Catholics Reach to Africa To Build a Bridge of Love
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
March 18, 2016

MCHENRY—Blessed Mother Teresa’s quote about “doing little things with great love” is an inspiration for Father Godwin Asuquo, a priest of the Rockford Diocese.

His love of sharing stories, food and culture of his native Nigeria, mixed with a hungry college student, prompted the beginning of an organization called ImaBridge Africa.

Ima is pronounced “EE-mah” and means “love” in Father Asuquo’s native dialect. The organization’s name stands for “Building a Bridge of Love to Africa.”

In 2008, Father Asuquo was an associate at Christ the Teacher University Parish, home to the Newman Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

When he prepared an authentic Nigerian meal for a small group of students, it was such a hit, the group decided to host a Nigerian dinner for parishioners.

Father Asuquo recruited David Lauger,  one of the Newman students, to organize the event as a fundraiser for tuition assistance for Nigerian kids.

Lauger says the student-to-student connection at the Newman Center dinner resulted in over $6,000 in free-will donations.

The dinner also inspired five parishioners to travel with Father Asuquo to Nigeria to see what the culture was like.

The donation they brought provided tuition scholarships for 32 students, and that first group realized that they could do more to help the people there, Lauger says.

Upon their return to the U.S., enthused volunteers formed a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and ImaBridge Africa was born.

Lauger has traveled on two of the 11 trips the organization has made to Nigeria.

“It’s one thing to donate to a cause,” he says, but those trips allowed me to be “able to actually meet the people (we are helping), where we can see … how much it benefits people in a different continent.”

Father Asuquo remained at the Newman Center until 2010, when he became administrator first of St. Mary Parish in Maple Park, then of St. Patrick Parish in McHenry. He has been pastor at St. Patrick since June 2012.

Father Asuquo, who was born and raised in Nigeria, “is our conduit. He has many contacts in Nigeria,” says ImaBridge health coordinator and board vice president, Christine Carrington.

There is a 10-member ImaBridge board of directors in the United States. A second ImaBridge board is based in Nigeria, and a paid director of operations works in Nigeria.

They are “in close communication with the board here in the U.S. and oversee our ongoing projects,” Carrington says. Those projects have focused on four primary areas: health, education, clean water and micro-financing.

For better health

On Nov. 3, 2014, the ImaBridge Community HealthCare Center was opened in Owot Uta, in collaboration with the UPS Foundation, St. Thomas Church and Rotary Club of Uyo.

The clinic provides primary care services. Plans include adding a pharmacy, laboratory, male and female wards and an operating theater.

ImaBridge has also provided medical equipment and supplies, including an ambulance and ultrasound machine, to St. Luke’s Hospital in Anua, and supplies to other hospitals, clinics and disabled individuals. The ImaBridge team held screening clinics in five rural villages in January 2016.

Education: ImaBridge has funded dozens of university students and seminarians, and has provided school uniforms for many primary school children who cannot attend public school without uniforms. Donations of laptops and infirmary medications have benefited the Goretti School for Girls in Ikot Ekpene.

Water: It is not unusual for rural villagers in Nigeria to walk three to four miles to fetch water from a river, returning with several gallons balanced on their heads. ImaBridge has drilled several boreholes (wells) in rural villages. A water purification system and a solar-powered pump were added in 2014, impacting the lives of about 5,000 villagers in the Ibesikpo Local Government area.

Micro-finance: Projects have included the revival of an old ceramics factory that now provides employment, loans for family farm plots and small businesses, and installation of a cassava mill and palm press that allows women to produce oil and flour for their families and to sell.

And finally, ImaBridge has assisted people in Illinois as well, including donations for iPads at Montini School in McHenry, refurbished computers for needy families in Maple Park, and mattresses to tornado victims in Washington.

Plans are underway for a December, 2016, mission trip to Nigeria.

“I am deeply touched by the love and generosity of ImaBridge members as well as its benefactors,” says Father Asuquo. “The incredible amount of love and friendship we have experienced in return, both in Africa and here in the U.S., is really a testimony of ‘faith in action.’”

For more information, visit or “like” ImaBridge Africa on Facebook. Contributions are welcome and can be made via the website or mailed to: ImaBridge Africa, P.O. Box 752, Sycamore, IL 60178. Email: