Interviews

Actress Iyabo Ojo on why her NGO, Pinkies celebrated 3 with less privileged

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For popular Yoruba actress, Iyabo Ojo, and her non-governmental organization, Pinkies Foundation, Sunday, April 6, 2014, celebrated the organisation’s third anniversary.

Characteristically, the Pinkies took their party to a home for the less privileged as their way of thanking God for how far they’ve come.

Their choice was the Modupe Cole Memorial Care and Treatment Homes, Akoka, Lagos, a facility that caters for special children challenged with varying disabilities.

Dressed in pink tops, the Pink Ladies, as they are fondly called, added colour and glitz to the otherwise sombre environment as they dined, wined and partied with the children.

The group also bore gifts as they donated a wide range of food items as well as household materials to the home.

ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with the president of the organization, Iyabo Ojo on the journey three years on. She also opened up on how the group has survived intense criticisms of lesbianism hovering over them.

Ojo also confirmed that she will be dropping her surname for her maiden name, Ogunro, 10 years after her marriage crashed.

Congratulations on Pinkies third anniversary?

Thank you so much.

It’s three years of Pinkies, how do you feel today?

I feel excited. I am always excited when I see people smile, especially these our special friends. That’s my joy, putting smiles on people’s faces. I am excited.

How has the journey been for you and the foundation in the last three years?

It’s not been easy because we’ve had a lot of criticisms and condemnation of the foundation. We’ve tried to stay strong in the face of hostilities.

What have kept us going are things like what you’re seeing today. Being a blessing and imparting on the lives of these special friends. It’s not just coming here to eat and dance with them, but bringing things for them, sharing their needs and supporting them. We thank God for what He is doing through us.

What would you say are the major achievements of the foundation in three years?

What I would call our major achievement is being a blessing to these people and the fact that they appreciate it. The society might not appreciate it but they do. They are happy when they see us, you need to see the way they jubilated and started dancing immediately the DJ started playing. This shows that they don’t get to see things like this often.

All they want is to know that there are some people out there who identify with them. Everybody wants to feel special, everybody wants to feel important and that’s what we’re making them feel. The good thing is that the vision is being realized and we’re happy with our progress so far.

There’s this general distrust of NGOs these days. Some people go into it to make money or seek donations they won’t use for its original purpose? How’s yours different?

That’s why we do everything transparently. We don’t ever ask people to bring anything to the foundation. We tell you we’re going to a particular home and ask you to come along with whatever you have for them. Luckily for us, we’re working class people. Some are into business, different professions, some are abroad and we’re all doing well. We are 25 and you can’t say that 25 of us can’t come up with funds we need to do what we have decided to do. I am not saying we cannot accept support from people, but if we do, it will definitely go to the homes.

We won’t tell you our account number and ask you to credit it. We will tell you what they need and encourage you to take it to them, and if you trust us enough to give us, we’ll definitely deliver it.

In three years, how many homes have you been able to reach?

We have visited many places. We have been to Heart of Gold Hospice. We’ve been to Regina Mundi in Mushin, it’s an old people’s home. We’ve been to another old people’s home in Yaba, Lagos. This place we are, Modupe Cole Memorial, this is our second time here. There’s another orphanage in Ajah called Sri Sathya Sai Sera, we also have been to the Lagos Care Home and the Down Syndrome Foundation, Surulere, Lagos, among others. We’ve visited so many places and we still ask people to give us addresses of more places because we want to do more.

Of all these places you’ve visited, and assisted, is it only members of your foundation that have been footing the bills?

We do it on our own basically but sometimes, we have little support here and there. People like Princess Toyin Kolade, Mr. Dagogo’s foundation, we’ve had so many other individuals that have supported us. Even Mr. Tunji Bello, Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment also supported us in what we’re doing today.

Let’s cast our mind back to when this foundation started. Some said you will all quarrel and disperse, others said it’s a group of lesbians and other negative statments. How did you cope with all that?

It really wasn’t easy but I think it was my fault. I think the name we started with attracted all the controversies. When it was Sexy Pink Ladies, people were attaching a lot of things to it. That was why we had to rebrand it and tell people it’s a foundation. We’re just being focused because the bad press was so much. Some members even had to opt out because of the impression people had of us. This is understandable because up to 80 percent of us are married. So, it was causing some of them issues in their homes. So, they had to leave the group for the sake of their homes. Some remained and their spouses got to know what we do and they saw that it’s just unfounded rumour and they supported us.

What other activities is the foundation embarking on?

Very soon, I am going to shoot a movie on why we need to appreciate these our special people. It will happen soon.

What’s your full name now, are you still Iyabo Ojo or you have gone back to your maiden name, Ogunro?

I am still Iyabo Ojo. I can’t just change my name anyhow so that it won’t affect my business. I am going to drop the name, Ojo and go back to my maiden name because I’ve been single for over 10 years now.

–  DANIEL FAYEMI

 

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