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Giving Women, Children A New Lease Of Life

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In this part of the world, when poverty level rises and other unfavourable conditions take their tolls, women and children are often the first to be caught in the web of misery. In this report GEORGE OKOJIE takes a look at some social legendary interventions in catering for the needs of indigent members of the society.

Although it is believed that hope is an essential component of life, but to the less privileged it is a daily necessity they must embrace to relieve themselves of excruciating torment in the journey of life.

Given the economic reality in the country, some segments of the society including women, especially widows, aged women, youths among others have become most vulnerable and need assistance in various forms from the government and well- meaning individuals to weather the storm of life.

As a way of ameliorating the problems, some Non -Governmental organisations have carefully studied the situation and discovered the category of persons hardest hit by social circumstances around them.

Since experiences have shown that people who possess hope and think optimistically have a greater sense of well-being, one platform that has been used to attend to wide range of social issues ranging from moral boost to children without limbs and other physically challenged persons to less privileged students and widows in Lagos State is Hope For Women in Nigeria Initiative,(HOFOWEM) a pet project of the wife of the Lagos State Governor Mrs. Bolanle Ambode.

LEADERSHIP Sunday discovered in the case of John Akinbo that he would have remained a hopeless permanently, if not for the intervention of this pet project. The young boy was barely two years when it was discovered that he had a hole in the heart. As expected his poor parents unable to do anything about the condition of their son, slid into a state of confusion and pain.

It was not long before help came from HOFOWEM and young John was able to get a new lease of life as he was sponsored to India for surgery which turned out to be a success. Now he has hope for a better tomorrow.

For 28 –year old Temitope Kareem , a Sickle Cell Disease carrier, he thought life had come to an end when he was knocked down by Avascular Necrosis (AVN) of both femoral heads and secondary osteoarthritis an ailment common to Sickle Cell Disease carriers.

He said, ‘’I had just concluded my National Youth Service Programme and was about to hit the job market when AVN struck. I was constantly in pains and needed urgent treatment but my parents could not afford the cost of the treatment for a total hip replacement surgery.

‘’HOFOWEM founder Mrs. Bolanle Ambode , wife of the Executive Governor of Lagos State received a letter from my parents seeking funds to take care of me their only child. To cut the long story short HOFOWEM sponsored my total hip replacement surgery for me. I was in and out of two major surgeries. Today I am able and capable to walk unaided. I am hopeful for a brighter future.’’

Overtime, the platform has come up with the initiative of providing public primary school pupils with shoes and socks.

LEADERSHIP Sunday learned that the essence of this initiative is to ensure that no pupil drops out of school or is denied access to education because of failure to obtain item as seemingly minute as shoes.

To this end, the Foundation had in September last year initiated “Project Bright Steps” for public school pupils in Lagos State, during which Mrs. Ambode pledged to annually dole out 175,000 school shoes and socks, to children in primary 1-3 in Lagos State public primary schools.

True to her words, the Lagos First Lady fulfilled her promise last year when through the foundation, 175,000 public primary pupils were presented with shoes and socks as necessary school companions.

Another milestone was recently attained in the narrative of HOFOWEM’s “Project Bright Steps” initiative when a new set of 175,000 primary school pupils benefitted from the scheme.

Another dimension was, however, added to this year’s edition with the distribution of shoes and socks for pupils across the five education districts in the state.

By and large, this push has been applauded since education has been widely accepted as the best legacy a country can give to her citizens and a human right that should be accorded to all human beings solely by virtue of being human.

More so that its attainment no doubt improves the development of any society.

HOFOWEM key areas of influence in Lagos, particularly rural communities is in the area of education where it seeks to rehabilitate vulnerable children and encourage the education of the disadvantaged children in the society.

Nothing portrays the gesture of touching lives in good light as being done by the foundation better than the way Victor Oyebade, a pupil of Ayangburem Primary school, Ikorodu captured it when he told LEADERSHIP Sunday that,” We have resumed in my school but I have told my parents I will not go back to my school, because anytime I come to the schools without wearing sandals or shoe people will always be laughing at me and I will be ashamed and cry.

