Nneoma Ike-Njoku: Preparing the African youths for the future

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I like to make an impact. I created the FreeFun Initiative after I realized that young people in Nigeria and Africa are unexposed to internship opportunities and opportunities to explore and enhance their career options. The FreeFun Initiative aims at linking these talented young people with internships at renowned businesses.

AG: Who is Nneoma Ike-Njoku?
NIN: I am a strong catholic. My identity as a Christian informs a lot of my values and interests. I love creativity- whether it’s in putting a twist on a traditional Igbo recipe or sculpting a foot for my Fine Art class. I’m also really passionate about literature- I read a lot of different things. I read The Economist (and fantasize about one day writing for its Books and Arts section), but I also devour fashion tips from ARISE.

AG: What is the FreeFun Initiative?
NIN: The FreeFun Initiative is an organization that works at linking young Nigerians with internship opportunities at nationally renowned businesses. It is a platform where talented and passionate people in high school and college can get the kind of intense career experiences that cement their interest in a particular occupation. We also try to make recommendations to businesses seeking to hire interns.

AG: What inspired you to start the FreeFun Initiative?
NIN: I started the Initiative in June last year, following my discovery that young people in Nigeria and Africa are unexposed to the extracurricular and internship opportunities available to our contemporaries in other parts of the developed world. Through FreeFun, I intend to create a platform where talented high school students and interested businesses can interact. My dream for FreeFun is to see that high school students in Nigeria and Africa get an equal chance at creative self-expression.

AG: What has the journey been like since the birth of the FreeFun Initiative?
NIN:  So far, it has not been easy. There is a process- I have to initiate contact with a business through a representative. This representative then decides whether this project is important enough to be seriously considered, so you can see the kind of bureaucracy that would generate. And when you are a high school student, without a college degree in Nigeria, you do not have a lot of businesses that are willing to take you seriously. I hope FreeFun will change that in getting these businesses to see that by providing these young people with these experiences, they are securing their futures, as well as ensuring that passionate, competent and enthusiastic people go into the job market.

AG: How do you fund the organisation and how easy has that been?
NIN: The nature of the Initiative means that what little finances are required, such as with maintaining a site and advertising, I can put in myself, with a little help from friends. Perhaps as the business expands, the issue of funding may come into consideration, but not right now, thank God.
Where do you see the FreeFun Initiative five years from now?
Right now the focus is on high school students, but I imagine that as the FreeFun Initiative grows, we can give just as much consideration to college students. Also, I do not intend to limit FreeFun to Nigeria. My dream is that FreeFun encompasses the entire African continent. I believe that young Africa has a lot of talent and passion which should not be left to waste.

AG: You won the essay competition organised by the Lufthansa German Airlines and had the opportunity to visit Germany. What was the experience like?
NIN: I’m entirely grateful to God for Lufthansa. Germany is a wonderful, incredible place. There is always somewhere to go, something new to see. When we went to Frankfurt city, it was like the whole world had poured out onto the streets- drumming and dancing and singing and simply having fun. It turned out it wasn't a festival at all, that everyone was just incredibly excited about the beginning of summer. Of course there was the food too, which was awesome.

AG: Three facts you never knew about me...
NIN: I draw and paint in my spare time. I got my first internship, with Summit newspapers, at fifteen. I studied French, Spanish and English, though I’m most fluent in English.

AG: Who has the most influence in your life and why?
NIN: My older brother, Dee Dirichi. He’s the smartest person I know, and usually the first person to hear of a new idea I have or anything I’m worried about. He’s always supportive of whatever I decide to do, and offers help any way he can.


AG: What did people say about you when you were little?
NIN: Everyone said I was a talkative. If I thought something, I just had to say it, and you can imagine how much trouble that got me in. I was also rather strong willed. I decided I wanted to be a writer early on. And a hairdresser, teacher, make-up artist, cartoonist, musician and theatre director- all at the same time. I had kind of a hyper- active imagination.

AG: Best advice you have ever received?
NIN: There are so many. From my Dad: Heaven and earth will make way for the person who knows where she’s going. My grandfather compressed religious tolerance into seven words: The language of every religion is prayer. (He should have known, having been, at various points in his life Muslim, Christian and Traditionalist.) And from my mother: Make sure it’s clean before you put it in the pot. Beyond the culinary, I believe those words are relevant in the kinds of relationships we keep. If our friendships are clean, it follows that our interests and goals are, too.

AG: Advice for Nigerian youth?
NIN: Paint the world in your own unique colors  with kindness and generosity and heart. When you decide to do something, don’t be put down by any initial disappointments - the reward may be slow in coming, but it will come.

AG: The future for Nneoma?
NIN: In future, I dream of creating an organization to assist family breadwinners who have lost their sources of income. I was inspired to do this after my own experience of the loss of my father’s job on my family’s finances. Using such an organization, I intend to soften the enormous blow of sudden unemployment on their families, as they re-evaluate their options. My passion for literature also inspires me towards a career in writing. I intend to pursue a Ph. D in Journalism or Creative Writing and eventually edit my own literary magazine.

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10 comments

  1. Well done Nneoma! The lord is your strength!

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  2. "Heaven and earth will make way for the person who knows where he is going." That is such a profound truth. The FreeFun Initiative is a great idea and I think it would make a huge difference for African Youths. Some people wind up unemployed simply because they don't have the right platform from which to start building their career. The FreeFun Initiative would provide such a platform. I wish you the very best and I hope your initiative grows and eventually operates across Africa.

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  3. I like what your doing here.

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  4. Thelma well done! Im proud of you. It is Well with FreeFun Initiative!

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  5. Nneoma, welldone dear!! we are proud of you! I pray that your dreams, goals and expectations will never be cut short!

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  6. well done and rely on God always

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  7. Good job by that young girl. May God always be her strength.

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