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Helping humanity keeps me moving – Dr Patricia Iwelunmor

Mrs. Iwelunmor...Morning Star is dealing with idleness

By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Dr.(Mrs.)Patricia Iwelunmor possesses a rare passion for helping indigent persons.  She retired voluntarily in 2008 from the teaching profession after 34  years of service.

She has since 1997, used her limited resources to cater for the needs of teenage girls and boys, indigent motorcyclists and widows in  Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos State and her hometown, Onitsha-Ugbo in Delta State where she donated computer sets to its public schools in 2007. All these she has been carrying out through her NGO, Morning Star Foundation.

Recently, no fewer than 60 men and women benefitted from a free skills acquisition exercise put together by Morning Star Foundation in Lagos. She spoke with Vista Woman on the foundation and her life.     Excerpts:

How it all started
Things were bad last year because I lost my husband. And before I lost him, I was seriously ill to the point that I was  flown abroad for treatment. By the special grace of God, I’ve gone over the whole agony, and I am asking God to sustain me so I will be able to continue that which I have started with him- Morning Star Foundation.

I actually started the NGO in 1997 by working with school children, teenagers in particular, enlightening them on the dangers of pre-marital sex. As a teacher, I was vexed by the fact that some of them had to drop out from school due to unwanted pregnancy.

That was actually why I started Morning Star Foundation. Hence, we were able to gather together many of such teenage girls, and then for the ones who were academically sound, we sent them back to school. Those who were not academically sound were given vocational skills education in fashion designing, catering, interior decoration, etc. I’m happy to say these ladies are doing fine today.  Even the ones who decided to further their education have graduated and are now professional women. Majority of them are also happily married.

Succour for okada riders
In 2000 when we were doing our HIV awareness programme, an okada rider who tested positive lamented how he had been sharing an okada with three other men; taking turns to go out to work. He said the limited hours he worked with the okada was not fetching him sufficient money. It was then Morning Star decided to intervene in the situation.

We  did that by giving out motorcyles to okada riders at Alakija, Agboju, 1st Gate and Satellite Town in Lagos, who didn’t have their own personal motorcycles. We gave about sixty motorcycles in all and this was preceded by serious scrutiny.

We also did a two-week  train-the-trainer programme on HIV/AIDS with market women at Agboju Market in Lagos.
We carried out lots of other programmes, and in 2007, my husband encouraged me to start up an annual Children’s Day (May 27) party.

This was upon the successful completion of my doctorate degree at UNILAG. We started it, and unfortunately for me, in that 2007, I fell down and broke my leg, and from then, became very sick.   When I saw that I was getting no better in Nigeria, my children invited me to the US where they all reside, for proper treatment. Hence, I left Nigeria in 2008 for treatment.

My husband came to join me over there to assist in taking care of me, but unfortunately, I lost him there in the US, without any  prior ailment, in 2009.

The Children’s Day party has been a success since the idea came up. We started with 1,000 children, but last year, we had about 2,000 children in attendance, and this year, we had almost 3,000. The aim of the party is to enable children from indigent homes have a feel of the celebration since their parents are usually unable to take them for outings on that special day which is supposed to be their day.

Dealing with the root of man’s problems
What Morning Star Foundation is trying to do now is to deal with the root of man’s overall problems-  idleness and lack of financial empowerment. This is evident in the fact that most victims of teenage pregnancy are ladies who believe they have to sell their bodies to get the things they need.

That is why Morning Star Foundation has decided to teach them how to fish instead of watch them rely on others(men in particular) for fishes. Recently, we organized a skills acquisition programme in which many people, including women and men, were able to learn vocational skills of their choice for free. We had vocations such as screen printing, computer training, bead making, tie & dye, hair dressing, make-up, fashion designing, etc.

If we are able to help them this way, and if they go on to develop themselves, they will not be hungry later in life. Therefore, the ladies won’t have to sell their bodies for money. Upon completion of the vocational training, we also support them with start-off grants.

