Empowering the Needy

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A number of orphans and widows were empowered at the 2018 Rose of Sharon Foundation’s Youth Empowerment Programme, writes Peter Uzoho

Inside the spacious Yaba College of Technology’s Multi-purpose Hall, about a 100 under-privileged young men and women comprising orphans and the fatherless, as well as helpless widows, received unique

life-changing inspirational words from great speakers. They were also taught different life skills which they could use to improve their economic and social lives.

The programme this year was largely focused on getting the beneficiaries empowered to tackle unemployment in Nigeria through

entrepreneurship, hence the topic: Youth Entrepreneurship: A solution to Unemployment. Speakers realised the over-dependence on white collar jobs and the entitlement mentality among the youths of Nigeria and, in their separate presentations, urged them to drop such unhelpful thinking and feeling. They were charged to discover their callings and follow it so as to become what they can be.

First to speak into their lives was a woman of many parts, the billionaire oil magnate and Group Managing Director of Famfa Oil, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija – the Founder of Rose of Sharon Foundation. With her years of experience in life struggles, Alakija in her keynote message, did not romance words as she broke the bread of what it takes to be successful in life to them. She relayed real life lessons to

them and made them understand that what they would be was dependent on their decisions. “Your future is in your hands,” Alakija would tell them. Dazzling in a sparkling red top, over a black trouser, with her customised lenses,

the billionaire businesswoman in her confident posture, said: “Don’t let anybody decide for you what you will be. You have to strive to succeed. Work hard, be diligent, be determined, and be focused on your

dream.” She noted that entrepreneurship was the order of the day and that the world was looking in that direction, calling on the youths to embrace entrepreneurship.

“Being a successful entrepreneur does not happen so easily: you have to work for it. I’m not going to tell you that it will be easy; nothing comes easy. Look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Success is not about luck, so don’t let anybody deceive you. “Dangote did not make it so easily; he doesn’t rest. So you must work hard and then pray. Life is full of competition. You have to prepare

yourself in order to be able to compete in your entrepreneurship journey,” she noted. The philanthropist extraordinaire urged the beneficiaries to take advantage of the programme to make a change in their lives. “So let today be a life-changing beginning for you.”

To further challenge them, Alakija brought out some foreign-made items: deodorants, shoes and the likes, made by Nigerians in the U.S. which were given to her as gifts, encouraging the youths to emulate such result-oriented entrepreneurs.

“This should be the minimum standard you should be aiming for. From time to time, I will be going online to see what competition is going on among you; to see what you’reproducing after this programme,” she

noted. She disclosed that since the inception of the foundation, a total of 88 orphans, 1,366 widows’ children, and about 950 widows had been empowered.

“The youths that you see here today are a combination of those who are alumni of the Rose of Sharon Scholarship programme, about 129 of them; a combination of those who are still in the university, and those who

are trying to get into university. “And, also, those who have come out and are working, which is one of the reasons we have to talk about entrepreneurship because Africa has to look towards that direction now.”

She stated that about 11 widows had also graduated from universities under the foundation’s scholarship programme. Alakija, however, announced that the 10 years anniversary of the foundation would be held on June 23, being the date for the 2018 International Widows Day, revealing that more widows would be empowered at the occasion.

In her presentation, Chief Executive, Sheroes Global and Founder, Yemi Adenuga Foundation, Mrs. Yemi Adenuga, who spoke on the topic: ‘Own Your Future, Be Your Own Boss’, encouraged the beneficiaries to be smart as they deal with life challenges. She advised them to always determine the purpose of whatever they want to do and urged them to ensure that such reason was genuine.

“The reason you want to be an entrepreneur must be right. Your desire must be to solve a problem, “Adenuga said. According to her, Africa is one of the best places to be an entrepreneur. She told them that the best way to be rich was to transfer wealth, a model she explained is peculiar to the Igbos who she said understand and apply it better.

She also encouraged her audience to be excited about their business ideas and the problem they want to solve.

Adenuga said, “And then be careful with the people you’re going to be sharing the idea with. Make sure these people are those that understand what you’re talking about. Never rely on one source of income. Make sure you have something that is subsidising something else. Your challenges today should be the reason you must excel.”