“Sometimes I will leave the house and go and hide by the road, till school will close for the day and return home. When I told my father to buy me shoes and books to go to school he said there is no money that things are difficult in the country and said they have not paid his salaries for a long time.

“It is now that governor’s wife has given me shoes and education materials to study with, that I can now go back to my school and start learning happily. I like what Lagos State Government has done for me.”

The young Oyebade is not alone in this, Kabiru Abdulahi, a pupil of Ketu Comprehensive School said his parents were already considering sending him to learn a trade because they could not afford to buy educational kits for him.

“My parents said I will go and learn how to repair motor before his friend came and said the Lagos government will provide books and kits for pupils in the state and that was when he said I should go back to school. That is why I am here to collect mine. I have collected it and I thank government for this help.”

Speaking on the initiative, the founder of HOFOWEM, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode said the urgent need to intervene in some critical needs of the people informed the establishment of the platform.

According to her, the initiative tagged “Project Bright Steps”, and the decision to distribute shoes and socks to pupils was one of the ways to motivate the young ones, boost their self-esteem, help them appreciate their self-worth, encourage them to be proud of themselves, and most importantly equip them.

She said aside the positive impact such would have on the education of the pupils, it would also encourage local production of shoes, and thereby boost the economy.

The governor’s wife said, “Unfortunately, walking without shoes has led many children to get sick, lose their feet to bacterial infections and other life-threatening diseases. It is essential for these children to wear shoes. Wearing shoes is not a luxury, but a necessity.

“As a mother, I am deeply passionate about children. Some lucky ones have the necessary support, while others have very little support of nothing. HOFOWEM realises that many children do not have the opportunity to wear ordinary shoes. Yet, this is something that we take for granted.

“Properly equipping our children for school, plays a great role in boosting their confidence level, morale, concentration and overall performance.

“A properly kitted pupil has higher chances of doing well in academic studies, because he/she is better motivated, more confident and has higher self -esteem, which translates to better academic performance.”

“These pupils represent the future of our state and the country, and we will continue to do our best to motivate them for excellence.”

She emphasised that her pet project, HOFOWEM, was borne out of a burning desire to touch lives and be a source of hope and relief for the less privileged in the society, saying the ongoing scholarship scheme by the foundation is aimed at funding undergraduate programme of some of the brightest students from public secondary schools in the state.

As it concerns the women, LEADERSHIP Sunday learned that over 1000 widows across all ages have been empowered with financial assistance, equipment support and skills training programme. Through hope, for the sick, free goiter surgeries have been performed for the women.

Mrs. Ambode described the widows as some of the most vulnerable in society that need support, hence the move by the foundation to empower them for self-reliance towards earning regular personal income.

She said, “We had carefully studied the situation and discovered that this category of persons is the hardest hit by social circumstances around them. This is the reason our Foundation is focusing on them namely: the children, women, widows, the youth and the aged women. “HOFOWEM decided to raise the stakes, packaging this programme for widows still in their active years. This is to help them have a means of income.”

She added that the foundation decided to enlist the relatively younger widows for training in skills of their choice, to go with monthly allowance and would be supported with business equipment upon graduation, while the other two categories of women would get equipment support or financial assistance to expand their businesses.

‘’This arrangement is designed to guarantee for you a stable means of income, to help meet your needs, those of your children, as well as your loved ones. It is hoped that this will bring more self-confidence for you, joy into your hearts and smiles to your faces’, she said.

Throwing more light on the intervention programmes, the Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, Ms. Oyefunke Adeleke, said HOFOWEM’ s novel approach to social intervention is quite admirable.

She lauded the founder for approving and supporting the empowerment programme in view of the several challenges facing widows, promising that the foundation would continue to seek succour for them as it had done in the past.

Adeleke said, “At HOFOWEM, we believe in putting smiles on the faces of those we come across and this we would continue to do, especially with the less privileged in our society. Everybody deserves somebody who makes them look forward to tomorrow. And that is who we are at HOFOWEM, providing the shoulder to lean on.”



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