If there is one thing Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija loves doing, that will definitely be putting smiles on the faces of widows and orphans! She has succeeded in doing this through Rose of Sharon Foundation and between four years of operation, the foundation has been able to empower thousands of widows, their children and orphans with interest-free loan and scholarships from primary school to institution level.
On Friday, June 22, 2012, hundreds of widows, their children assembled at the Yusuf Grillo Hall, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos for the second empowerment and scholarship distribution programme in this year. The first was held in March and over 412 beneficiaries benefited from the scheme.
The Founder, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, who recently turned 61, spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly to on the life changing programme in the lives of the widows…
Tell us about today’s empowerment programme, especially seeing medical experts for the first time?
The widows have different kinds of challenges from time to time, many of which we may not be able to meet immediately. Whenever we have the opportunity to bring specialists who can help them, we bring them to empowerment like this. As you have observed, we have invited some medical doctors who looked into some of their medical challenges. During our visit to their homes, we noticed while counselling them that a lot of their husbands died as a result of high blood pressure. We all know how they get blood pressure through stress and many died through ignorance, lack of money to be able to receive proper treatment. To avoid such and reduce the number of families that would end up with no mothers as well as having lost their fathers, we felt the need to also see what we could do to the mothers and we came up with the idea of giving them medical treatment at this empowerment programme such as checking their blood pressure and find out if anyone of them has diabetes. It will not be only today, we have some doctors who have also promised to render medical services to our foundation on a longer term basis. Sometime, we bring in people who talked to them about their finances so that they will learn how to manage their money especially the loans we give them.
Let’s know the number of people you’re empowering today?
175 widows and five orphans.
If I get you right, you said this will be the last empowerment in Lagos
(cuts-in) I said this will be the last empowerment in Lagos for a long time, I didn’t mean forever. I am saying this because we’ll love to reach out nationwide so that other widows can also benefit from the scheme. We’ve done the empowerment exercise in Lagos time without numbers and it’s as if we are pinned down down for a good part of time and to be fair to other widows within Nigeria. So this will be the last empowerment in Lagos for long time. We believe that it’s time to move it to other states.
Tell us the states you’ve covered since inception?
We’ve only touched five states, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Benue and Lagos States.
Which is State is the next?
As the spirit leads. It’s Lord that has been opening the doors. Wherever he opens the door, we’ll move into that location.
We’ve always talked about government contributions towards course of this nature. How has it been?
Very minimal. We haven’t received any actually but we have got promises.
Message to the government
We look forward to opportunities to be able to knock on the doors of governors of States and I believe when we have audience with them they will be able to know our objectives and what we have been able to do in the various states we have covered so that we can achieve our missions of helping the widows, their children and orphans. In a state like Benue for instance, we find out that 80 percent of their widows are farmers, and the government has promised us land so that we can build sheild for widows to be able to warehouse their farm produce before they are moved to the market. Usually it’s difficult for them because a lot of their produce got spoilt before it gets to the end users. Also, we have discussed with the Lagos state government a year ago, soliciting for land to build schools for the widows children but we are yet to receive the land. All we need is the land we’ll build it ourselves and fund it but it’s difficult to get land in the state. It’s a promise we have from the governor that is yet to be fulfilled.
I wonder what motivates you to involve in this selfless service?
The motivation, to be frank, is basically honouring the will of God. It is a calling from God and that’s what keeps us going and God will continue to provide for us to be able to carry on and reach out to as much as we can reach out to.
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, July 24, 2012