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Amarachi Iheonunnekwu

Amarachi Iheonunnekwu (nee Okoro) left Pestalozzi in 2007 and is now living in her home country, Nigeria, where her enthusiasm for public health and social welfare has led her to volunteer with the Nigerian Red Cross.

Amarachi volunteers with the Nigerian Red Cross"Good morning Amarachi, you need to come to school in order to attend an urgent meeting at the British Council, can you please make some time?” said my former secondary school teacher, standing at the door of my family’s home. It was more than a year since I had finished secondary school, and I had almost lost hope of the possibility of continuing my studies. But my school had nominated me as one of its best students, and I had been invited to participate in the selection process for the Pestalozzi scholarships. That morning was the beginning of my story and the journey into my changed life, all of which has been made possible by Pestalozzi and its generous supporters.

Pestalozzi students and alumni are aware of the responsibilities that we have to ourselves, to our families, to the Pestalozzi community, to our home countries and especially to the many other candidates who were left behind when we were first selected.

While at Pestalozzi, I was involved with the British Red Cross and Rotaract. It was there I first learnt of the fundamental principles, especially those of the Red Cross: Universality, Humanity, Voluntary Service, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence and Unity. I also met other students like myself from across Asia and Africa who looked forward to contributing in positive ways to our communities. My classmates and I aspired to be doctors, engineers, economists, agricultural scientists and to join professions so greatly needed in the countries from which we had come.

After leaving Pestalozzi in July 2007, I came back to Nigeria and took a six month ‘gap year’. In February 2008, I returned to the UK to study Health and Social Care in Ethames Graduate School, London. During my studies, I got married to the most wonderful man and our marriage is blessed with two handsome boys (now 3 years old and 1 year old respectively). After my studies, I came back to Nigeria to render a one year community development service through the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme, which is compulsory for every Nigerian graduate. During my NYSC year, I was deployed to the Department of Technical Operation of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Abuja, where I worked as a research assistant. This was a fulfilling year for me, as it was also the year I gave birth to my second son.

My long-standing interest in humanitarian services and social welfare, an eagerness to achieve a holistic understanding of the human body and a broader interest in human behaviour and social concerns inspired me to consider a career in the field of public health and social care.

After my NYSC service year, while applying for other jobs, I decided to volunteer for Nigerian Red Cross to build my capacity in humanitarian services and pursue my passion for public health. At Nigerian Red Cross, we have different departments such as Health and Care, Organisational Development, Communication, Disaster Management, Accounts and Administration. I am attached to the Health and Care Department, which covers programs on maternal and child care, malaria, HIV/AIDS, blood donation, First Aid, water sanitation and hygiene. We do social mobilization, sensitization, capacity building, recruit volunteers and source for donors.

I have seen people in Nigeria suffering from disabilities, mental health problems, deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, STDs and malnutrition, alcohol and drug abuse. Most of this suffering is due to lack of awareness, negligence, poverty and inadequate healthcare. I realise that I cannot put food on everyone’s table, but I do believe that by acquiring invaluable experiences in humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross, I will be able to build my career to meet the standards needed to contribute to the alleviation of sufferings in my community. Nigerian Red Cross is currently working in partnership with other organisations including the National Primary Health care, UNICEF and WHO in eliminating and alleviating the suffering of Nigerian people.

I am proud to be part of a group of people dedicated to making a difference in the community.

Be part of a story like Amarachi's and make a difference in the world: get involved with Pestalozzi today!

(Updated: December 2013)

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