-How Humphrey H. Hubert (HHH) Fellowship Program Embolden My Vision For Prison Inmates.

By Victor Gotevbe,

It is an acknowledged fact that it doesn’t take a big deal for a candle to light another candle.  However, the world is fast changing and several people are concerned with meeting their daily needs, while there are still a handful of people who think others first  and go all the way to put smiles on their faces. Dr. Jude Ememe, a phd holder and a one time banker has been toeing this line for over 7 years, giving prison inmates in Nigeria the opportunity to acquire the moral values and parallel skills that will enable them live responsibly in the society when they regain their freedom. 

His NGO, Joy Bringers Foundation is  working  diligently to ensure continuity. This may not have been possible but for his selection and participation in the Humphrey Hubert fellowship program which helped him to model and give expression to the knowledge he acquired during the period. 

Dr. Ememe’s extensive travel and erudition, and how he has been able to cascade itto Nigeria will inspire numerous readers to take some positive action(s). Inthis interview, he  talked about hisvision, the HHH Fellowship , the United States Exchange Programme AlumniAssociation in Nigeria, where he serves as President and how collaborativeefforts can strengthen the vision of bringing joy to prison inmates.

How are you able to follow your Philanthropicvision to bring succor to prison inmates, their families and communities through your NGO? Can you tell us how it all began?

The Nigerian society is currently grappling with the problem of values, and character erosion leading to high crime rates. There are manifestations of character bankruptcy in all segments of the society. Incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings are pervasive and are all evidences of poor values.The consequential implication is that Lagos prisons are getting congested and overcrowded. There is also the high incidence of prisoners returning to the prisons after they have been released (recidivism).

Dr. Jude Ememe and Mr. John Momoh, Founder of Channels TV on USGEAA on a courtesy visit to Channels TV.

It is evident that incarceration in prisons is not bringing about the desired attitudinal changes in the prison inmates. There is therefore the need for training to inculcate moral and ethical values in the prison inmates. There is also the need to provide the inmates with vocational skills such as tailoring, bead making, soap making etc that will help them to sustain themselves when they are released, making reintegration into the society easier for them and thereby reducing the rate of going back to crime and back into prison.

Reducing crime rate will make for safer and more secured society. It will reduce the rate of their involvement in terrorist activities. Joy Bringers was set up 2011 as an intervention program to collaborate and work with the Nigerian Prison Service­.

The specific goal of the training project is to help prison inmates acquire moral and ethical values and practical skills that can assist them function effectively in the society when they are released. Through values acquired, the prison inmates will shun violence, resolve life conflicts, adopt positive lifestyles,and have attitudinal changes towards crime.

It will also reduce their rate of involvement in terrorist activities as they will not be easily targeted and recruited for violent activities. By transforming the lives of these inmates and empowering them with skills, the overall goal is to break the cycle of crimes. The ultimate goal is to prepare and facilitate the reintegration of these inmates into the society. Over 80% of the prison inmates in Lagos prisons are young and are awaiting trial.

You have obviously traveled wideand far being a Coordinator of HHH Fellowship Alumni Association, Nigeria. Can you share with us details of about the Fellowship and it has helped in shaping your work?

The Hubert Humphrey Fellowship program brings together young and mid-career professionals from developing and transitioning countries to the US for a one year of non-degree academic course work, professional development, and leadership training. Fellows from the nations are selected based on their commitment to public service and leadership potentials. The Hubert Humphrey Fellowship program was initiated by President Jimmy in 1978 to honor the ideals and accomplishments of Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

HHH Fellows with Governor of Lagos State, Ambode Akinwunmi

 Funding is provided by the US Congress under the Fulbright appropriation. The program is sponsored by the US Department of States, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The first class of Fellows arrived in 1979 and over 5,600 alumni from 161 countries have participated in the program. Nigeria has 130 Alumni of the HHHF program.

The Hubert Humphrey program exposed me to work with communities outside Boston where I imbibed durable and life changing values, in particular the need to reach out and touch lives especially those that are disadvantaged and marginalized. My involvement in the training of prison inmates is an outcome of this experience and is helping to model and give expression to what I learned. I am employing the knowledge and insights gained during the HHHF program to impact lives and make the society a better place. Iam giving expression to the motto and tenets of the HHHF program which is using knowledge gained during the program to contribute to positive societal change.

How can people participate in it?

Candidates must have undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s or Master’s degree). The candidate must have at least 8 years of full time professional experience (post NYSC). He must have a limited or no prior experience in the US. He must have demonstrated leadership qualities including a record of public service. Applications for the program are open on April 1 of each year and applications are submitted online, latest June 1 each year. The link to the on line applications is //iie.embark.com/apply/humphreyfellowship

What is the strategic importance of your role as the President of the United States Government Exchange Alumni Association (USGEAA) in Nigeria? What does theAssociation do?

The US Exchange Alumni Association was  inaugurated on June 13, 2017 by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, to enhance collaboration among the various Exchange groups in the Lagos area. There are currently over twenty US government exchange programs. These include The International Visitors Leadership Program, IVLP; Fulbright Junior Scholar Development; the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant,Fulbright Science and Technology, Mandela Washington Fellowship,Techwomen,  Fortune 500 Women, Study of US Institutes, Young African Leadership Innovations in Science and Technology,Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Global Sports Mentoring Program, IOWA International Writers, One Beat, Pan-African Youth Leadership, Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program and so on.

USGEAAis an umbrella Association that brings together all the Fellows from the 20 constituentsgroups. It is predicated on the strong belief and conviction that workingtogether is synergistic and would help us pursue projects and programs forpositive social change. Indeed working together has several implications and benefits: it enables us interact better, relate better and to achieve inter-group collaboration and to more effectively implement social programs.Through this platform, we network our talents, skills and resources for greater societal influence. Through this umbrella program we provide training to members on areas of leadership interest. We are able to collaborate better as a group with the US Consulate and to access grant and training opportunities for members.

We learnt you are putting together a Dinner for the Alumni. What about it?

Weplan to hold a dinner/award/exhibition nite on December 16, 2018 to provide an opportunity for Fellows including Consulate personnel to interact and network.It will be an opportunity to recognize and honor some of our members that have distinguished themselves in exemplary leadership and are impacting the society.The Public Affairs Officer, US consulate will be the key note speaker and will be sharing some perspectives on Volunteerism as a vital tool for National Development. A good number of distinguished Alumni have accepted to be at the event including the Chief Judge of Lagos States who is also a member.

event including the Chief Judge of Lagos States who is also a member.

Do you personally bank roll the project or you work with other organizations and or individuals who fund your activities?

To date over 5000 prison inmates have benefited from the Joy Bringers Character personality re-characterization program. The program has been largely funded by the organization with little or no support from the public. The need for collaboration cannot be overemphasize.

Collaboration will help broaden the scope of the program. It will ensure more inmates benefit from the program. It will strengthen our effort in preparing inmates for release and reintegration into the society. It will also help to reduce the high incidence of re-incarceration.

In collaborating with Joy Bringers, organizations will be contributing to the Federal Government prison reform agenda. The collaboration will be promoted through the social media and among the beneficiaries of our training program,those within and outside the prisons with a view to encouraging them to patronize the bank. Our study and graduation materials will be branded using the color and logo to advertise any organization that cares and is investing in promoting the welfare of prisoners.

Finally, investing in the inmates and preparing them for release and reintegration into the society will make for a safer and more secured operating environment as these inmates when released will be subscribing to more positive life-styles based on values/skills acquired. It may be necessary to note that over 80% of the prison inmates in Lagos are young people and investing in them is investing in the future.