It was another round of soul lifting moment when widows and their children were empowered recently by a public-spirited foundation in Lagos. Mary Ekah writes
“I lost my husband in 2003, I was just 34-years-old then; he was not sick at such but was just hypertensive. He was a politician and so I wouldn’t know whether it was because of the stress of politics that made him slumped and died suddenly,” recalled Mrs. Modupe Salau (not real name), a widow with five children.
“I work with General Hospital, Shomolu and I have only been able to scale through a lot of challenges with God’s help. I can’t really describe how it has worked but I just see my children going to school. The eldest is 14, followed by 11-years-old and then the set of triplets is nine years. God has been at work and has not allowed the challenges to weigh me down even though it has been there psychologically. I have to live for the children because I do not want my children to be orphans so I pushed on no matter the situation,” Salau further said.
She added “it is like God is at peace with all the widows that have been invited here today because a lot of people must have heard about it but for one reason or the other they could not make. So for one to be invited and given this kind of gift, they must be truly favoured by God,” noted the self-determined widow who was among the lucky people whose children were given scholarships to the university level during one of the empowerment programmes by the Rose of Sharon Foundation.
The foundation which is founded by former fashion designer, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, is poised to extending helping hand to widows and their children as well as orphans through donations, scholarships and offer of vocational training.
Nneka Obi, a student of Lagos City Polytechnic and her elder brother, were also beneficiaries of the foundation’s scholarship. “I feel great and very happy because at least my mother would be relieved now,” said the young lady who was overwhelmed with joy.
Life for the Obis before they came in contact with Rose of Sharon Foundation to say the least was tough. “It has not been easy. Even my elder brother too had found life so tough. The family does not care about our survival since my father died. They would tell you they have their own responsibilities and so they cannot render any assistance to you. So my mother has to struggle hard to put us through school till now. Rose of Sharon has done well for us and may be if we have two graduates in our house, it would be okay and then from there we can take over the younger ones. I really thank God for this opportunity,” the young lady noted.
Another beneficiary, Adetola Adedokun Sunday, also recounted his experience. Sunday was born into a family of seven children and his parents died while they were still very young and since then they have struggled to survive. "I am the fourth child and the first to sit for JAMB in my family but to me now the battle is over because I know that with help of the foundation, not even the sky will be the limit for me,” the young man noted with delight.
“I was over 20 years old and I could not write my name that was in 2008 when I finished my secondary school. I could not read a three-letter word even when I claimed I had finished SSS 3 because then, I do not use to at attend classed but was busy gambling around the streets of Lagos and moving about with bad groups. Then we used to threaten any teacher that tries to fail us or make us repeat a class, so we continued to be promoted even when we never passed the exams. So I was just a street boy because my parents were not rich enough to take care of my needs and so I remained on the street till they both died and that was when the reality dawned on me.
So I started to seek admission into Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, for over three year with no success until I met Mrs. Stella Awoh, a member of this foundation. She was able to mentor me and today I am doing well in my studies. And right now, I am above average and just sat for my post University Matriculation Examination (UME) and I look forward to studying in one of the higher institutions in Nigeria with the help of Rose of Sharon Foundation and the scholarship that it has awarded me,” he said further.
Another beneficiary, Kareem Agbaje, a 200 level student of the University of Benin, studying Chemical Engineering said, “I am very happy about the scholarship and I thank the Rose of Sharon Foundation for this great gesture. It has not been easy with my Mother as a widow, she has gone trough so much stress, pains and struggles to see us through. We are five children in the family, I am the second and our relatives have left us in the cold just like that with no one caring about our survival.
We had thought that after our Dad died that they would be by us but the reverse has been the case. We really need this scholarship; I think it is just okay for us.
“I thank God for this opportunity because when my husband was alive, I was not doing anything. I am an illiterate and never went to school and was very young when I got married to my husband. But I thank God today that even when my husband is no longer there, God has brought a refuge to us in the place of Rose of Sharon Foundation,” said Mrs. Christiana Agbaje whose two children also got scholarships.
The beneficiaries of the foundation’s scholarship scheme that took place at the Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, according to Alakija marked the “last in Lagos for a very long time to come.” The reason she said was because the foundation would like to go nationwide, as it has so far been able touched on only five states. “We would like to reach out to all other states within the nation. So it’s like we have been pined down in Lagos for a good part of the time. To be fair to other widows within Nigeria, we believe that it is time to move. We would move to any state that the Lord leads us to because it is Him that has been opening doors for us. The spirit leads to whatever state He opens door, we would move in that location,” she said. Alakija revealed that so far Rose of Sharon has empowered widows in Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Benue States as well as Lagos State.
The recent empowerment progrmme had 175 widows and five orphans benefiting from the programme. About 3,000 and 67 orphans have benefited from the foundation since its inception. About 70 students are at the moment in various higher institutions while over 70 widows are given shops or accommodations in addition to 13 widows who are currently studying in various universities in the nation.
Speaking at the last empowerment, which had medical doctors on ground to see to the medical needs of the widows, Alakija said “this time around, we brought in medical doctors to look into some of the medical problems that they may have.
During the course of our visits to their homes, we found out that a lot of their husbands died as result of high blood pressure may be as result of stress, ignorance and lack of money to take care of their medical needs. Now the load of two people has become the load of one person after the husband dies, so to reduce the number of children that would end up motherless as well, we felt need to also se what we could do for the mothers that are looking after the children that the husbands have left behind by trying to give the some form of medical treatments, checking their blood pressures and trying to find out if any one of the widows have diabetes so that where there are such cases we can refer them to where they can get attention.”
Dr. Orji Obiora, one of the doctors on ground who was moved by the gesture said, “We felt there would be need to educate this segment of the population who have been unfortunate to lose their husbands and are finding things very hard in life. We felt we should empower them not just financially but health wise.” The service done free of charge, he said is courtesy of a foundation called, Doctors Reach Out Initiative in Ikoyi.
Another doctor, Ejiogu Chukwuma, who works in Military Hospital, Ikoyi and also consults for Festac Medical Centre, Lagos, said he felt being at the Rose of Sharon Foundation medical exercise was worthwhile because “helping the needy on health issue is our number one priority.”
As the foundation moves on to others states, Alakija looks forward to knocking on the doors of governors of the various states for their supports. “We do have verbal promises from the government of Benue State to provide us with lands. We have also appealed to Lagos State government about a year ago to provide us with land so that we can build a school; we are yet to see the land.”