Not long ago I caught up with a colleague of mine who heads up the work in Nassarawa, Kaduna (Nigeria). I first met Nentawe in 2007, I think, he may have been part of the first Foundations course we ran in June or the training I did with the team in August of that year. At any rate, from the time Dave and Jo Ireson relocated to Kaduna to establish the work in October 2007, Nentawe was part of the core team they were working with.
He is a quiet, respectful, unassuming man in his late 20s with a love for his people and a dream for his country. Well before I met him, he had become active in a number of youth forums and had already earned at least one scholarship to travel to the UK, representing his country. By 2008 doors were open for him to earn a reasonable living which would enable him to support his younger siblings, as is expected in the culture there. But it was during that year that he chose two things, firstly to stay with the community in which he grew up, Nassarawa, one of the poorest suburbs in that part of the country, and secondly to serve his community as a full time member of the Fusion team with no salary.
More than three years later Nentawe is still there with a small team of volunteers, and they are busy as ever. Running a Kids Club in the community each week for the last three years has helped build trust and credibility in the community with parents, community leaders and schools. Each year they run a primary school soccer tournament, advent pageants and other events which bring the community together. The team from Ghana, led by Francis, makes the two day road trip to join Nentawe and his team for the tournament. But a new thing seems to have emerged over the last 18 months or so.
At points of crisis, where the community would ordinarily look to local government services that often fall short of delivering what’s needed, both the community and church leaders come knocking on Nentawe’s door. Earlier this year an epidemic of cholera swept through Nessarawa taking the lives of many, at least one of Nentawe’s close family was lost to the disease. But it was Nentawe and the team that the community leaders and churches looked to in order to facilitate a way forward in dealing with the outbreak and preventing a recurrence. Within a few weeks the national elections were held and violence broke out both in the lead up and afterwards. I was in South Africa at the time receiving emails sent out by Nentawe, together the team there and I joined many across the world and prayed for safety for Nentawe and an end to the violence. But once again it was Nentawe and the team that the leaders approached seeking help in the aftermath of the violence and further loss of life in community.
When called upon at these times, Nentawe often feels inadequate, mostly he feels as if he doesn’t have the answers. Usually what he does is bring the leaders and stakeholders together and facilitate a discussion from which a strategy for a way forward emerges; sounds pretty all right to me! Some times he can assist with navigating government departments or editing letters to officials, but mostly he just turns up for work and does what’s needed as best he can. And so Nentawe’s faithfulness to his God and his people has meant that hope and life has come to his community; on $50 a month, barely enough to support one person, he supports himself and his volunteers and keeps taking each day as it comes. He has become one of my heroes.
(you’ll find Nentawe Gomiyar on Facebook, linkedin, youthpolicy.org and even on U-tube, posted by ‘trust entente’)