A DAY WITH AN AMAZING AFRICAN ICON: Dr. MRS VERONICA IFECHIDE UFOEGBUNE

A DAY WITH AN AMAZING AFRICAN ICON: Dr. MRS VERONICA IFECHIDE UFOEGBUNE

* This is the first publication of a three-part series of the Exclusive Interview by iwriteafrica.com with Dr. Veronica Ifechide Ufoegbune

By Lilian Chudey Pride

Dr. Veronica Ifechide Ufoegbune is a Professor of Practice in Early Childhood Education programme at Northeastern University, California, United States. Her current role is a professor lecturing, nurturing and mentoring doctoral candidates in Mills at Northeastern University.

Dr. Ufoegbune is also an Adjunct faculty at Chaffey College which is a community college.

An amazon of many laudable parts, Dr. Ufoegbune runs her own non-profit organisation which serves pre-school children through school age, before and after school and this programme serves predominantly low income communities in Brooklyn. Her community development efforts at promoting better life, peace and conflict resolution are some of the high points of her enduring contributions to humanity within and outside of the United States. Dr. Ufoegbune is elated at the opportunity of being a proud member of a team that established a College of Nursing in Orlu, Imo State, Nigeria. The hospital part of this project will be opening by the end of the year (2023). It is called Orlu United Medical Center- a hospital that they worked together to build all the way from the United States.

Dr. Mrs. Veronica Ufoegbune has a golden streak for laurels, winning awards runs in her blood.    As a young woman, she won two beauty pageants in Nigeria. She was crowned Pageant queen in her university days when she prestigiously won the Miss UNIBEN Pageant in the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Benin City, Nigeria and became the crowned Miss Campus. She participated in and won the Miss Ogun State Pageant, in Ogun State, Nigeria, among others. 

Recently, on 29th April, 2023, this distinguished African Icon in the diaspora received the 2023 Peacebuilding Award of the California State University, Sacramento Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR), following her success after a rigorous and lively award screening/interview. CAPCR’s letter of selection to her on 1st March, 2023 stated that her selection for the 2023 Peacebuilding Award was “in recognition of Dr. Ufoegbune’s “outstanding contributions n coalition building especially in and among the Africa Diaspora communities and groups as well as demonstrable commitment in Social Justice”.

Follow us as we explore and learn life’s enduring lessons from this legend’s wealth of experience.

iwriteafrica.com: Can you avail our readers the opportunity of meeting you, please.

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: My name is Dr. Mrs Veronica Ifechide Ufoegbune

I wear multiple hats. I guess my most important job for me is being a mother of four children. I am married and my children are all grown. My first son studied graphic arts design at the State University, here in California. My second son is a defense attorney in San Francisco, California. My third child is a beautiful girl, Isioma, and she studied Culinary Arts and works as an Associate in one of our Dailies here in California. She is still in school finishing up her degree but she is already working. My baby son is a computer engineer and computer scientist. He works in Silicon Valley, here in California, so we are all Californians. I am a professor of practice at Northeastern University, California as well as Adjunct faculty at Chaffey College which is a community college. I also run my own non-profit which serves children pre-school through school age. We do before and after school. My programme actually serves predominantly low income communities in Brooklyn. Right now, I am very proud to be part of a team that established a college of Nursing in Orlu, Imo state. The hospital part of that will be opening by the end of the year. It is called Orlu United Medical Center- a hospital that we worked together to build all the way from the US.

iwriteafrica.com: How do you start your day?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: It depends on what that morning is. I am someone who believes that the universe has a supreme leader who is God, so I am always looking up to God. I thank him that I opened my eyes to the morning so I am grateful and have to say my prayers to God. I look around and see my husband and my children and say thank God that we are all here. Sometimes, my day starts off with an international conference call because of the group that I work with in other parts of the world, like France, Nigeria, Cameroun, I tend to make it an early morning which is their own end of day so that we can talk; so it all depends on what the day brings. I am blessed now, post pandemic to be able to meet with my different teams virtually. I go into the kitchen at some point during the day to make my meals. Sometimes I end up going to the campus or teach a class online or check messages from my students, check my non-profit programme to see what is needed, go into my Brooklyn office to see what is needed. So my day is full on a roll before I even wake up. Today I am meeting with Mrs. Lilian Chudey Pride, yesterday it was somebody else. I am working on multiple projects that I do.

iwriteafrica.com: Given our present day, many women talk about career and it looks like career is getting in the way of family. I see a lot of fights, breakups, divorces and most of them stem from career issues. But here you are, you have so much on your table and you manage them well. Can you please give advice to women out there? They need to learn from you what you learned from Mother Africa.

