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FROM DANCE TO EMPOWERMENT

23 Dec 2012

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A dancer on stage


By Yinka Olatunbosun
A mentoring Christmas party was organised in Lagos last weekend at the Muri Okunola Park, Lagos in honour of underserved girls. The party which was organised by a non-governmental organisation, Corporate Social Responsibility-in-Action was designed to be a forum where these young girls can be empowered by the experiences of other young people and professionals who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour.

Dr. Doyin Abiola, a veteran journalist, was one of the mentors selected for the event. She spoke to the group extensively on the need to be creative in order to stand out. She took particular interest in the commercially-oriented girls and women who she told could be key players in the commerce industry. In addition to the enterpreneurial skills, she said, the women must learn to be self-confident.
However, the peak of the moment came when a 16-year-old dancer, Olamide Akinolugbade, otherwise known as OlamideExplicit, took the floor and shared her touching experience. Olamide, an orphan began dancing at the age of 8 when she ran into David Abraham, her adoptive father in Ibadan.

She lived with other orphans picked off from the streets by Abraham for nine months in someone’s garage. They grew in number and 15 of them were good enough to dance in public. They became their journey to stardom on a very rocky path. They were underpaid by those who gave them the initial opportunity to perform on stage.

In 2004, whilst 15 of them were travelling en route a performance, two fainted in the bus. One day, the group watched on television a group of dancers that won N200, 000 and knew that they could have performed better than the winners, given the opportunity. Their fortune came when Oando Plc invited them for its end of the year party to perform. The Xplicit group thrilled the audience and at the end of the breath-taking performance, the Group Chief Executive, Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu announced that the organisation would sponsor these orphans who have demonstrated courage, talent and discipline.

The outcome was that other organisations followed suit and soon, Xplicit became the toast of corporate organisations and individuals at  various occasions. The lead dancer of the group, Olamide is a delight to watch. She is not just a phenomenal on stage but has great academic record of first class performance. She is a 300-level student of Mass Communication at the Lead City University and has enjoyed the attention of state governors and other great Nigerians. When Olamide suffered a ruptured appendicitis last year, she was taken to the University College Hospital, Ibadan at a time when doctors were on strike. The popularity that her dance talent had earned her through local and international performances paid off when three governors intervened on her behalf and four consultants took on her case and she had a successful surgery. She is back on her feet and on stage and she told THISDAY that she would not stop dancing.

“I have interest in Public relations and public speaking. I have just discovered myself as an orator but won’t stop dancing.” During the mentoring session, Olamide told the other girls that being an orphan is not a stumbling block.

“Some parents like to impose professions on their children without much care for the real passion or talent of the child. I discovered that I was a brilliant student and i was always holding the first position in my school.”

David Abraham, a business administration graduate of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma who manages the Xplicit group spoke on how he became a father to many dancing children.
“I met Olamide the same way I met the others, on the streets. They have different stories and backgrounds and I have been doing this since I was very young in the late 80s. I started the ministry of empowerment officially in 2004. 26 of them have graduated from the University last July.

“They are all in good schools, all private schools like Calvary, Hallmark, Lead City and they are funded by private individuals as well as corporate organisation. I have two biological children. Dance is my natural gift and I teach better than I dance. I can dance better than most of them. Mind you, I don’t just pick anybody off the streets. A lot of young ones want to join them but I am careful. I had done one sentimentally that I almost regretted it. I am teaching 67 of them now. They all know what they are doing. They are serious-minded and they read their books. For instance Seun just graduated with a strong 2:1 in International Relations.”

The Xplicit group displayed their power moves to the young girls who were mesmerised by the unusual dance talents.  THISDAY spoke with some of the mentees at the event on how they had benefitted from the mentoring session.

Sunday Omoeesewa Opeoluwa, the winner of the cooking competition at the event said, “I feel happy that I won the competition although I didn’t know that I would win the competition. I have the dream of going to a big hotel for my IT and afterwards, establishing my own catering company and helping the catering market in general. I have learnt from the mentoring session that it is not compulsory for one to come from a very wealthy background before one can be great. We need to work towards greater achievement. Also, we should be self-reliant.”                      
The Programmes Manager for CSR-in-Action, Chiwet Uraih explained to THISDAY the reason for including mentoring in the Christmas party.

“We are working with the state government to empower these girls drawn from Lagos Island, Surulere, Mushin and some from private charity groups. The girls are now at the competition stage of the programme which is to test how skilled they are. CSR-in-action is a social enterprise, an organization that partners with the state government on poverty eradication. We are concerned about women because women are the weaker sex and they are very vulnerable, especially the younger ones. There are 80 young women here today. Next year, we are going to have a bigger event with about 1,500 girls.   Representing Lagos state government at the event was the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Poverty Eradication, Mrs Idowu Senbanjo who spoke with THISDAY on the programme.

“This initiative is really nice and I am happy that we still have organisations that are still thinking of other people and the less privilege. The girls here have been highly motivated and have been encouraged. Most of them do not go out to see events like this. I will advise that organisations emulate them, come out and help these children. Some of them need the awareness to help them in their lives and in their career. The vocational centre is an initiative of the Lagos State Government set up to empower both men and women. The unemployment rate is high. Instead of waiting for a job, come and learn a skill that you can use to sustain yourself. We have about 40 vocational courses.”

The programme was supported by Oando Plc, Nigerian Bottling Company, Dufil Foods, Golden Penny Foods, Nestle Pure Life Water and Wampco Plc.

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