November's Group of the Month: Friends of Nigeria

Friends of Nigeria was born as a group in 1995, just one year after the Peace Corps left the country.  Nowadays it has grown into a community of almost 2,000 expatriates who served in Nigeria, which is an impressive number if we take into account that 2,094 volunteers served in the country. In featuring Friends of Nigeria as the group of the month we want to highlight their longstanding commitment to our community and the thrilling initiatives they've championed. (Don't miss their own wiki page!)

Name of Group: Friends of Nigeria (FON)

Three words that best describe your group:

Historic, tenacious, (still) enthusiastic.

What makes Friends of Nigeria successful:

Fond memories of Nigeria, the sense that service in Nigeria shaped our lives, dedicated work by key individuals, optimism and fun.  Basically, whenever one volunteer gets telling a story of an incident from his or her service, most other volunteers can relate.  This makes for a very interesting newsletter, good presentations during our meetings, and active socializing when there is any free time during our meetings.  Our members like being reminded of their time in Nigeria and they like to support groups that are doing specific, concrete, on-the-ground projects in Nigeria.  A number of years ago we created our own wiki (WikiFON).  We encourage our members to put their stories and pictures there.

How does your group still connect to your Country of Service:

We have identified key non-profits operating in Nigeria and we donate to projects they organize.  We have a review committee that rejects applications that only contain staff training, headquarters PCs, or other overhead items.  We fund building projects, agricultural inputs that will actually be used by farmers, or equipment that will be used by end users.

Give a brief summary of your group’s history:

Friends of Nigeria was founded in 1996.  However, we have a newsletter from 1987 that indicates there was an earlier attempt to bring the organization to life.  We have regular newsletters dating from 1996.  By 1998 we were incorporated in the State of Connecticut, we had applied for 501-c-3 status, and we had a board-approved set of bylaws.  Friends of Nigeria has thrived despite the fact that there have been no new PCVs sent to Nigeria in the intervening years.  All of our newsletters can be found on our website.

What is the best thing your group has done in the past year:

We had an outstanding roster of speakers who put the future of Nigeria in perspective at our Washington meeting in September in conjunction with Peace Corps Connect.  We migrated to a new, interactive website using Wild Apricot technology.  Unfortunately, just as we were beginning our parallel run, NPCA announced they are doing the same thing using SilkStart technology.  But most of the work is independent of the particular technology chosen, and we would be glad to share our experience with the process.

Key advice that you can offer to other NPCA Affiliate Groups:

Bring members together to build cohesion.  Do that by having regular meetings, an active newsletter, and an interesting website.  Behind that lies a database of member information.  You cannot reach all your members via electronic means, so a printed newsletter is the way we stay in touch with our non-technical users.

What is a key skill/activity/resource that you can offer to other NPCA Member Groups?

We have incorporated, and we have gone through the process to become a 501-C-3.  

Are there any key challenges or needs that your group faces and could use some help?

Peace Corps left Nigeria in 1972, so our membership is aging.  Do we just tell the last person standing to throw away the key, or is there a way to give our organization a future?

Are there any monthly/annual activities that you conduct?

We hold an annual meeting in conjunction with Peace Corps Connect.  We make an annual appeal for donations to projects in Nigeria.

Why is your group affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association?

Because we are returned Peace Corps Volunteers.  In fact, some of our members were involved in the creation of the NPCA.  Also, we have learned many things from other affiliated groups.  We have one of the highest attendance rates of any COS group at Peace Corps Connect meetings, and as a percentage of the total of volunteers who served in Nigeria, probably the highest.

Please share a phrase, tradition or custom that exemplifies the spirit of the country where you served:  

Hubba, Bature!  (White man, you must be joking.)

What else should RPCVs know about your group?

We hope newer groups, primarily of younger members, can see from our example that being an RPCV is a lifelong commitment, opportunity and resource.

 

Thanks to Greg Jones and other members of Friends of Nigeria for providing this profile. 

Get connected! There are over 150 NPCA member groups – geographic groups, country of service groups, and special interest groups. Find links to all of them on our website. Get involved with an affiliate group today! 

Want your NPCA member group to be featured in the coming months? Contact us.