Some might wonder why the deviation from our initial fight against teenage pregnancy, but the truth is that while we could tell them to stop selling their bodies  when they were still young, and then help them get back into school, but now that they are older, what they need is financial empowerment! With this financial empowerment, it is only one who is totally lazy that will still continue to mortgage her body for money.

If they concentrate on developing themselves after attending our vocational classes, they could even be able to sponsor themselves to school later in life when the skills would have started being of benefit to them.

During our last skills acquisition programme which held few months ago, we empowered 30 indigent widows and 30 boys and girls. We actually brought adire makers from Akerele in Lagos which is the centre for adire making, to teach them adire. We also brought fashion designers from Akerele too to teach them properly.

Same with professional caterers and screen printers to teach them also. Infact, we had professional teachers for all the sections.  With the way the economy is going now, no man is ready to carry a liability. That is why it is good to make sure both boys and girls are empowered economically so that they will be able to stand firm wherever they find themselves in future.

Educational support programme
At the 2010 Children’s Day party, we gave scholarships to indigent public school students around Festac. We have three public schools within Festac; Festac College, Festac Grammar School and Festac Girls School. So, in these three schools, we conducted tests and the best seven students were selected. Since they do not pay school fees, we provided them with all that the education committee requested for  their education and also some money. We promised to train them at any tertiary institution after their secondary school education.

My health not an hindrance
Even though I’ve not yet recuperated fully from my illness, I still have the courage to be up and doing and also to help the indigent make something of their lives. Infact, I think this is because I have never known how to be idle all my life. I came to Lagos in 1970 after getting married, and I started teaching in 1974 and have never rested from teaching since then.

It was  while having children that I did my Grade-2, NCE, first degree and learnt all the various vocations(catering, fashioning designing, etc.) I know how to do. I later went on to do my Masters and Doctorate. Sitting idle at home because of my health now would mean inviting the devil into my mind because I’ll start thinking about my late husband and a host of other things. Helping humanity keeps me moving, and that’s the truth.

When I fell down and consequently fell sick, nobody believed I’ll be able to walk without a walking stick like I was doing last year, but today, I walk without a walking stick!’

Dr.(Mrs.)Patricia Iwelunmor possesses a rare passion for helping indigent persons.  She retired voluntarily in 2008 from the teaching profession after 34  years of service.

She has since 1997, used her limited resources to cater for the needs of teenage girls and boys, indigent motorcyclists and widows in  Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos State and her hometown, Onitsha-Ugbo in Delta State where she donated computer sets to its public schools in 2007. All these she has been carrying out through her NGO, Morning Star Foundation.

Recently, no fewer than 60 men and women benefitted from a free skills acquisition exercise put together by Morning Star Foundation in Lagos. She spoke with Vista Woman on the foundation and her life.     Excerpts:

How it all started
Things were bad last year because I lost my husband. And before I lost him, I was seriously ill to the point that I was  flown abroad for treatment. By the special grace of God, I’ve gone over the whole agony, and I am asking God to sustain me so I will be able to continue that which I have started with him- Morning Star Foundation.

I actually started the NGO in 1997 by working with school children, teenagers in particular, enlightening them on the dangers of pre-marital sex. As a teacher, I was vexed by the fact that some of them had to drop out from school due to unwanted pregnancy.

That was actually why I started Morning Star Foundation. Hence, we were able to gather together many of such teenage girls, and then for the ones who were academically sound, we sent them back to school. Those who were not academically sound were given vocational skills education in fashion designing, catering, interior decoration, etc. I’m happy to say these ladies are doing fine today.

Even the ones who decided to further their education have graduated and are now professional women. Majority of them are also happily married.

Succour for okada riders
In 2000 when we were doing our HIV awareness programme, an okada rider who tested positive lamented how he had been sharing an okada with three other men; taking turns to go out to work. He said the limited hours he worked with the okada was not fetching him sufficient money.

It was then Morning Star decided to intervene in the situation. We  did that by giving out motorcyles to okada riders at Alakija, Agboju, 1st Gate and Satellite Town in Lagos, who didn’t have their own personal motorcycles. We gave about sixty motorcycles in all and this was preceded by serious scrutiny.