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: One thing I learned from Mother Africa is that it is important to take care of your roots- when you water your roots, the tree blossoms. My root for me happens to be my immediate family. They are my highest priority. It does not matter the number of conferences I have; I still make sure that there is dinner prepared. Most times I juggle my conference alongside with the kitchen. I take care of my children, my husband and myself. It is very important in all of these not to forget yourself- you must take care of yourself, you must do things that bring you joy. For me, I love drinking tea and once in a while, my husband and I might drink a glass of wine together. My children are equally important to me. I have conversations with them, because I want to know what is going on in their lives. I tell them I love them all the time because I do, I am interested in how they feel so I listen, I do not just tell them I love them and just run off. So, it is really important like I said to take care of the root because you are part of it, if you are not part of it you cannot feel for others, but when you become part of it you can have the ability to feel for others.

Dr. Mrs. Veronica I. Ufoegbune, an amazon of many laudable parts

“The challenge I face sometimes is women who don’t realize that it is important to live their life, nobody else is responsible for your happiness, you are. Be the woman who will teach her man active listening, and you should model that too. Ask your man for something respectfully and you will get that too. Social life is important, it should be a priority, it is part of your health”

 iwriteafrica.com: Can you tell us about your American dream, when it was conceived, what inspired the dream, a bit of how it played out, when it materialized, how much it deferred or closely related it with the original dream?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: Initially, I didn’t want to move, I was a typical Lagosian, I just wanted to travel, go have fun and come back to Lagos because there is nowhere else like Lagos. So I ended up here to meet my husband and I told him I came over here so that we can go back and before you know it, people back home in Nigeria started saying things like why are you rushing back, things are really getting bad and I decided to stay for six (6) months and then a year, and over 30 years later, here I am. My dream is to live my full life every day. I always aspire to bring joy not just to myself, but to those around me, and to also pursue my passion. I pursued my passion from day one since I got to America. The environment supported my passion, my dream, it allowed me go in and when I attain a certain height, it looks like I want more, so I keep going. I kept going from my Master’s to my Doctorate to running my own programme, then working as a city manager for my city, then as the executive director and leader for Early Learning Africa. Yes, America offered every opportunity and there was no excuse for me not to make it happen.

iwriteafrica.com: How much did this dream differ from your original dream or did they merge at some point?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: Yes, they did because it was predicted way back by my ambitious grandmother, who actually was my father’s step mother, but she was the one we got to know as our grandmother. She always spoke about how special I was, she predicted that I will go to the land of the “White” (overseas/foreign land); this kind of brushed it up and also my native name Ifechide, which means “what God has written cannot be erased” boosted my belief that I am living out what was predicted about me. I ended up living the prediction of my childhood, coming to a foreign land and from day one started leading and I have enjoyed the leadership life not because of power but the excitement of transformation that it brought to me.

iwriteafrica.com: Can you share with us any form of dramatic or significant shift from the person you were back in Africa and now in the United States of America?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: Well, when people asked me what do you want to be, I always said I wanted to be a Diplomat because I speak French. I studied French and have won contests and traveled to Togo, with all the winners across Nigeria as a gift, and yes, here I am in America representing my Diasporan Nigerians.

iwriteafrica.com: Share with us the challenges of the African woman in America, what is her daily workload like and how does that impact her family? (Her social life and outlook as a person, as a wife, a mother and a lecturer).

