development respectively. We recognise that people, norms and the way we interact in groups and communities are the processes that shape our development. Our projects and programmes are therefore geared towards educating, empowering, engaging and giving Nigerian youths a platform to nurture and realise their potential so that they are well-placed to contribute selflessly to Nigeria’s sustainable development.
What has kept you going in your social development drive? Aren’t there challenges?
I will say God’s grace. Not trying to sound sanctimonious but take His grace out and I will stop. The last intervention I had in Makoko scared the life out of me. I was held hostage at knife point, robbed etc. The hoodlums held me and my team and asked for money. I was first all robbed off my money in my purse, they helped us carry some cartons of food stuff, which they stole and didn’t bring it to the other end of the boat. It really hurt and scared me so bad. I don’t want to think about the feelings that incident brought me, as I almost threw in the towel.
How can more young people especially women be empowered to take on their dreams and make impact?
Women need to be intentional, especially women who are already successful. Women should learn to support and encourage one another. The fight isn’t against us, it’s against poverty.
From your experiences, what in your opinion is the challenge hindering young people from breaking grounds?
Fear! Most if not all of us are very skilled and industrious but the fear of failure and the unknown. A friend once said to me that he won’t marry even with N10 million in his account until he is sure he can be earning N1million a month. My point is, do it while you are scared, married, working, have a job, whatever it is, just start.
When you are not chasing your dream in social development, what is Sonnia doing?
To be honest, this is all I do day in, day out. I’m getting scared and worried myself. I have had to sacrifice all for this dream. I quit managing my dad’s company and my printing press. My dad owns a real estate and building factory which I was managing alongside the club. For some reason, the club demands my undivided attention.
What advise do you have for young people?
When you get please try to give, when you learn please try to teach. That way, the world becomes a somewhat better place. For instance, in your journey and life if you find an investor that’s willing to give you N10 million, I am pretty sure in the nearest future someone may need N100, 000 from you, please give them. If also you learn a skill or an idea, please share, mentor and teach others genuinely so they can be encouraged by your story.
What is your philosophy of life?
God first, stay happy, serve humanity.
No comments yet