Telema Westwood is the founder of Westhood Foundation, an organisation established in 2018 to help poor and less privileged Nigerians access qualitative healthcare and education. In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, he reveals how his foundation will reduce health challenges in the country. Excerpts:
What is Westhood Foundation about?
Westwood Foundation is a charity organisation focused on improving the lives of less fortunate people in the society. Our core programs are quality education, quality healthcare, training, preparation and investments in community based businesses.
What has the foundation achieved since its establishment?
Our goal in the immediate term is to conduct 500 free surgeries, immunise 150,000 children and provide free basic health services to 25,000 adults in 15 senatorial districts of the Niger Delta. We have achieved about 22 per cent of that goal in just one month with 148 free surgeries already completed.
What motivated you to establish the foundation?
I was motivated to establish the foundation by personal life story. I am who I am because I received help when I needed it most. As such, I cannot in good conscience have the ability to provide help and not do so. There is so much poverty in our land. I and the foundation are committed to trying to balance the equation. No one should have to watch their loved ones die from an easily treatable disease. Our country should not be deprived of its future geniuses because their parents cannot afford basic education or healthcare. That’s the motivation.
What are the challenges facing the foundation?
For now, it is proving that we mean well. Our people have been pawns in schemes for a long time. As such, all the work that we do is void of any political coloration. Our distance or our mission is to show how easy it is to make real impact, and awaken the conscience of those with the mandate and ability to improve our country.
How are people responding?
The response has been awesome. Once people believe that you mean well, you would be surprised how everything begins to line up, and we hope to move across the West African region in the next coming years.
How was your growing up?
I was born wealthy, but grew up poor. That is my story. I saw poverty first hand. But in God’s wisdom I believe he felt it necessary. If I had all the trappings of a privileged life I may have been on a different path. I can’t trade my experiences for anything. They have made me and continue to provide clarity.
What were the landmark experiences that shaped your upbringing?
Success in my view is preparation plus opportunity. Through providence, I was helped to prepare and I haven’t joked with any opportunity since. Most profoundly was seeing my family go from opulence to abject poverty. That experience was jarring. I sold newspapers to feed. I started working at eight. I was lucky. Many are not. My vision is to ensure that as many people as I meet will have equal opportunity to rise above the hands life has dealt them with.
What are the values that have kept you going?
No matter where you are, all you need is an opportunity. Also my mother always says if you have enough to eat you have enough to share.