She however, enjoined them to use their social media platforms to build their business contacts, adding that they should learn and apply the skill of eye contact.

Adenuga concluded her presentation by handing over copies of her book:

‘Exploring Options: A Guide to Making Career Choices’ to Alakija, who promised to ensure every participant at the programme gets a copy.

Speaking on the topic: ‘Youth Entrepreneurship: Solution to the Problem of Unemployment in Nigeria’, Project Director, National Youth Summit and Founder, Stage Africa Foundation, Mr. Utchay Odims, advised the youths not to allow anybody define their destiny, saying only God can define it for them. Odims who said he got financial independence from his parents at a

young age of 19 in his second year in the university, told his audience to be careful of ‘3Gs’ (glory, girls/guys, and greed), noting that they can make or mar them as entrepreneurs.

“Glory (pride) comes before fall. For you to be a successful entrepreneur you must humble yourself,” he said.

“You must forget girls and guys and focus on your career and your calling. Don’t be somebody who has love for money (greed). You have to be transparent; you need to be someone that functions with integrity;

you need to be open enough to share your business idea with somebody – an investor or a partner. You need to be somebody that loves and believes in yourself,” Odims advised. He urged them to research about their areas of business and look for mentors and role models in order to fast-track their entrepreneurial

journey. Having got them inspired with such powerful words, the beneficiaries were later broken into three different skills acquisition training sessions where they learnt wig making, slippers, and perfume making from facilitators. To ensure effective teaching and learning in all the sessions, Alakija went from one class to the other, inspecting what was being done.

However, rounding up the programme, some of the beneficiaries who spoke to THISDAY said they had learnt so much from the programme and expressed their appreciation to Alakija for her continuous sacrifice

on their lives. One of them is Miss Victoria Okere, an undergraduate student of Mechanical Engineering at the Yaba College of Technology. Okere is one of the fatherless youths and one of the Rose of Sharon Foundation scholars.

Okere said: “Mummy Alakija has been wonderful. She has been footing my bills in school since I was in Senior Secondary School. She gave me hope to continue because I doubted my mother would be able to carry the load. I lost my dad around 2008 and I know how tough it can be having younger siblings. But she gave me a reason to continue.

“Honestly, from the depth of my heart I say a very big thank you to Mummy Alakija for giving me hope. She gives me reason to dream big. I hope I will be able to sit by her side one day, not as a result of pity but as a result of merit and to make her know that her sacrifice is not in vain. I pray that God will continue to favour her and give her longer life.”

Another beneficiary of the programme, Epaphras Obi, said: “I say God bless Mummy Alakija for empowering us and for sacrificing her resources and time to improve our lives. I pray God to keep her alive for us so that one day we can actually come out and say we were brought up by her.”

Wisdom Adatong is also one of the RoSF scholars and regular beneficiary of the youth empowerment programme. He is also one of the fatherless youths.

“Since I lost my dad they have been the ones taking care of me, my school fees and my other needs. A week before today’s programme, they organised a platform where we were taught how to use what you have to improve yourself.

“I want to thank Mummy Alakija for being there for me and my family till today. I pray that God will keep her alive, and continue blessing her. She has been so marvelous to us.” One of the widows at the programme, Mrs. Agathar Ebere, in her appreciation, described Alakija as “one in a million.”

“Mummy is really one in a million; she doesn’t want us to be idle neither does she want us to feel bad in any way. So from time to time she will gather us here and empower us. And as we’re coming for this

programme we’re benefitting so much. “She is just a mother indeed and I thank God for her life. If we have other mothers like her I think things will change in this country because mothers are the home makers. I believe that God in His infinite mercy will reward her for all these.”

On her part, one of the facilitators, Miss Elohor Sama, described the programme as worthy of commendation.

“It takes an extraordinary person to do what Mrs. Alakija is doing. It takes somebody with a good heart to do this. She’s helping widows, helping their children and the orphans. So I think this platform is really worth commending. What she is doing is really good and encouraging to people like us that are looking up to her.”