• May 20, 2024

Why we are embarking on health intervention outreach for 500 indigent widows- Olufunso Owasanoye,ED,HDI foundation

 Why we are embarking on health intervention outreach for 500 indigent widows- Olufunso Owasanoye,ED,HDI foundation

…we’ve taken many from the streets to school.

Mrs Olufunso Owasanoye, Executive Director, HDI foundation, tells Tosin Adesile and Faith Ojo about 26 year journey of Human Development Initiatives and other sundry issues in Nigeria. (Excerpt)

Sparklight: As a not for profit organization based in Lagos with several impact across Nigeria, would you say your work including governance, accountability and a host of others have yielded commensurably in the past?

HDI: I’ll say yes! For me, let me start from Lagos, then, other states like Kwara, Kano, Enugu and Abuja where we carried education projects on good governance, transparency and accountability, that are running even till today. We engaged volunteered community members as education monitors to monitor the utilization of Ubec funds on school projects and they give us positive feedback not only on the integrity and accountability of the project also ensuring it meets up with the approved standards, but also on the positive impact and benefits of children learning in a conducive environment. in Lagos where we monitored utilization of funds supported by MacArthur Foundation concerning schools rehabilitation and supply of furniture, and construction of new schools it came to an end in March.  Then asides from that, we have also impacted more directly in the area of educating our children, teen and youths. As I speak, we have 91 students that we give education scholarships including those with disabilities in different universities all over the countries, and we have 432 students  from nursery to secondary that are also on our education scholarships. The students we give scholarships are orphans, widows children and student living with disability Lagos state pays for their WAEC and we pay for NECO and also JAMB. And then, we pay their tuition until they complete their education we don’t only pay for their tuition as we also have counseling sessions for them, we mentor them and give them the platform where they can share their experiences or any challenges that might have, as a matter of fact, we had one of the sessions a couple of weeks ago with all our university students. And the same goes for widows; we’ve empowered widows all over the years for them to be self-reliant financially, we also help take care of their health too. HDI has many publications that has become a good resource for many NGO’s

Sparklight: With this election and the project you’ve worked on to reduce corruption, it is Obvious that corruption and malpractice played out during the elections. What do you think is the way forward?

HDI: The family is the smallest unit in the society, most people come out from a family before moving into the society in general, so if we have good family structure that instil good values into people, they would be better citizens, and I’m sure we would have less of these corruption and malpractice, that being said, I think for after the election, there should be some policy guideline in place that is going to guide everybody and also these policies needs to work, not just policies that will be there on paper, but policies that will be implemented to the core with sanctions for the perpetrators, so that when people see perpetrators being punished, they will think twice before commiting the same crime. I think at least it will curb this corruption to a certain extent because its a cankerworm  that has eaten deep in our nation.

Sparklight: Recently, we have had cases on mental health issues, tell us your experience working with adults specifically on mental health issues.

HDI:Many people see people mental health issues as those that are, or are supposed to be  in a psychatric hospital, but that’s not the case. Of course there are different categories, and different approaches to treatment depending on the nature and severity of the mental issue, but generally, once you are in a situation that you can’t cope with life and it’s affecting your emotions, it’s affecting  your well being, you cannot be as productive as you are supposed to be, then you have to watch it rightly, your mental health is affected. It can happen to anyone, at times, even for me to sleep in the night because of different cases i addressed during the day would be difficult, I will start thinking, cases like incest, like how can a father be sleeping with his  daughter? So, it is advised that you too need  self therapy if you are in any kind of prolonged stressful situation for you to be able  to be effective in what you are doing, I also recommend this for caregivers, all those that are working with them should know that mental health is key and which has to be adequately taken care of for you to be productive. Any child hood trauma not addressed or healed will lead to a very bad mental health as an adult.

Sparklight: Still on the mental health issues, we’ve had cases of people who are overwhelmed and then the next thing we hear is they go to the third mainland bridge, and jump inside the river, or commit suicide through other means. what do you think can be done to ensure that  people can have a rethink,or speak out?

HDI: First, we have a culture of silence, and until we eradicate that, we might not be able to solve the problem. Then again, I am going back to the family, once you have a parent or guardian that doesn’t have your time as a child, adolescent or young adult, then you keep on sulking in everything.
Most people are from a dysfunctional family or in a toxic relationship, they don’t trust anyone, they have being denied love and acceptance and their self esteem eroded. This can lead to suicide
In  HDI, there is a program we call Speak Out. We go to schools on assemblies and we encourage children to call a toll free line and speak out on any issues bothering them,. Look at the economic situation of the country, most parents are hardly at home, they tell the children ‘we are out to work for you,’ or even their partners that ‘I am out there to work for you’. We don’t have that physical time for ourselves again, we spend more time on our phones, most times, we hug our phones, we cuddle our phones, pay more attention to our laptops than we do for our children or our partner, or for the next person that needs help. So someone going through a tough situation will feel like people are not sensitive to what he or she is going through, he or she might feel alone and believe suicide is the next step. The way forward is more sensitization, education, acceptance of people as they are, parents to spend more time with their children and enlightenment to inform people where they can get help without being criticized or judged. There should be phone lines for therapy and Counseling. Imagine someone that was raped going to a police station to report I was just raped’, they start laughing and say, ‘why did you go there, why? why? Why?’ They start judging and so that’s what prevents other victims from reporting or opening up to others, the fear of being judged, blamed or criticized. Even sometimes, churches, faith based organizations, mosques that are supposed to be safe spaces for people to open up and heal, many of them will also blame and criticize. They should also take it on more by including words of encouragement and support in their sermons so that their members can find succour in their preaching, in order to ease people’s burdens.

