“In life, I have learnt never to take anything or any situation for granted”
Adebola Salako is a Biochemistry graduate from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Founder and Programme Coordinator of Mantle Of Mordecai foundation (MOM), a philanthropist, and a Business Assurance Manager. She was one of the recipients of this year’s edition of Wise Women Award
I was diagnosed of chronic asthma before I turned five; hence I had a relatively tough childhood. I practically lived most of my life being admitted in hospitals. Sometimes, I did my exams in the confines of my hospital bed. I was a very frail child and all I found comfort in was my books, so I guess that made me appreciate the importance of education.
However, I know that the seed of what I do now was sown at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp of Yobe State in Fika town in April 2009. While in the camp, I had two adopted sons— Musa and Mohammed, whom I connected to immediately I met them. They were part of the Almajiri children that came to the camp for menial jobs. Once they got to the camp, they usually headed straight to my hostel. My roommates knew them, so they would call out to me that my kids were outside. And off we would go to the canteen together, if it was time for any meal.
During our last week in camp, I rallied a couple of friends and we bought basic necessities, such as slippers (they were always bare footed) and clothes. Seeing how their faces lit up, because of this seemingly insignificant gesture, made me realise there was so much more that could be done. And though I didn’t know how to go about it then, but the zeal to help kids was developed.
More about yourself
My name is Adebola Salako. I am a lover of children and humbly, the Programme Coordinator of Mantle of Mordecai foundation. I was born as the third child into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Salako, both indigenes of Kwara State on May 13 in the mid-80s. I started my childhood in Lagos State, passing through Mary Magdalene Nursery and Primary School in Gbagada and University of Lagos Staff School in Akoka. Subsequently, I attended Lagos State Civil Service Model College, Igogbo, Ikorodu for my secondary education, where I was made the female Senior Prefect, due to my tenacity and discipline, despite my health challenge.
I proceeded to the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye (formerly known as Ogun State University) to study Biochemistry, although my parents’ initial plan was for me to study medicine. By God’s grace, I was able to convince them that I did not see myself as a Medical Doctor in the nearest future, because of my phobia for blood and my disinterest in anything that was biology related then. Finding favour in God’s sight, I graduated with a First Class, making me the first female student to achieve this feat in the department’s history.
Armed with a Biochemistry certificate and completely oblivious of what my next step in life should be, I joined the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Foundation, which is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of UBA, as Special Projects Officer/Personal Assistant to the MD/CEO. I started and finished my Youth Service at UBA and later joined KPMG Professional Services and that was where I finally found a career path. For over four years, I worked as an Internal Auditor/Risk Management consultant. I am now a certified Internal Auditor of the Internal Institute of Internal Auditors, America.
Inspiration behind Mantle Mordecai Foundation
Mantle of Mordecai Foundation, popularly known as MOM foundation, is an inspiration from God. On August 9, 2012, I wrote an exam and failed, despite my preparation. I returned to God in tears, asking why and the Holy Spirit told me that there was more to my life than work. The next day, while listening to the news, I learned of Dustbin Estate in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, Ajegunle, Lagos. I visited the place that same week and the sight that confronted me was appalling. Families were residing on refuse dump with kids, who, unfortunately, have been brought up in this condition and have little or no hope of a better tomorrow. I knew immediately that I had to lend my voice in every possible way.
I contacted Lots Charity Foundation, a resident NGO at Dustbin Estate and doing a great work at helping the families get a better life in that community. I started soliciting for sponsors to finance the kids’ education.
I personally started sponsoring our first beneficiary at MOM, so it was easier to encourage sponsors to come on board, since I had started it myself. Since then, I have not and will not look back, until I do everything humanly possible to get as many kids as possible into school. Every time I see a kid that should be in school hawking during school hours, my heart breaks, knowing the kind of potential that is being wasted.
MOM (www.mantleofmordecai.org) is a registered non-profit organisation in Nigeria, and our primary aim is to seek funds to enable out-of-school children have access to quality education. MOM has children from different parts of Nigeria, but currently focuses on the children in Dustbin Estate, a slum in Lagos State Nigeria, where families literally live on refuse dump. There are currently about 30 children benefiting from MOM. Also, 12 beneficiaries are enjoying full scholarship, while others have periodic access to funds.
Being a recipient of Wise Women Awards
In life, I have learnt never to take anything or any situation for granted. When I started MOM, I did not even know it would become a household name or something “award worthy,” because it is definitely not showbiz. So, when the awards and appointments started coming, it became clearer that MOM is bigger than any man. The Wise Women Award for contributing to the community is one of such awards that humbles, inspires and most importantly, encourages one to do more. I would like to use this medium to thank Pastor Marjorie Onengiye Esomowei, the Convener of the Wise Women Awards, for the opportunity to celebrate inspirational women and bring them to the limelight.
Other projects and activities
I have a burgeoning career at Internal Audit and Risk Management and I am currently a Business Assurance Manager in an organisation in Lagos here. My work focuses on internal control, internal audit and risk management. I am currently a mentor at the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). I am coaching two bright women in their chosen fields of entrepreneurship. I am also a mentor-in-waiting for the Cherie Blair Foundation in UK, which focuses on empowering women. I am currently waiting to be connected to my Mentee. I am a New Leader for tomorrow at the Crans Montana forum, Monaco.
On giving up
I remember a while back in years 2014 and 2015, some of our sponsors were having major financial challenges, hence they could not meet up with their obligations, as at when due. It was such a tough time, because you cannot afford not to pay school fees and let the kids sit at home, while their peers are in school. Also, every time we apply for a sponsorship and get turned down, I get discouraged, because I strongly believe this is a cause you do not even need cajoling people to support. If we do not get our kids into school, who would steer the ship of our beloved country, when we go?
My greatest reward is the outstanding result some of our beneficiaries get in school. Coincidentally, Solomon Aare, our beneficiary in Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, just finished his Ordinary National Diploma this month and he graduated with a distinction in Compute Engineering. This is a boy that started his life at the Dustbin Estate, but the opportunity given to him made him rise above his background. Beyond school, he has also started basic website design for people, as a source of income. I must say this is amazing! And we are not stopping there; the plan is for him to even progress further in his tertiary education.
Our major challenge is lack of strategic partnerships, because with that comes most of the resources we need to achieve MOM’s vision. Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world (10.5 million, as at 2014, according to UNICEF). This is a major crisis, but sadly, our government does not see it as such or they are too busy focusing on other seemingly important things.
I am a Woman of Rubies
For me, being a woman of rubies is simply the ability to positively touch every life you meet. Beyond MOM, an objective I have in life is to leave a lasting positive impression on the mind of whomever I meet in any sphere of life. My heart desire is not to drop any ball like my mentor; Mrs. Blessing Awosika always says that you cannot afford to drop any of your life balls. I want to live to the fullest, reach the pinnacle of my career, and impact millions of lives.
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