A care giver’s bold venture into a life-saving business

A care giver’s bold venture into a life-saving business

For Joy Ukaa in Ikpayongo community, a suburb of Makurdi, Benue state in North-central Nigeria, survival for her household a year ago was a lost cause as she was faced with the responsibility of catering (as a single parent) for three vulnerable children.


All that changed shortly after she was identified and enrolled into Health Information Centre’s (HIC) Household Economic Strengthening community program, an initiative delivered by Caritas Nigeriaa and funded by PEPFAR within the faith-based community. This was possible since she had been a very active member of the Caregivers meeting Forum in her community. At the time of her enrolment she had no means of livelihood and could barely cater for her household needs.  Feeding was a huge challenge for her family.


The Household Economic Strengthening intervention program which focuses on empowerement of caregivers on sustainable economic skill acquisition organized a soap-making training for her and other care providers where they learnt how to produce liquid and bar soap. This was done in collaboration with local soap makers in the community.


Armed with her new skills she quickly began working towards owning a soap making business. Having saved about one thousand Naira (N1,500) as her start-up capital, she was able purchase materials with which she produced her first 25 litres of liquid soap which distributed and marketed in smaller quantities. Although she lives in Ikpayongo community where economic activity was quite low, her next challenge was her to get her products into Makurdi, the commercial centre of the region which is about 20 minutes’ drive away.   With concerted effort, she found a place in a relative’s tailoring shop that offered her space to place a table in front of the shop to display and sells her goods.

The rest is history. Today she makes about N3000 naira from the sales of each 25 litres liquid soap with a profit of 1,500 naira after removing expenses. As it stands now, catering for her family is very much assured while she has been able to pay for the school fees of one of her children, Terlumun Ukaa (male, 11 years) in a Nursery and Primary School.

While the business may seem small to others, for her, it has made a huge difference as it has given her a sense of direction and independence. “It feels good doing something of my own” which has “helped in boosting my self-confidence” she admits.   All this is a far cry from the situation a year ago before the intervention.


The story of Joy Akaa remains a shining example of the great impact PEPFAR-funded Household economic strengthening program has made in several households in Benue State.  To further ensure sustainability, the program plans to support Joy in the expansion of her business within her locality. This aimed at further stabilizing her business to do better and to to train other caregivers in the knowledge of the business so that they can also start their own business.

Restored eyesight after domestic assault

The life-aspiration of Gabriel Matthew, a 13-year old student now residing with his parents at Kabayi, Nasarawa state, is not different from that of every other child in Nigeria which is to grow up healthy and strong, attain an education and aspire into a prosperous and fruitful life that will enable them take care of their parents.


This aspiration would have, however, nipped in the bud when disaster struck following a child abuse-related affliction that threatened his eyesight, thanks to the timely intervention of Innovative Solutions for Community Development (ISD), a community-based organization in his community that focuses on orphans and vulnerable children and implemented through Caritas Nigeria’s PEPFAR funding.


Narrating his ordeal to the ISD’s OVC team, he said that three years ago when he was living with his uncle in Kaduna, the aunty (his uncle’s wife), physically assaulted him inflicting severe injuries on him that almost blinded him. According to him, “my aunty sent me on an errand one day and because I did return on time, in anger she took an electric cable and started whipping me. I cried and cried to no avail as no one came to my rescue. In the process of whipping me, the cable landed on my eye and within minutes blood came out of right eye”. The aunty only stopped when she noticed blood on his cheek which she quickly cleaned and then rushed her to a nearby patent medicine store where little or nothing was done. Subsequently, “she threatened to do worse if I told anyone about the incident”.

Shortly after the incidence, he began to feel severe pain on the right eye and gradually vision deteriorated to the point that he could not see again. The only treatment he got was pain killers. At this point, the parents ordered his return back home where they were confronted with huge financial constraints in the course of seeking the right medical care to save their son’s eyesight.

It was at this point that PEPFAR-funded intervention through ISD and Caritas Nigeria came into the picture. Gabriel’s household was enrolled into OVC program and he was taken to the neighbouring district hospital in Asokoro where he had several appointments with the team of eye doctors. After several visits and tests, a diagnosis of the right eye cataract due to trauma was established by the doctors. He was eventually booked for and had a cataract surgery on the 22nd of September 2016 at the same hospital. Not only was the surgery very successful, there were no complications whatsoever and he recovered very quickly.

With the remarkable improvement recorded, he has been able to resume back to school to continue with his educational training. He is also back to fully living with his parents and siblings.

For the family, the trauma of the whole incidence has been swallowed by the newly restored hope of their son’s eyesight and wellbeing. According to the mother, “there are no words to express my appreciation for what you people have done to my family”. The intervention in the family of Gabriel is one of several such interventions in hundreds of homes within the community. Within the last one year, a total of 911 families scattered across three Local government areas in Nasarawa and Abuja have been supported in one way or the other.