‘I am constantly creating opportunity for women to live their dreams’
Abimbola Ajala is a social Entrepreneur and media personality with over five years experience working in the education and social sector. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, Osun State and a certification in view from Lagos business school. Abimbola launched her NGO, an organisation known as Lend a hand for the development of Africa in 2016. The NGO reaches children in poor families in local communities as they provide basic education and health supplies to children in a bid to reduce illiteracy and poverty. Since then, the organisation has reached over 5000 children in schools directly and indirectly across Nigeria, with her various projects and scholarships. It has also been recognised as one of the emerging NGOs in the country. Abimbola was nominated for the SMEunder25 awards under the social Entrepreneurship category. She is also the recipient of the Exhale woman International award, in 2018 got awarded as one of the Talent of the Future and Lagos state award for humanitarian service also in 2018. In this interview, Bimbo, who believes strongly that love helps to reach out to the world faster, shares her inspiring story.
Growing up was great, large family- both nuclear and extended family- in a building. However, I won’t deny the many challenges associated with that time of my life; having a silver spoon and literally the spoon taken from you can make life unbearable. I believe somehow, through my life path, I learnt to pay it forward, which informs what I do now. Reaching out to children in slums and giving them an opportunity to live their dreams through education.
My parents, through the struggles, felt it was important for them to get us educated even if it meant selling some properties. I can’t deny how grateful I am that they took bold steps in that regard.
Inspiration behind Lend a Hand For The Development of Africa
Lend a hand for the development of Africa started from a burning desire to see that narratives change. We can’t deny the work that needs to be done in a lot of our public secondary schools and generally at the grassroots; the mindset renewal of the students, infrastructure upgrade and a whole lot.
Though an undergraduate at the time, I knew I could lend my voice for change; I could help renovate a library, I could get my friends to speak to students on making great career choices, I could get sanitary pads across to young girls in schools, as we speak on period poverty and most importantly, just like my parents did for me, I could beat the odds to make a difference in the life of a child. I decided I wasn’t going to waste any time and I got my friends back then in Obafemi Awolowo University to join me in visiting schools and communities to do some of these things.
The Journey So Far
The journey has been very interesting with different tales. Five years and counting, I feel like we just started as there is so much to do. The transition from university to the real world shook me, but I am glad I kept at it. I have had moments I doubted myself and what we do at Lend a hand for Africa; I have had lonely paths, but the testimonies from our beneficiaries and God’s infinite grace has kept me going.
Supporting 5000 Children
Directly and indirectly, we have through our project supported over 5000 children with our various projects. The Padforagirl drive hopes to get girls in schools and communities access to sanitary pads and also good hygiene information. This platform gives girls an opportunity to interact with doctors and counselors and share their burdens or challenges with them. Thousands of girls have benefited from this across various communities.
The Padforagirl drive is also a platform to advocate for better policies as regards avoiding the stigmatisation that comes with menstruation. We noticed that girls who joined our Padforagirl drive in schools didn’t have to skip school during that time of the month; they had sanitary materials and adequate information.
The scholarship scheme has helped get dropout kids and kids from poor homes into school across various levels (primary, secondary and university). Recently, one of our girls completed her National Diploma (ND) programme at the Polytechnic Ibadan and is moving to another phase of her academic pursuit. We also have a young boy we enrolled in a football academy in Lagos; we saw his interest and we decided to give him a platform to shine.
Also, the food drive has been a huge part of our work. We noticed children were skipping classes and school out of hunger and we introduced a feeding plan. However, last year, we had to increase our capacity here by getting families food during the very crucial lockdown. The number of malnourished kids is on the rise and poverty is a huge reason for this. The food drive helps families thrive monthly and helps children stay nourished.
My Recognition Awards And Its Impact
All the awards I find important, as it’s a reason to do more and also show I am being recognised; I do not take that lightly.
However, the Lagos state award from the Ministry or Youth came as a huge surprise as I didn’t think we were noticed, but kept doing our bit; that triggered something in me.
Representing Nigeria As A Youth Leader
My role as a Youth Lead Ambassador in 2020 gives me an avenue to share authentic Nigeria stories with the world through what I do. I had to also organise with other ambassadors to amplify the work we do as social entrepreneurs and work on solutions that would enable us see sustainable changes in certain areas. Policy implementation was drawn to help youth engage better in communities.
This year, I became peer advisor for USAID and Youth lead also and I realised how a lot of people opened the doors for me at various points in my life. As a peer advisor, I am opening the doors for other ambassadors this year to use their voice on a global stage. Not get caught up in “we are young syndrome”, but give their work their utmost best. I will be mentoring changemakers from different part of the world and I feel very blessed to do that.
Challenges Of My Work
The challenges of the work I do vary from time to time, but I am learning to work through those challenges. Sometimes, it’s handling new government policies, other times, it’s funding. Sometimes, it’s inadequate skilled volunteers to work on a project. The key for me is to learn how to make things work through the seemingly different season and that has made me somewhat very innovative.
Women Who Inspire Me And Why
I have been inspired by various women and this question seems slightly difficult, but for the sake of the question asked, I’d say: My mum, Mrs. Atinuke Akinsanya who showed me through her lifestyle what it means to truly be passionate about helping someone who might not be able to repay you and truly caring for others. Michelle Obama; I remember writing about her in business school, so much to say, but I will leave it this way. She showed that an exalted position could be used to truly impact lives. Mrs. Ibukun Awosika is phenomenal woman; I love listening to her talk about various aspects of life and how she creates a balance through life issues; her career path energies me to be more and do more.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
What makes me a woman of rubies? The fact that I am constantly becoming, and creating opportunities for families at various points in my life, to move out of intergenerational poverty and illiteracy. The fact that I am constantly opening doors for women to live their dreams makes me a woman of rubies.