Sonnia… Living her dreams, loving her neighbours with #ProjectSamaritan17
It is Easter, the period Christians across the world commemorate the death, resurrection and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In a modest symbolic observance of the season, Sonnia Agu, the MD/CEO of G1st Foundation, is carving a niche for herself by not only following her dreams but making herself happy.
She finds her happiness in the simplest of things – making others happy. And she is content by just following the simple creed she has set for herself, which is: “I am a happier person when I make others happy.”
With a short history of humanitarian work but a long history of caring for other people, especially children, Sonnia hardly let any opportunity pass without leaving a trail with her passion.
To mark Easter, she embarked on #ProjectSamaritan17, visiting the children’s ward of hospitals in Lagos to show care, present gifts and celebrate Christ’s resurrection. In her words, “I am just being a good neighbour and a good Samaritan. You may call it human compassion, but I see it as self-service, because if you invest in those children, they are going to grow up to become productive citizens tomorrow.
“It is Easter and one of the main teaching of Jesus that touched me as a child was the story of the Good Samaritan. I consider myself a child of grace. I am so unworthy. I was once that person lying on the floor and the priest passed me, the imam passed, the rabbi passed me, everybody passed me and none stopped to help me except the poor Samaritan.
“This is why I am encouraged to do the same to other people who I don’t know from Adam and I thought of #ProjectSamaritan17. We started from the children’s ward of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, where we spend a whole day with the kids. We didn’t just came to dump provisions for them and their caregivers, we actually livened them up from bed to bed, which we believe will hasten their healing process,” she said.
Sonnia is not stopping there. Finding so much happiness in impacting the lives of others, she already has her eyes on her net project, tagged the ‘Essence of Nigeria’ to celebrate Children’s Day on May 27.
Each project has a story behind it, for Essence of Nigeria, she said: “I have two cousins I like to use as an example. The primary school fees of one is N450,000 and the other’s school fees is N5,000. I once asked both of them what they wanted to be in future, the one that goes to the expensive school said he wants to be a musician. I asked him why and he said because it seems cool.
“The other girl that goes to the N5,000 school said she wants to study engineering because she wants to fix the potholes and bad roads in the country. That really touched me and got me thinking what can be done to encourage pupils from not-so-privileged backgrounds in public schools that have great ambitions to make a difference in society.
“So, we are visiting schools in May and we will bring together pupils in public and private schools for an ideas competition. We are putting up N1 million-prize money as a grant to get the youngest millionaire, who would emerge from the pool of innovative ideas they come up with.
“We will also use the competition to teach the basic things about why they should be proud to be a Nigerian. At such young age, we want to instill in them the essence of what it is to be a Nigerian, the flag, national anthem and a dream of a better tomorrow despite the struggles of the present.”
Interestingly, Sonia, who hails from Anambra State, studied Public Relations and Advertising from Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus, work in the aviation sector and still keep her nine to five job, alongside her pet project, G1st. G1st, an acronym for God First, is a capacity and intelligence building foundation.
“The whole idea is try to build people’s capacities and help as much as we can to make a difference in people’s lives within our immediate environment. We were registered in 2013 but we have been on since a long time because I have always been a charitable person,” she noted.
Asked why she is passionate about the NGO, she said: “I remember coming back to Nigeria in 2012 and I had looked for jobs everywhere with a First Class and best graduate degree, I still couldn’t find a decent job without having to compromise myself. I felt really bad and deeply hurt considering that I find myself opportune and fortunate.
“Imagine people that do not have the kind of opportunity that I had. My heart really broke when I met a bouncer in Lagos. He had a First Class too in engineering, but he was a bouncer and his salary was not up to N50,000. I just felt something needed to be done. That was one of the reasons why I started the NGO to make myself available to help young people achieve their dreams. God First and God is love. So, love first wherever you go, try and love other people less fortunate as you, like yourself.
“We have been able to carry out a few projects. We had a workshop and clinic in Nasarawa State, stopping female mutilation. We visited schools with the campaign. There was a Senator we met who was an Almajiri (street boy). He used to beg but today, he is a Senator.
“We have also done stuff in Lagos, especially in schools. We have gone to Ajegunle and fed a thousand strangers at Ikorodu. We have some partners in Budapest, Hungary with a project called Feed for Love. They feed the hungry in Hungary; we were invited and partnered in the project. We also had one in Cape Town, South Africa and Dubai.
“Though I tend to focus on children because they are the future leaders, I am also particular about women. There is a project called CSW – Commercial Sex Workers where we try to rescue girls that are into prostitution mainly because they cannot feed. The reason why we are not open about it is because it is a very sensitive topic.
“We have been able to achieve all these through the support of some good Samaritans and partners. People who believe in our vision send in money to us through our website, www.g1st.org from all parts of the world, which has kept us going.”