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: The African woman in America aspires to live her full life. A lot of them have been able to go from the experiences where they had a lot of support in Nigeria where people helped to do things like cleaning and other chores. The African woman in America has become somebody who is able to juggle and work really hard and as well. We come from the land where the man typically takes care of all the bills even if she worked, but you come to America where you find out that it does not happen that way, so you have become that woman who should be able to lift herself up to take charge of everything economically, physically doing the work, doing the chores and running a great family and taking care of herself. The challenge I face sometimes is women who don’t realize that it is important to live their life, nobody else is responsible for your happiness, you are. Be the woman who will teach her man active listening, and you should model that too. Ask your man for something respectfully and you will get that too. Social life is important, it should be a priority, it is part of your health. Identify what social life for you is, and go for it and be intentional about it. Do not listen to what others say, it’s your joy, what brings you joy is what you are facing. Go for it, no guilt, God created us as social human beings. It has everything to do with our mental health.  Make sure that you are living within your means, don’t copy others.

” I know that we grew up in a nation that has this belief system that government has to give me work.  Change that believe system by starting up something. There is trash everywhere, one can clear garbage and make money from that. What can you do? Just start something. Before you know it, you have become an entrepreneur. Take up your phone and google NGO, there are a lot of NGOs that help young people to start up. Use your phone for something more profitable”.

iwriteafrica.com: What sets you apart from your contemporaries in Africa as an African woman living and working in America? Did you at any point seek people’s validation before taking a decision?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: Validation is not important, doing what is right is. Meeting a need is also important, every time you meet a need you don’t have to worry. Be intentional, don’t shoot up things in the sky without being intentional. Give what you can, if you look for validation and they say “oh, thank you”, then you are hitting the wrong road. Just size up and identify what need you can meet, do it because it will make huge difference in someone’s life.

iwriteafrica.com: How can your experience impact young African women who are having the urge to relocate to America in search of greener pastures? What could be your number one counsel to that lady out there concerning relocation?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: Political instability creates economic hardship, and this is basically why people move. But what people must realize is that when you move and you come here that you are really going to work hard, like double or triple shifts, and you are exhausted at the end of the day; and of course, a lot of your money goes to taxes, so if you are in Nigeria and you can’t come here, I want you not to feel completely bad. What you need to identify around you is, what are your needs? I know that we grew up in a nation that has this belief system that government has to give me work.  Change that believe system by starting up something. There is trash everywhere, one can clear garbage and make money from that. What can you do? Just start something. Before you know it, you have become an entrepreneur. Take up your phone and google NGO, there are a lot of NGOs that help young people to start up. Use your phone for something more profitable.

iwriteafrica.com: We are now living in a world where self-interest overrides family love, mutual engagement, sharing, interpersonal relationship and communal life, what is your view on this?

Dr. Veronica I. Ufoegbune: This goes back to the way that creation happened, people from the beginning of time live in communities where they interact. God created us social beings, that is why God created more than one person. This also goes back to the story of the broom, if you take one single broom stick, you can easily break it, but when you have a collation of several sticks of broom, it is hard to break. Looking also at our fingers, you can’t wash one by itself, but wash with other fingers, you will see how easy it can be. So, we are human beings who depend on one another, even when you don’t talk to your immediate neighbour, you sure will talk to someone when you are sick and you go to the hospital. If you go to buy grocery, you must talk to someone. There is constant interaction with fellow humans. The African spirit is a positive one, one that is warm and community oriented.  

  • To be continued.

Watch out for scintillating revelation and inspiration on what has watered mutual and enduring relationship for this African Icon, her guiding principles, among other motivations in our next series of the interview.

Hello, I am Lilian Chudey Pride. Good to welcome you to my online world. I am a Writer, Teacher, Encourager, Author of Life Beyond Motherhood, Dignity of Womanhood and Publisher, iwriteafrica.com online Magazine. I love Africa so much and I derive joy in telling the world about her beauty and strength. I share the challenges of the childless African community, providing Support, Encouragement and Empowerment. While guiding the childless African woman to trust God, I help her to understand her peculiarity, grieve properly, heal and embrace purpose. See my book: Life Beyond Motherhood on Amazon. Welcome to Africa.
Mary Grant
Lilian Chudey Pride
Publisher
Lilian@iwriteafrica.com
www.iwriteafrica.com

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