When Oghenerukeme Asagba began interviewing applicants for a job at her family’s store in Nigeria, the then-high schooler became overwhelmed. But it wasn’t by the responsibility of selecting a potential employee; it was the realization that, despite having high school diplomas, many of them lacked the basic skills she took for granted.
Though Asagba, who now is a graduate student studying medical physiology at Case Western Reserve University, was aware she had been afforded privileges during her upbringing, this was a first-hand look at how people of low socioeconomic status in her country didn’t have the same opportunities. She wanted to do something to help others obtain a better education and break out of poverty.
That experience planted the seed for what would become Catering to Africans In Need (CAIN), a nonprofit organization geared toward providing children and teenagers in Africa with improved education and health care.
During her undergraduate years at Cornell University, Asagba knew the time had come to take action, so she and a few friends founded CAIN.
“The more you wait, you figure out many kids are already going through that cycle and sometimes it might be too late to help them salvage their education,” she said.
Initially, the organization began by providing children with school supplies. Asagba soon realized that that approach only addressed a small portion of the problem.
“The education many of these kids received already had a poor foundation,” she said. “Providing them books was only helping those who were really doing well in school.”
So Asagba now is aiming to launch an educational resource center in Lagos, Nigeria, that would not only provide students with books but also with education and skills to help them break out of the cycle of poverty, such as:
- Tutorial sessions in different academic subjects;
- A conducive studying atmosphere;
- Information technology training;
- Soft skills development, in areas such as public speaking and forming healthy relationships;
- Training in vocational subjects; and
- Reading clubs for the students.
Through the support of donations, CAIN already has purchased the building to host the center. The next step is to renovate.
Asagba was selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University commitment challenge, which helped raise funds for renovations of the center. CAIN came in third place in the competition, raising $7,373 of its initial goal of $15,000. The organization is still sourcing for additional funds to start renovation soon.
In addition to donations from individuals, the Gianforte Family Foundation, Microsoft and Davis Projects for Peace also have provided funding to complete past projects, including the purchase of the center and establishing a health clinic in northern Nigeria.
Though most of the organization’s initiatives have focused on education in Nigeria, Asagba hopes to take on more health care projects and spread across Africa in the future.
Want to help? Learn more.
Now, take a look at Asagba’s answers to this week’s five questions.
1. What’s your favorite spot on the Case Western Reserve campus?
121 Fitness Center. I like the fact that it’s strategically located—it’s in between my class and work, so I have no excuse not to be fit. It also offers a variety of exercise programs and classes that cater to whatever kind of exercise regimen you like. I also like that the hours are extended, so that fits whatever crazy schedule you have. It’s a great place to get fit and unwind.
2. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you pick?
I’d pick Toronto, Canada. It’s a beautiful city. It’s been consistently named as one of the best places to live. My brother and one of my best friends live there. It’s culturally diverse and there are a lot of opportunities to explore.
3. What new skill would you like to learn?
I’d really love to learn how to build apps. I always have this moment of ‘Oh, I think I would really like to do something like this with an app,’ but I don’t know how to build apps. When I think about the process of learning it, though, I’m like, ‘OK, maybe I’ll do that some other time.’ Hopefully I put that in my schedule for next year.
4. If you could only watch three movies for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Coming to America, Titanic and one of the James Bond movies—probably Skyfall.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
For me, it’s the cultural diversity. Last year, I read that about 80 countries are represented in the student body. For me, that’s huge because right now, the world is gearing more toward global citizenship. [The diversity of CWRU] gives you an opportunity to learn about various cultures, broaden your horizon of knowledge, and grow and develop to be a global, culturally competent citizen.