We also need a conducive environment where people express themselves fully, people should be able to enter a counselor office, pastor or Imam’s office, or even a teachers office and the environment is conducive to speak without judging you. They won’t  start abusing you or criticizing you unnecessarily. The first rule is, Don’t blame the victim. If we adhere to this rule, then you will see people speaking up, as long as there is an enabling environment, so we need to encourage the society. Jingles are out there on from HDI, and we also have ads in papers, we tell our young ones in schools, with posters also all over the place saying don’t die in silence. If your family is not listening to you, we at HDI are here to  listen to you, all our numbers are out there and on the website. Look at this  boy, was it not last year on social media,he didn’t pass his JAMB four times and last year, he passed it with nobody to fund him and he committed suicide. In fact, I was so emotional when I read it,  had it been this guy  knew HDI, we’d have sponsored him and he killed himself because of that. So all these issues I think it’s time  we start pushing them out there, you know even as individuals if you cannot help, you can make referrals  to where these people can get help.

Sparklight: Can you tell us your organization’s achievements in the past year?

HDI: When you say success, it is not by one’s power or making, I want to give glory to God for that,May this year, we will be 26 years by the grace of God, so I want to say we’ve impacted so many vulnerable people in areas of education, widows empowerment, free legal services for widows in helping them to obtain letter of Administration for them to claim their late husband estate,  we have taken several students from the streets and  put them in school, also the children with disability we advocated for rams in school for them to have access we also donated wheel chairs most  of them. We also supported government in areas of transparency, accountability and good governance, to strengthen the  existing structures that was in place and I would say we have done this not only in Lagos and also some other states, we’ve had a lot of impact, in the area of  general counselling, giving voice to the voiceless, health, annually, we have health intervention for widows, next one is coming up this year for 500 indigent widows in this April and also people living with disabilities, they were not left out, last year, we added to our scheme twenty five students with disabilities  to be on our scholarship scheme for free tuition in universities. Then, there are other ones that give birth to the others

Sparklight: In the past few years ,we have had so many organizations coming up, not for profits, meaning that there are some forms of competitions in the workspace from other organizations. Has there been any time there has been a kind of stiff competition between HDI and other organizations?

HDI: For me, I don’t believe in comparisons,  I believe in doing what you know how to do to your full capacity, you need to evaluate at every point in time to see where there are gaps that you need to address, but it has never cross my mind to think that oh, let’s see, who is our competitor? In every space,  you have competitors but when you focus on your competitors, you lose your own focus, so it’s better you focus on your vision and mission and make sure you do everything possible to achieve that vision.

Sparklight:  HDI is based in Lagos, should we expect more branches and more projects in neighbouring  states?

HDI: By God’s grace, pray for us. Recently, we went to a community in Osun state called Ara where we were able to give 100 of their students Back To School kits which consists of school  bags, sandals, books and all that. It was to commemorate the coronation of the third year of the Oba there, other Obas that came for that ceremony were impressed, in fact one of them have reached out and said “HDI, I like what you did for  that community, later in the year can you also come to our own community too?” So by God’s grace we will go to that community and others as well to repeat the gesture. We have that intention, we pray God send funds for us to be able to do it.

Sparklight: It is quite evident that a lot of advocacy is needed at this time in Nigeria when people have said a whole lot of things both on social media and offline concerning the country, are there upcoming programs from your organization on image lifting?

HDI: Like I said earlier on, we continue to do what we were doing before and also to improve in areas we have in our guard. You  see, all these things start with leadership and those that want to fund you, they too will do their due diligence, they will do their checks before they say they will fund you, so I think for us, we have to  keep up with that  integrity, the transparency and accountability so that when they come for their assessment and checks, they will see us as we portrayed ourselves. Also, in terms of advocacy, well, that’s ongoing at least in terms of change of attitude, change of behaviour which our slogans is Catch them young.

Sparklight : A Word of Advice to people reading? 

HDI: Okay, I just want to tell everyone that we have to guide our mind, everything comes from your mind, you know you  have to filter out negative thoughts for the thoughts not to control you. We are in a season where there are lots of fear out there, lots of trauma, lot of anxiety, like my bible says, you have to guard your heart diligently because some news if you listen to it, and it controls you,it can just break  and damage you, guard your heart, be open, be positive, speak positive talk, be self positive to your own self, and even to the country and God will help us. I also want to use this medium to say a big thank you to MacArthur foundation for the exposure and opportunity they’ve given the organization to engage in Education space, to be able to work  with the government and also to solicit for their continued cooperation, we will have a long and beneficial partnership moving forward. Thank you very much.

Sparklight: Do we have lines where people can contact you for counselling and reach out programs

HDI: Yes! You  can call our hotline  or visit our website –
http://hdinigeria.org; http://hdietf.org to report cases like  pre-marital,  marital, office, organization counseling, students, and all forms of counseling, you can reach out by God’s grace

Sparklight: Alright ma, last but not the least, HDI will clock 26 by May, is there any project coming up to celebrate?

HDI: We call it the Impact 2023 project, and it is a health intervention outreach for 500 indigent widows where we are going to use volunteer doctors, volunteer doctors, nurses, and those in the medical lab to do basic vitals, we are going to give them food palliative – rice, beans, oil, noodles, and so on. Each person will also go with three yards of Ankara fabric and they will be given the OTC medications, over the counter medications like Panadol, Vitamin-C, and for those that are hypertensive, they will get basic hypertension drugs.  So we are calling on pharmacies that can support in this area to donate those medications for the widows and also fabrics and palliative. This is HDI Foundation impact in 2023.

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