‘My parents inspired me to start my foundation’
Erepade Isiayei is a Nigerian resident of Germany and a highly accomplished professional dedicated to positively impacting society. As the founder of the Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation, an esteemed non-governmental organisation (NGO), she has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to enhancing educational opportunities in Africa. With a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, Erepade has consistently embraced the role of a student. Currently, she holds the position of International Marketing Manager in a cutting-edge Hi-Tech company in Germany, where she leverages her expertise to contribute to the advancement of dental healthcare in Nigeria. Beyond her professional achievements, Erepade is an inspiring social change agent, driven by her deep-rooted passions for social entrepreneurship, refugee support and promoting girl child education. Her extensive volunteer experience spanning over seven years has seen her actively engaged in local and international NGOs, dedicating her efforts to community development projects to empower children, youth and women. Erepade Isiayei’s multifaceted background and unwavering dedication to philanthropy exemplify her as a transformative force, poised to shape a brighter future for individuals and communities alike. In this interview with ESTHER IJEWERE, she shares her inspiring story
Everything that I am doing now is a reflection of my upbringing. Being the child of two amazing teachers I had to learn from an early age to be a role model. Seeing my father’s generosity to the less privileged inspired me from an early age to become a giver and that validates the bible verse that says “Train up a child in the way it should go – and when it is old it will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). My upbringing in Nigeria, coupled with the loss of my parents and the responsibility of being part of a large family, has shaped me into a determined and adaptable individual. It has prepared me to face life’s challenges head-on and strive for success in my current pursuits.
The inspiration behind Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation
My inspiration to start the Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation can be traced back to the values instilled in me by my parents, particularly my father’s humanitarian work and dedication to education. Growing up in a household where humility and education were emphasised, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of education and the impact it had on individuals and communities. My father’s commitment to sponsoring scholarships out of his pocket and supporting his students in various ways left a lasting impression on me.
Secondly, due to the wide-spreading notion of “who school help?” in Nigeria and the negative effects it has been having on children and young people, I decided to come up with Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation to promote education and entrepreneurial projects and to encourage young people to realise that education is still the key to having a competitive advantage on the world stage. So, my motivation for starting the foundation stems more or less from a genuine desire to give back, inspired by my father’s humanitarianism and my own belief in being the change I want to see.
The journey so far
It hasn’t been easy for sure. I had to face issues with sponsorships, problems with project ideas and mobilisation, validating the authenticity of some beneficiaries, coping with personal family issues, and focusing on work and studies. Since starting the Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation, the journey has been both challenging and rewarding. Establishing and running an organisation dedicated to children’s education and empowerment comes with its own set of hurdles, but the impact it has made on the lives of children has been truly fulfilling.
Some challenges I’ve had were about supporting young girls who give up in the long run or drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy. I also faced situations where children I was sponsoring were picked up by relatives in the middle of the project. Some other challenges include securing consistent and sustainable funding, creating awareness and outreach, collaborating with other organisations, government agencies, and educational institutions, monitoring and evaluation, volunteering, etc.
How her work has inspired other women
Through my work at the Children Empowerment Foundation, I have had the privilege of inspiring and empowering other women around me in various ways. My projects have inspired other women to go to school and become independent and have also been a reason for a few of them to see the need to organise their projects to support the less privileged in their little ways. I have the case of a young woman, Toyin Bolarinwa, who amazed me with her food project in Delta State after I supported her some time ago.
Other projects and activities
I’m actively volunteering for old people and people with disabilities. I was able to complete my first book, which is in publication. Recently I had a project to support students suffering from dyscalculia because I am also a victim of it. The highlight of my projects is: God is using me as an instrument to support a young lady to get out of a legal procedure and I’m looking forward to seeing her back to university with my other beneficiaries who are more like children to me.
What she enjoys most about her job
As the founder of the Erepade International Children Empowerment Foundation, several aspects of my job bring me immense joy and fulfillment. Here are a few things I enjoy most – I enjoy seeing the results and the success stories of my beneficiaries. It makes me feel like a mother with so many amazing daughters. I’m excited that in 2023 I will have my first two graduates from Delta State University Abraka, and Ignatius Ajuru.
Impacting lives positively, empowering others, creating sustainable change
In summary, what I enjoy most about my job is the ability to make a meaningful impact on children’s lives, empower individuals and communities, create sustainable change, collaborate with a passionate team, experience personal growth and inspire others along the way. These aspects collectively make my job fulfilling and worthwhile.
Three women who inspire her and why
Michelle Obama, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nse Ikpe Etim. And I would like to add Cynthia Adaeze Chinule because she didn’t just inspire me as a woman but she was more like an angel sent from heaven to put me back on track. She was an orphan who lost her father quite early, got into university but had no money for tuition, got the MTN scholarship, graduated with a first class in Mathematics, went on to get a lot of prestigious fellowships worldwide, was featured on BBC, built a toilet for a secondary school in Rivers State, founder of Maths Afrique and is still doing so many amazing things. Cynthia has taught me there are no excuses for failure in life and academics.
Advice for parents who don’t have time for their children
If I could say one thing to parents who don’t have time for their children, it would be this: prioritise quality time and meaningful connections with your children, for it is an investment that will shape their lives and your relationship with them. Children thrive when they receive love, attention and guidance from their parents. While it’s understandable that life can be busy and demanding, it’s crucial to carve out dedicated time to be present and engaged with your children. Prioritising time for your children may require some adjustments in your routines, schedules or commitments. It’s a conscious choice to invest in the well-being and happiness of your children. The benefits of building a strong and loving relationship with your children will far outweigh any sacrifices or adjustments made along the way. So, make the most of the time you have with your children, treasure these precious moments and let them know they are a priority in your life.
How to support children living in abusive homes
Supporting children living in abusive homes is of utmost importance to ensure their safety and well-being. Some actions can be taken to help such as recognising the signs, creating a safe environment, reporting suspected abuse to relevant authorities, offering emotional support, seeking professional assistance, raising awareness about child abuse and so on. The safety and well-being of every child should always be the top priority.
Being a Woman of Rubies
I’m a woman who strives to empower and inspire others to become the best version of themselves. I would say I’m a good example of what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
To a young person who is on the verge of giving up, don’t give up. Even in the face of challenges, remember that you have the strength and resilience to overcome them. God has already bestowed on you solutions to every problem you are facing. Just look inside yourself and you will find the answers you seek.
Staying connected with beneficiaries despite living in different countries
It’s important to stay connected and communicate directly with my beneficiaries but it’s quite difficult. So, I try to adapt and be flexible in finding the most effective means of staying connected based on the available resources, technological capabilities and the specific needs of the beneficiaries. By maintaining open lines of communication, being responsive and showing a genuine interest in their progress, I have been able to foster a strong and enduring connection despite the physical distance.