By Marie-Therese Nanlong
When violence broke out in Jos, the capital city of Plateau State in September, 2001, many families apart from losing loved ones also lost property worth millions of Naira.
One of those who suffered losses but managed to survive is Mrs. Loveth Ugochukwu from Abia State.
The resilient mother of four, hitherto trained in tailoring had all she laboured for destroyed in that crisis but in order to survive and cater for her family, she ventured into the casket making business which at that time, would leave many women shudder.
Narrating her journey into the new business to Saturday Vanguard at her shop in Jos, she said she has every reason to be thankful to God for sparing her life and transforming her from paid employment to become an employer of labour.
Her words, “Before 2001, I was living with my family at Rikkos until the crisis of that year broke out. We lost everything we had in that incident and barely escaped with our lives. Somehow, we found our way to Dadin Kowa in Jos South local government area to start life afresh. While at Dadin Kowa, I kept thinking about what to do because before the crisis, I used to sew clothes for people but because we lost everything, I didn’t know where to start from.
“Along the way, I decided to be hawking bread to survive and in the process, we reconnected with one of our neighbors whom I discovered their condition was worse than ours. I started giving helping hands to that family by giving them some loaves of bread and things for tea to prepare for their children. One day, because they knew that I could make clothes, the woman’s husband said he would introduce me to one Baba who dealt in casket so that is can be sewing for him.
“I discussed the option with my husband and because it looked better than hawking bread, we went for it. I was employed to sew for the Baba to design the caskets so from there, I started learning the business of casket making. That was how I unconsciously got involved in this business. For now, I am the only female in the State in this line of business but I want to encourage women to explore the option.
“We were looking for what to do to survive, things were really hard at that time but my husband gave me his support, the money we make is used in solving our problems and helping others. These caskets you see, there is nothing to be afraid of, I see them as ordinary wood because I am always here when they buy the wood and cut them to make the caskets.
“I learnt so much while in Baba’ shop for almost 10 years before I started my own in 2011. Right now, I go to the market myself, buy the wood I want and instruct the machine operators to cut the wood to the shape I want. I bring the wood here and tell my workers what I want them to do. I have eight workers and some of them are married. They take care of their families with proceeds from here.”
Speaking on the challenges and patronage, she added, “There is no work without any challenge, my first shop was scattered by the city renewal people but I got this one and started afresh. We are not praying that people should die but people die. I don’t think doctors are praying that people should be sick but people fall sick. This is just business and we are rendering services to people because instead of waiting to get caskets made when one dies, one can just work to a shop and buy one when there is need.
“I am challenging women not to be lazy no matter the situation, we should work to support our husbands. Don’t sit down and wait for him to bring everything, help your partner so that he will live long for you. With this work, our children are in schools, even though my husband is a miner, I support him in building our home. Jos crisis did not leave me bitter but opened doors for me to do things I never imagined I could do.”