Guess who got interviewed by Punch Newspapers? Yours Truly!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read the interview below or online via the link beneath the article.
Yewande Olofinro, 30, is the Chief Executive Officer of Green Pasture Kiddies. She spoke with Tope Omogbolagun on the challenges of running the charity organisation
Why did you go into a charity business?
I come from a family where sharing is a lifestyle. My family believes that nothing is too small or too big to share, so it wasn’t so difficult taking on charitable work as something I want to spend the rest of my life doing.
Also, I have a deep love for children. When I was a child, I got almost everything at my finger tips; so, it breaks my heart to see children in pains and those whose parents cannot afford to give them the basic necessities of life. I am also compelled by the need to do something positive to make impact in the lives of indigent people to give them hope and comfort for a better tomorrow. I sincerely believe in one step at a time; one person at time. We can all make the world a better place and trust me, it’s not about the big things we do, it’s about the small things that we do with consistency and a sincere heart of love and compassion.
Do you need so much money to set up the business?
Well, it’s not a business in the sense that we seek to make profit from it. It’s purely an altruistic undertaking but, I confess that it’s capital intensive. When you think of the amount of money we have to pay for medical bills, to buy food and groceries for people, pay school fees and clothes for some of these deprived children, it definitely doesn’t come cheap.
Is your charity business strictly for helping children?
Yes, it is. We reach out to children between the ages of 0-12 and our reason is very simple: You’ll realise that those who fall within this age range are largely dependent and vulnerable. They need a lot of care and concern and we cannot afford to allow them to become psychologically and physically damaged because of the situation in which they find themselves. So, before they become adults, we feel the need to ensure that they are prepared and empowered to face the challenges in that phase of their life.
How do you locate children who need help?
If you take a look at the poverty rate in Nigeria and narrow it down to Lagos specifically, which is our base for now, you really don’t need to look too far to locate people who are in need and whose lives you can touch. In my case, what I do is to open eyes, ears and hearts that are willing to make life better for the next person close by who is need. Over the years, my friends and I who are very passionate about this course take out time to visit slums, especially in Ilaje, Ijora (Otto), both in Lagos, to see how children are faring. By so doing, we identify the ones that need help. We also visit the children’s wards of some hospitals to carry out needs assessment and come up with ways to address the identified needs. Overall, our driving force is to reach out to as many children in need as possible. We reach out to children in slums, hospitals, public schools and orphanages as a way of keeping our focus majorly on education, health and welfare.
Since your firm is a charity organisation, how do you get funds to run the business?
I run the business with my personal savings, donations from friends, relatives and other kind-hearted people.
How do you convince people to provide funds to help the children under your care?
Of all enterprises in this part of the world, it is difficult to get support for charity businesses. Trying to get people to believe in you and what you do can be very daunting. And given the fact that we don’t have the kind of financial base required to effectively reach out to as many indigent people as possible, it hasn’t been easy. However, we have glowing testimonials, which are the evidence of the impact we’ve made since we started.
We ensure that our partners see what their money is being used for by encouraging them to physically participate in every project and this gives them a deep sense of ownership. I’ve come to realise that when people participate in projects like this, it makes them more engaging and willing to assist further. With that, we win them over. So, we have been able to win people by not just making them feel that it is only their money that we need, but also that their presence matters a lot.
What are the challenges you have faced since you started running Green Pasture Kiddies?
The challenges are enormous. I did mention earlier that getting individuals, corporate organisations and even the government to support what we do is extremely challenging.
Again, funding is very tasking. Getting people to part with their money is not something that is very easy; a lot of people will prefer to give verbal support but when it comes to sacrificing that money that you need in obtaining necessary items, it’s usually not easy. Nevertheless, I don’t begrudge anyone; people shy away from that. Another challenge is the fact that there are some fraudulent charity organisations that have betrayed the trust of people. For the fact that there is lack of integrity, transparency and accountability in the business of most of such organisations, it’s a bit hard to attract the kind of funds we’ll require from international donors. But, we’re trying to change that perception at the Green Pasture Kiddies. We’ve succeeded, to a large extent, in earning the trust of some close friends and kind-hearted individuals and we are positive that we’ll be able to give full life to our dreams.
Overcoming the challenges is a continuous exercise for us. As we touch lives and make impact in the different communities, schools, orphanages and hospitals that we support, we ensure that we share the success stories of the beneficiaries and it is in being consistent in our communication of such stories that we earn the trust. We’re also aware of the fact that there are some charitable organisations around that defraud people. This is one of the many challenges that we contend with because a lot of Nigerians are very reluctant when they’re called upon to make donations or participate in charitable acts. The fake ones have given us not too positive image and perception in the minds of stakeholders. However, we have been able to live above board. By God’s grace and, over time, I have been able to earn some people’s trust and confidence and a lot of them can vouch for me and they are encouraged to also get their families, friends and colleagues involved in our project. Over and above that, we run an open door policy as it relates to every aspect of our activities at the Green Pasture Kiddies.
What are the guiding principles to achieving success in a charity organisation?
As charity organisations differ, so are their principles for achieving success and their definition of success. For us, we measure success in terms of the lives we’ve been able to touch. I cherish helping children to move from nothing to something significant. And compassion is a fundamental principle for success in this job; without a compassionate heart, you cannot open your wallet to buy a plate of food for a hungry child. Beyond compassion, we have a deep sense of sacrifice and commitment to seeing lives transformed. And it is only when lives are transformed that we can beat our chest to say we are successful.
Will you advise young graduates in search of jobs to go into the business?
Well, I think young people should take time out to discover what their passion is. It makes the process easier, I believe that God has a purpose for creating us and if each of us will take the time to find out from Him why we’re created, we’ll all find fulfilment and joy in life. Instead of complaining about mass unemployment in the country, find out what you’re called to do and look for platforms to hone your skills and transform your talents into what you can deploy to serve other people. I believe every individual is called to a life of service in one area or the other. However, some of us have dreams and aspirations that can’t be achieved in a short time. And in that respect, I’ll suggest that we look for an internship or volunteer opportunity that would help to equip us for the future.
What advice do you have for people that want to go into your kind of charity?
Life is not a bed of roses; there are also thorns, bumps, lumps, and roadblocks along the way. Never give up on your dreams no matter the discouragement from people and the society. Motive is very important, so if you have a wrong motive, compromising won’t be difficult. And, you don’t need a lorry load of money to affect lives positively; your N500 may be what will save a dying child or a hungry family. There are a lot of patients in pediatrics wards who are held as ‘prisoners’ in the hospital because they owe as little as N10,000 medical bill. Ultimately, in all ways, acknowledge God and He’ll direct your path.