Entertainment, Features

Derik Joshua: The Man With A Heart Of Gold

Derik Joshua Imuzai popularly known as Derik Zai has been using his Afrikraft Development Foundation to bring succour to the youth across the country, particularly in Kaduna State. ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM in this piece x-rays the man whose foundation has rehabilitated over 800 prostitutes and 70 criminals and is still pushing.

Kenneth was a notorious armed robber who specialised in robbing estates, mostly in Abuja. His favourite hideout was the Cromi Gwari jungle located at Kakuri axis in Kaduna State. When Derik Joshua Imuzai, founder of Afrikraft Development Foundation was on an outreach one faithful day, he met Kenneth and his friends in the jungle and sat down with them and chatted about life.

Narrating what led him into robbery, Kenneth said his father was working in Arewa Textile and the company folded up with no compensation to the workers and his mother was a trader at the station market, the government destroyed her shop which was the only means of their livelihood after his dad had lost his job.

To compound the matter, Kenneth’s dad fell sick and he tried all he could to raise money as the first son for his dad’s medical care without success. He travelled to Abuja where he ran into this gang of robbers and was convinced to join them. In their hey days, their operations even extended to Benin Republic. He wasn’t proud of his act but did it for his family just to keep them alive.

After listening to his story and those of his gang members, Derik told them about the Off The Streets Project which he is championing. Later, one Dr Etuk also told them about the programme and offered to sponsor and pay for other logistics which covers their transportation and feeding during a 3-week intensive training in 2017 at Chimcherry Hotel, Barnawa. Alongside his gang members like John and Solo, Kenneth decided to give the idea a chance and that marked the beginning of their journey to liberation from dark forces..

The former bad boys started taking classes in fashion and catering. One day after the general class where people shared their experiences, Kenneth spoke on the danger in living a bad life and the need to change for good. Kenneth thus became a typical example of one who needed just a little push and encouragement to change for good. The off the street project gave him that chance.

Etuk rented a shop for him and his friends, bought sewing machines and everything they needed to start off a new life. Though Kenneth later complained of low patronage, but he quickly got a job offer in a fashion company in Lagos where he is currently working and doing very well.

Another beneficiary of the foundation is a lady, Ann, who was a prostitute in a hotel at Charity Bus Stop in Kaduna. She said she was ‘hussling’ to save her family back in Benue from hunger, but after she came across off the street project, she became interested and also decided to give it a chance. She enrolled in the make-up class during the last week of the workshop and bought a makeup box and was ready to quit prostitution and take up the new vocation.

In 2018, she returned for hair dressing classes and now she has her own makeup studio and has left the hotel she was staying to rent her own house.

These are just two stories out of many of the beneficiaries of this energetic young man Imuzai who is from Otuo, in Owan East Local Government of Edo State whose foundation has rescued quite a number of yesterday’s ‘outcasts’ and given them a new beginning in Kaduna State where he lives. Since he started, he has singlehandedly financed the training of over 23,840 youths mostly women and girls. Over 70 criminals have been gainfully trained (5 of whom were hardened armed robbers) who are doing very well now and over 800 prostitutes have received training in various vocations and have also been equipped and are equally doing well.

In a chat with LEADERSHIP, Imuzai explained: “I embarked on this project over 14-years now with the aim of helping vulnerable youths to secure a better future, by developing their talents and giving them over 32 skills for free.

“It is all in a bid to help reduce crime rate and all forms of social vices and to make our country great again by producing productive youth. We don’t only give them skills and develop their talents we also make them productive and teach them the need to help other vulnerable youths. That’s why we introduced the orphanage project where all their practical works are taken to orphanage homes.

“The fashion class clothes the orphans, catering class feeds them for 10 days of practicals with pastries, concessionaries, local and international dishes, the make-up class makes them up for photo shoot, to be carried out by the photography class, while the cinematographers do a documentary for them to be edited by the editing class. The make-up class make wigs for them. So it’s a combination of one in all,” he explained.

Remarkably, following the positive impact this young man is making in the lives of the youth, many local and international organisations like Mykel Parish, a humanitarian from Canada, Samuel Emmanuel from China and other prominent professionals like Nollywood’s Chief Bruno Iwoha, Abram Okonkwo and Josephine Anumbor Abraham, among others have decided to support the foundation

“Over 80 per cent of the beneficiaries have been established. I spoke to a man called Pastor Etuk who established most of them with chronic cases. Most of them have produced their films, have their YouTube TV stations, makeup studios and are working in various places.

“I do most of the evaluation myself and sometimes send their instructors. We have their data and some of them on WhatsApp group. I have been the only one funding it for years as an individual. The burden was so much on me that I had to sell my camera and my car to balance up some of the bills. I was advised to register it as an NGO which I did this year, it’s a big dream that I want support to help keep the youth off the streets for good, “he promised.

Adding his voice, veteran Nollywood actor, Chief Bruno Iwoha narrated his story on how he started off a similar project but it was hijacked by people who didn’t have love for the country. He explained that he saw a very huge prospect in Derik and promised to support him all the way.

Also, the founder of Love to the World Initiative, Josephine Anumbor Abraham said she had known Derik for years and his passion even as a young man is what is making her support and even want to partner with him. According to her, one hardly sees a youth as energetic as him doing such things even to the extent of selling his properties just to put smiles on people’s faces.

She urged Nigerians and everyone who loves good things to partner with Derk to help in changing the orientation and perception that only government jobs are more lucrative.

Off the Street Project is in Abuja to train more youths and everyone on different trades.

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