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A community in Kaduna State, Nigeria, where Christian Aid is supporting households through the coronavirus pandemic.

Jerry Clinton

Believing in Life Before Death

Christian Aid and Me

Published on 11 March 2021

You might remember our previous mission statement: 'We Believe in Life Before Death'. For Charles Usie, our Country Manager in Nigeria, these words have been important in his 14 years with Christian Aid.

Christian Aid believes that every human being deserves to live a fulfilling life with dignity here on earth, before they before they enter eternity to live in paradise with their maker. But what does this really mean in practice? How does this Christian theology find a place in the international development and humanitarian sector?

It is remarkable that this theology has inspired Christian Aid staff to work in some of the most challenging places across the world, to bring healing and relief for people broken down by conflict, poverty and various forms of deprivation. For some members of staff, the opportunity to be part of the Christian Aid team has been life-changing and transformational.

I’m one of those people. By July 2021, I will have spent 14 years of my life with Christian Aid as a full-time member of staff. I joined the team as a programme officer in 2007 – while in my mid-20s, and grew through the ranks to a Country Director for Nigeria in 2014, and I’m pleased to still be here today in my early 40s.

These years have been an important and productive time in my life. I met my wife Hadeezah Haruna- Usie on the job, we got married and we just celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with our 10-year old son and 8-year-old daughter. I often wonder how fast they have grown! Aside from my family and my job, I’ve also worked hard to obtain two master’s degrees, (one made possible by the British Chevening Scholarship Award-where I was fortunate to attend the University of Sussex), and I’m currently working to complete my PhD in Environmental Management, researching the interaction between the environment, animals and humans in conflict prone environments.

I look back over these last 14 years and while I marvel at that journey so far, my wife Hadeezah has asked me consistently: 'What is keeping you at Christian Aid? Why this fierce loyalty to this organisation You could do this same job serving people in desperate need of help through any other international NGO- but why Christian Aid?'

I have a personal mission statement - “To leave this world and all persons I meet, better than I met them”.

When I first began my journey with the organisation in July 2007, something within me knew with certainty that Christian Aid was a natural fit. Christian Aid were advocates for justice and dignity for all people here on earth, and this combined with my  personal mission, for me became a perfect match, with a complete alignment of our values and ideals . I knew Christian Aid was home!

 For me, the work I do in this life has never just been about a salary or benefits. It’s more than that- it’s values, purpose, a shared vision of a better world and the commitment to realising it. From that day back in 2007, my time with Christian Aid has significantly influenced the person I have become today.

Inspired by Christian Aid’s theology and my personal mission statement, I have come to adopt a sense of urgency with work. I see every day as a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people we serve.

This sense of urgency in practical ways is experienced as a habit which would propel me to take simple daily actions regarding my life, the welfare of my team and the overall living experiences of the people we serve. It means responding quickly to matters when they arise, leading with assurance and providing support to our partner organisations as soon as we face a challenge or potential disruption to our programme of work. I have become intentional about my actions and take full responsibility for their outcomes.

Growing up was quite challenging for me, my parents separated after my 9th birthday, and I grew up with my mother and 4 other siblings. I was not spared from the stigma which follows children from “broken homes”, a label carried into adulthood and being judged for actions of your parents you know nothing about. Over time, I struggled with my confidence and self-esteem and would typically second-guess myself in the midst of peers and classmates.

While I could argue that as I matured into adulthood, I was exposed to courses, people and opportunities who significantly supported me to build confidence and appreciation for my abilities, it was with Christian Aid that my confidence escalated, and I flourished! As a young Programme Officer, I was invited to meetings and consultations within the global organisation and asked to voice my concerns or thoughts.

It felt a bit strange at first but over time, I came to the full realisation that in Christian Aid, your voice counts, it matters and it is valued, no matter your position and responsibility. I was invited into the room, given a seat and my voice was listened to.

In other words, I counted for just being a person, irrespective of my race, religion, ethnicity or colour. The confidence, appreciation for myself and others, and total outlook to life has been carefully moulded into what it is today, a lot of that as a result of my last 14 years at Christian Aid.

It was Mother Theresa of Kolkata who said “people are not just lacking and in need of food, clothes, shelter, water… but people lack and are in need of dignity”. I stepped into Christian Aid with some doubts and fears, but 14 years on I could say I feel more than alive and positive about life.

I carry my Christian Aid Identity card with enormous pride. It is significant and important that that almost a third of Christian Aid’s funding  comes from the generosity of people living and giving in Ireland and the UK. Everyday people are funding some of the most life-transforming, ground-breaking projects that are freeing people permanently from poverty across the world. With this information comes great humility, as the call to serve is well established.

I have worked in other organisations, some which generate huge amounts of money from private companies and rich governments in the global North. Within these the tendency is to almost always work from a messianic mindset, as someone settled with a fat pay check and armed with a robust envelop to dish out to poor people.

The mindset is different in Christian Aid, we’re centred around people: the people who contribute (supporters); the people called to serve (staff); and the people in need of care (beneficiaries), all uniquely bound in faith and commitment to end pain, suffering and poverty in our lifetime.

My friends and I often make jokes about sports men and women being the happiest people on earth - we believe they are being paid stupendous amounts of money, then they become celebrities (which attracts even more money) and all for just doing what they absolutely love to do – the sports they would probably play at home without being paid for. Most of the time, we say these sportsmen and women are lucky, happy and have the best life.

I could never compare my life to these super stars, but I can say the satisfaction is the same, I think for me even more. I earn a modest wage that enables me to give myself and my family and dependants a decent life. I feel greatly honoured and privileged to have this opportunity to serve. But it is a lifestyle, there is a recognition that I would never be able to get paid exactly for the work I do, because in service, so much is passion, love, dignity and solidarity, and those have become the hallmark of my life as inspired by 14 years of service in Christian Aid.  

I love the work I do at Christian Aid. It’s way beyond just a passion, this is a lifestyle for me.

 

 

About Charles

Serving as the Country Director for Christian Aid UK, Nigeria country programme, Charles leads a team of over 390 experts delivering life changing interventions for poor and marginalised Nigerians.

Charles is responsible for Christian Aid’s operations in Nigeria in the areas of: Democracy and good governance; Health and Human Development; Humanitarian and Resilient Livelihoods; and Gender and Inclusion.

Charles Emmamuzou Usie, Country Director, Christian Aid UK, Nigeria Country Programme.
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