“Helping is my hobby” – interview with Hungary Helps scholarship holder Caroline Chigbo

Helping other people has always been at the centre of the life of Caroline Chigbo. She spent two years in Nyiregyháza, Hungary, as part of the Hungary Helps Scholarship Program.

During this time, her faith in God was strengthened; she also received further motivation to help people. Now, Caroline is in Nigeria again and is doing her best to use the skills acquired in Hungary to help even more people in the health care sector with a special concern for the elderly. She also established a programme of helping and motivating the poor and assisting the less privileged to access education.

Furthermore, Caroline is active as a Christian youth leader. She organises periodic visits to infant orphanages, visits the sick and elderly, helps with the maintenance of the local church, trains the altar boys and girls and teaches the Catechisms to young Catholics and Catechumens. 

When did you hear about the scholarship program, and why did you decide to apply for it?

I heard about the program thanks to a fortuitous incident. We can say that it was both a miracle of God and a divine wish. I was at my office when one of my friends came and asked me to help him solve a problem. While she was there, her son called her and told her about some medical examinations. Then I asked what kind of examination it was, and she told me it concerned a Hungary scholarship program. This happened a day before the application deadline. I did not have much time to decide, so I went to the doctor for an examination and turned in my application that same day.

And then you spent two years at the University of Debrecen?

Yes, I went to Hungary in 2017 and spent two years at the University of Debrecen, but I was living in Nyiregyháza. I studied social work in health care from 2017 to 2019.

While I was there l lived in Nyiregyhaza with other students in a hostel. Many of my colleagues moved to an executive hotel, but I chose to stay in the hostel to be with students from other countries.

Every afternoon, I went to the church of the city centre and spent much time with the local community. The people, both young and elderly people, welcomed me with a lot of love. They called me Mama G  and turned to me whenever they needed some support or help. They also supported me when I needed help, especially Kaszásnè Tóth Judith, who is a role model to me.

Caroline Chigbo at Debrecen University with colleagues. Caroline is the fifth person from the right.

Caroline Chigbo at Debrecen University with colleagues. Caroline is the fifth person from the right.

How did the program change your life?

The program positively changed me a lot. It was not a turning point for me because I have always known my vocation, but the program gave me a lot of motivation and reinforced my faith. I am doing my best to apply my experience acquired in Hungary to my work and my everyday life.

Where do you work now?

I work at the same place where I used to work before the scholarship program. I am working as director of schools (DS) in the Department of School Services at the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board. I am also a desk officer at UNICEF and USAID.

I believe you also founded an NGO?

Yes, I founded it in 2019,  when l was in Hungary, during the scholarship program. The NGO is called “SOLID ROCK EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE”, and it aims to help the less privileged, disabled young people to acquire new skills and have access to a good education.

Helping people is one of the most beautiful and toughest vocations. When did you realise that this was a vocation?

I realised it quite early. When I was a child, I told my mother that I wanted to do social work. It is not an easy job indeed, but it is also my hobby. This is what I love to do. If you are doing something that you like, you never get tired of it. My work is usually very exhausting, but I believe the happiness I sense while helping people does not make me feel tired. Many elderly people died in my hands, but knowing that I helped them in their last days made me survive the grief.

It is good to know that people around me turn to me when they need something because I help willingly. Even if they need money, they ask me for a loan, however, I do not have much money either. I want to share everything that I have with others because charity covers the multitude of sins and injustices.

I want to dedicate my whole life to my vocation. That is why I decided not to get married. Everybody, especially my mother, wanted me to get married when I was young, but I kept saying that I would not have a husband. Finally, they accepted my decision.

Have you ever regretted this decision?

Never. As I told you, helping other people makes me so happy that I would not give it up for anything.

Are there many people who need help around you?

Nigerian Christians are in a difficult, nearly unbearable situation. They have to live in continuous fear of being kidnapped, raped, or murdered. Moreover, the government does not help Christians. Another problem, in addition to kidnappings and murders, is hunger. Nigerian pensioners are not receiving money at all. In Nigeria, many people are suffering from hunger, and the wealthy are giving nothing to those who are hungry or making efforts for the retirees. When I was in Hungary, I saw older adults could use the bus without paying for it. I was very happy to see that the government supports elderly people. It would be great if the people who cannot afford to buy a bus ticket in my country could use public transport freely.

Are you still in contact with people from Hungary?

Yes, many of them are always in touch with me through social media, like messenger, Whatsapp, Zoom and email.

When I was in Hungary, we met State Secretary Tristan Azbej at the State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program. On the 26th of November, he and the Hungary Helps team will come to Kenya and organise a community cookery event to which I was also invited. I am looking forward to it, and I am grateful to the Hungarian government for working tirelessly for those in need.

In the following weeks, we are going to share interviews with Hungary Helps Scholarship-holders. In the next episode, we will talk with a young Iraqi Christian man, Randi Jamal.  

Ildikó Ungvári

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