A lot of people have a false sense of what giving really means, Olaoye
Doyinsola Olaoye is an Enterprise Resource Specialist (ERS) and the founder of The January Twenty Seventh International Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which caters to underprivileged widows in Nigeria by empowering, supporting and educating them. She founded it on January 27, 2014, her birthday. A graduate of English Literature from the University of Ilorin, Olaoye also owns an Interior Décor Company. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she spoke about why she set up the outfit for widows, how she juggles running the foundation and working full time as well as the challenges she faces
Could you tells us the story behind January Twenty Seventh International Foundation and yourself?
I am Doyinsola Olaoye, a software engineer, a very passionate humanitarian and the foundation director of the January Twenty Seventh International Foundation (J27 Foundation). The J27 Foundation is an NGO I set up four years ago that focuses on alleviating the plights of widows in the country. I also volunteer for other NGO’s where I offer support of all kinds. My passion for lending helping hands to those in need started when I was a child. I was always a part of the Junior YMCA/Mobile camp, which took place yearly for children between the ages of 10-15 and I was always a part of the welfare team for other kids. Till today, this has not changed and is still a big part of me.
You are celebrating your birthday today, which remarkably is the name of your NGO as well. How did this come about?
Everyone who knows me will tell you my birthday means a lot to me. The very day I was born, I was called forth to make an impact in the lives of people around me. I couldn’t think of any other name but the day that I cherish the most. Rather than choosing to name the NGO after myself, I chose to use my birthday because I would like to build an organization more focused on the people than me. I also believe everyone born on this day (January 27th) has a large heart (Laughs)
Was there any specific incident that led you to set up the organisation?
I had an encounter with a widow sometimes in 2013, who I offered to help after I noticed she was in severe need. I had seen her week after week and was moved to do something. She was initially reluctant about my gesture of lending a helping hand but I was able to convince her to accept help. After a while, she opened up to me on her being a widow and told me all about her journey and how difficult life had been since the demise of her husband. Her story hit me and there and then, I made up my mind to support and assist underprivileged widows in whichever form or capacity I could. This passionate desire gave birth to The January 27th International Foundation (J27 Foundation) four years ago.
Our aims and objectives are to primarily give welfare support to widows and help them through the journey of widowhood through counseling, training and development, empowerment and outreaches. We are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and we run the organisation as stated by the laws of the country.
How do you juggle running the foundation and working full time as a software engineer?
We have a board of trustees in place and we meet periodically to consider our plans, provide feedback and direction. We also have the foundation management team, of which I am the team leader. This is where we formulate and execute our plans. We meet as often as needed using technology tools more and face-to-face when necessary. We also have volunteers, who are more than willing to support us and ready to go at every event. We meet regularly with our stakeholders to update them on project objectives and to address challenges of the projects. We also discuss management practices that will work for the organisation like how to improve effectiveness, enhance responsiveness, improve transparency and accountability, improve sustainability and equity, increase empowerment and self-reliance and improve efficiency.
NGOs have come under fire recently amidst claims of shady dealings. How do you ensure transparency and accountability in running J27?
We have adopted and implemented a standard transparency and accountability reporting process for all projects and developments. There is an active management with money raised to fund projects. Our organisation knows the importance of mandatory transparency therefore fostering the integrity, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability is a deal-breaker for us.
What are the key indicators through which you measure growth and what innovative things have you done for these women in the last couple of years?
We measure growth by the number of indigent widows we have been able to reach, the increase in donations and fulfilled pledges, outreach rate, social media metrics and how far we have been able to help and support grieving widows to heal and live well. So far, we are doing good and hope to do better each year by God’s grace. We have had five outreaches in the last three years and have reached out to over 500 widows. We see to it that at every event, we organise a motivational session where the widows share their experiences and relate with one another on effective coping and healing methods. We also empower them and give out food and medical supplies to aid them.
What are some of the challenges you face running J27?
Our major challenge is difficulty in getting enough and continuous funding to do our work. Getting donors is sometimes a hard task and sometimes dealing with some specific donors funding conditions. A lot of people have a false sense of what giving means. Most times people do not see the positive side of reaching out to those in need. For NGOs to thrive, we need a lot of thoughtful and positive people who deliberately want to make a positive impact in the lives of people around them. With the help of God we hope to get more funding from individuals (friends and family) and bodies who have passion for lending helping hands to indigent widows. We also look forward to getting grants from donor agencies.
What can you say is your best reward for walking this path?
I get my fulfillment from seeing the widows smile and pour out their minds freely. During our last event in December last year, a young widow walked up to me and said I gave her the best gift for the year by organising a programme, where she met with other widows. She used to think she was the only young widow and got depressed as a result of that but seeing other people in the same boat as hers gave her a big relief; she is now willing to fight for a better life for herself. This gave me so much joy seeing a young lady deciding to fight off depression at all cost. She sounds livelier each time I call her and this brings me so much joy.
What is your philosophy in life and what keeps you going?
My philosophy is simple: “Treat people the way you want to be treated and live life with no regrets!” Everything that happens to you is a lesson. What keeps me going is knowing that God is always there for me no matter what and seeing smiles on the faces of people around me. This gives me immense fulfillment.
What are your future plans?
We plan to have more outreaches, empowerment for skill acquisition, counseling and training for the widows. We also look forward to building facilities where widows can come speak to a network of psychologists and counselors, who can help them re-integrate and face life again.
In your opinion, what should the government do to improve the lives of widows?
There should be provision of state aids. A form of financial help and empowerment should be made available for widows. who are underprivileged. A lot of these widows were solely dependent on their spouses and have nothing to fall back on. Also, benefits meant for those who worked for the government before their death should be made easily accessible and available to their wives and children.
What would you like to say to any widow reading this right now?
Understand that no one can travel the road for you. We might not get to understand how you feel or what you feel, but know that God understands you and he is ever ready to listen to you. Make a conscious effort to live for today because you never know what tomorrow may bring.
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