We also did a two-week  train-the-trainer programme on HIV/AIDS with market women at Agboju Market in Lagos.
We carried out lots of other programmes, and in 2007, my husband encouraged me to start up an annual Children’s Day (May 27) party.

This was upon the successful completion of my doctorate degree at UNILAG. We started it, and unfortunately for me, in that 2007, I fell down and broke my leg, and from then, became very sick.   When I saw that I was getting no better in Nigeria, my children invited me to the US where they all reside, for proper treatment. Hence, I left Nigeria in 2008 for treatment.

My husband came to join me over there to assist in taking care of me, but unfortunately, I lost him there in the US, without any  prior ailment, in 2009.

The Children’s Day party has been a success since the idea came up. We started with 1,000 children, but last year, we had about 2,000 children in attendance, and this year, we had almost 3,000. The aim of the party is to enable children from indigent homes have a feel of the celebration since their parents are usually unable to take them for outings on that special day which is supposed to be their day.

Dealing with the root of man’s problems
What Morning Star Foundation is trying to do now is to deal with the root of man’s overall problems-  idleness and lack of financial empowerment. This is evident in the fact that most victims of teenage pregnancy are ladies who believe they have to sell their bodies to get the things they need.

That is why Morning Star Foundation has decided to teach them how to fish instead of watch them rely on others(men in particular) for fishes. Recently, we organized a skills acquisition programme in which many people, including women and men, were able to learn vocational skills of their choice for free. We had vocations such as screen printing, computer training, bead making, tie & dye, hair dressing, make-up, fashion designing, etc. If we are able to help them this way, and if they go on to develop themselves, they will not be hungry later in life.

Therefore, the ladies won’t have to sell their bodies for money. Upon completion of the vocational training, we also support them with start-off grants. Some might wonder why the deviation from our initial fight against teenage pregnancy, but the truth is that while we could tell them to stop selling their bodies  when they were still young, and then help them get back into school, but now that they are older, what they need is financial empowerment!

With this financial empowerment, it is only one who is totally lazy that will still continue to mortgage her body for money. If they concentrate on developing themselves after attending our vocational classes, they could even be able to sponsor themselves to school later in life when the skills would have started being of benefit to them.

During our last skills acquisition programme which held few months ago, we empowered 30 indigent widows and 30 boys and girls. We actually brought adire makers from Akerele in Lagos which is the centre for adire making, to teach them adire. We also brought fashion designers from Akerele too to teach them properly. Same with professional caterers and screen printers to teach them also.

Infact, we had professional teachers for all the sections.  With the way the economy is going now, no man is ready to carry a liability. That is why it is good to make sure both boys and girls are empowered economically so that they will be able to stand firm wherever they find themselves in future.

Educational support programme
At the 2010 Children’s Day party, we gave scholarships to indigent public school students around Festac. We have three public schools within Festac; Festac College, Festac Grammar School and Festac Girls School. So, in these three schools, we conducted tests and the best seven students were selected.

Since they do not pay school fees, we provided them with all that the education committee requested for  their education and also some money. We promised to train them at any tertiary institution after their secondary school education.

My health not an hindrance
Even though I’ve not yet recuperated fully from my illness, I still have the courage to be up and doing and also to help the indigent make something of their lives. Infact, I think this is because I have never known how to be idle all my life. I came to Lagos in 1970 after getting married, and I started teaching in 1974 and have never rested from teaching since then.

It was  while having children that I did my Grade-2, NCE, first degree and learnt all the various vocations(catering, fashioning designing, etc.) I know how to do. I later went on to do my Masters and Doctorate. Sitting idle at home because of my health now would mean inviting the devil into my mind because I’ll start thinking about my late husband and a host of other things. Helping humanity keeps me moving, and that’s the truth.

When I fell down and consequently fell sick, nobody believed I’ll be able to walk without a walking stick like I was doing last year, but today, I walk without a walking stick!’


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.