I Stephen, would usually visit some of our project focal states in the course of my work as the Skills Advisor with the programme Skills Development for Youth Employment – SKYE. Some visits leave a lasting impression on me, while others are just routine with no highlights whatsoever except the mundane administrative tasks.
SKYE’s work with returning migrants and potential migrants started in late 2018. Since then, we have captured numerous stories of our sisters and brothers who have sort the greener pasture beyond the shores of Nigeria. As is often the case, of some of the stories they’ve told, the grass is not greener on the other side. We have also been told of the hardship suffered by those who find themselves on these brown patches, literally trying to survive amongst wolves in sheep clothing, drawn and deceived and sometimes these adventurers are left emotionally and physically scarred for life.
During one of my visits to Benin City in June, I visited the SKYE-EdoJobs leatherworks entrepreneurship training at the Edo Innovation Hub, where I met Treasure “Creative” Oghosa. Our meeting was purely by chance because the training involved 100 trainees and over 10 trainers. Plus, Treasure’s story is like any other young person who decided to leave the shores of Nigeria for the proverbial greener pasture. But this young lady seemed to have something special about her.
As I watched Treasure work while she told me her story. I could see that she was a go-getter, hardworking and industrious. Her participation in the leatherwork training Course happened by chance. According to Treasure, she met a friend on a bus during their conversation, the friend mentioned she is heading to the Edo innovation hub to register for the leather training. She immediately knew this was the opportunity she was waiting for.
“I like to work, I like to hustle, I want to make my own money, but as the days passed and I had nothing to do but sit at home. I started to feel like I was losing my mind…”
Treasure speaks fluent Russian which she picked up during a difficult two years of sojourn in Russia. Her smile and laughter in between sentences during our interview session signify the unhappy inhuman experience best kept to herself. She has suffered many physical and emotional losses, including lost friends in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert. Treasure lights up as she speaks about the leather training; the new skill seems to have brought some colour back to her life. Making leather sandals has become her solace. Throughout our discussion, Treasure continuously mentioned that her mother is her rock and she’s happy she can now support her after all that she had invested in her during her time in Russia.
“I am very happy with the training, with GIZ and EdoJobs. I can take care of myself and family now. The approach used and the way instructors talked about shoemaking increased my interest and love for shoemaking. We were taught how to make bags, belts, school shoes, male and female slippers, and leather wallets. After the training, I secured a loan from my mom, bought leather materials, and made some shoes. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to sell them. This was the inspiration for a business idea. It was the beginning of my shoemaking business name “Treasure Creative”.
Watching Treasure make leather sandals for clients brought a smile to my face and for a moment I completely forgot how rigorous it was to wiggle through our administrative hurdles especially with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which made it almost impossible to reach and interact freely with our beneficiaries.