Project providing aid from New Hampshire to Nigeria
NASHUA – After moving to the United States from Nigeria in 1999 with his wife, Charles Okorie now looks to give back in three ways to Nigerians living in the areas of Ututu, Arochukwu and Achi.
Okorie founded the Christian-based nonprofit Thank You Project in 2014. Its mission is a simple one: “Change the lives of people by providing rural areas with drinking water, education and enlightenment.”
The organization provides access to clean drinking water in the Ututu and Achi communities by drilling boreholes; it’s established a college scholarship fund to help educate indigent students in Nigeria who can’t afford the cost of university tuition; and its planning to build a community center so others can not only give thanks to God, but also come together recreationally.
“If I had a million dollars I’d just keep drilling wells, but its the funds. Our target is to reach a million people, and this is simple math that we did, and have them donate a dollar each,” Okorie said. “If we can reach a million people in the United States, across the world, whatever, it wouldn’t hurt anyone to part with a dollar. It will save lives.”
Recently Okorie embarked on a trip to Nigeria to commision the Thank You Project’s first water borehole in his village, Ututu. He left on Dec. 25, 2017, commissioned that well on Dec. 28 and flew back to the states on Jan. 1.
Also, while there, the project’s second scholarship, the Dr. Bertram O. Igbogbahaka Memorial Scholarship, was awarded to Kalu Raphael Oti to study medicine at Abia State University in Uturu, Nigeria. Through this scholarship expenses are paid for, for all six years of medical schooling.
The first scholarship was awarded from the United States to a woman by the name of Obasi Ugochukwu Okeke for mechanical engineering through the Elder Robinson Okore Sunday Foundation.
“She’s an indigent student and couldn’t afford to go without us stepping in,” Okorie said. “Initially they thought it was a fluke because nothing like that had ever happened there. I’m from the village, but people usually go abroad and come to flaunt their wealth. This wasn’t the case. This was new, something they weren’t used to.”
Okorie was born in 1963 and lived in a gated community in Nigeria, and was able to recognize the poverty that existed in his community anytime he went on the other side of the gate. With that in mind he’s always sought to do good for those less fortunate, which led him to founding this project.
He came to the States in 1999 with his wife, Ijeoma, and their daughter. They lived in Maryland for a year before heading north to Nashua, where the family has resided since 2000. Since coming to New Hampshire they’ve added two sons and a daughter to their family.
“I’ve always felt the need to give back to the community but because every dime I made went back into the system, at the end of the day I realized I didn’t have much left to do what I had always wanted to do, help the village,” Okorie said.
By the time he had paid his children’s school fees, the bills, mortgage and everything else he was back to square one for the most part. When the couple came here their kids were attending private, Catholic schools.
“One day I was dropping off my last son to school, and the fee was between four and five thousand dollars for first grade tuition. The fee to send someone to medical school in Nigeria is not more than $2,000 for a year,” Okorie said. “I was feeling sorry I couldn’t send someone to medical school on my own from here, in the United States, and that kept me up on several nights.”
On one of those nights Okorie wasn’t able to sleep as a result and decided to get up and go downstairs. Once downstairs he began to iron some of his clothes.
“It’s kind of therapeutic for me and in the middle of ironing what I was going to wear the next day I had this thought that came to me, to just start something, and leave it up to God and God will help sort it out,” Okorie said.
He realized he was too dependent on himself. That was the root of his frustration with not being able to give back to others. He was looking to just do things on his own, rather than looking for help from the next person. So, later that same day, Okorie drove to Concord and registered the name Thank You Project.
“I came back and talked to my pastor in church and told him what’s been bothering me and he said don’t worry Charles, we’re going to help you,” Okorie said.
So, with folks supporting Okorie and his mission, the project has grown to 11 board members, all of whom volunteer their time and money for the cause. However, they’re looking to raise more money to be able to fund scholarships, continue installing wells and eventually build a community center.
One of the ways the nonprofit raises funds is through its annual Water Walk, which occurs at Greeley Park in Nashua. The 2018 walk will be held in September.
“Last year we rounded close to $15,000 raised,” Okorie said.
He said this mission will take his whole life, but he’s currently focused on the construction of the multi-functional community center – including a conference center, place of worship, library and sports recreation space.
“This last trip to Nigeria I talked to them about the land and they assured me that they’d set aside three acres,” Okorie said. “I don’t want to build in a remote section. I want it to be accessible where people can reach it.”
In the meantime he’d ideally like to build the next well right now but has limited funds to do so.
“Every second that passes people are dying, and I’m losing time,” Okorie said.
That’s why donations are important to continue funding the Thank You Project’s efforts. Since being established in 2014, the organization has received donations from across the globe, including Germany and China.
“They look at the website and see it’s a good cause and throw in $25 or $50,” Okorie said.
In the future, if possible, he plans to sell t-shirts and hats as a way of collecting funds. However, right now, money is brought in primarily through online donations and the annual Water Walk.
“If people want to get involved or donate they can go to our website or contact me or any of our board members,” Okorie said. “Giving back to these folks is motivation for me. I feel like my life is incomplete if I’m not doing anything positive.”
Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@