Engineer Favour Chika Okafor is the Group Executive Director, CHIKASON GROUP and Executive Coordinator, Rock Foundation for widows, orphans and less privileged (ROFWOL), a foundation she started 12 years ago to help the underprivileged within the country and across the globe.
With over seven years experience in business development, management and control, Engineer Favour has received several recognitions in her service to humanity from Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, as well as American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Aside the corporate world, Favour is an inspirational guest speaker; a prolific writer with nine books to her credit; an ardent Christian and a philanthropist. She prefers to be identified with the poor and down trodden. She is a happy mother of six and is married to Dr. Alexander C. Okafor. In this interview with Esther Onyegbula she talks about her Foundation and other sundry issues.
What inspired you to start this Foundation?
I am inspired by the fact that I am a human being with a human heart; I don’t like seeing people suffer because of poverty, penury and lack. A lot of people are unable to make leeways because of financial inability to do what they need to do. Therefore, I decided to seek ways to help alleviate the plight of the less privilege in the society. When I started, I realized that it is so massive. I started with a group thirteen years ago.
What has been the impact?
For ten years, I did the charity works privately, ensuring that I visited the orphanage home every three months. When I go there, I stay with them, I carry the children, play and cuddle them because they need to be loved and cared for. And then I present to them whatever I have for them. That was how I started. Later, the widows became another segment that I decided to reach out to. And then, the less privilege who can’t afford to go to school due to lack of finance. This makes their future bleak.
Presently ,there are so many Foundations for orphanages, widows and less privilege. What makes yours different from others?
This has been the reason I refused to formalize this Foundation for the past decade. For ten years, I ran it strictly on personal funds. Even after registering it, I ran it for two years still with personal funds, because of the erroneous notion that people running Foundations or NGOs are in charity to make profit.
However, God is faithful. All the NGOs or Foundations are not the same and it is not fair to view them from the perspective of the few ones who are out there to make money. This foundation is a non- profit making organisation.
I set aside my finance, opened a different account for this project and every month, I made sure that a certain amount is put in that account for charity works. Having done this for 12 years from personal funds, I am not in this for the gains or what I stand to benefit, because God has already blessed me.
I will try my best to be one of those Foundations that when it comes to trust, accountability, dependability, honesty, you can really rely on us day or night. We have put things on ground to help me accomplish what I have proposed. I have two staff on ground to help with the accounting functions.
If people are throwing up NGOs and using the money for something else, they are accountable to God. We should not because of the activities of a few despicable NGOs shy away from engaging in charities.
Is there any childhood experience that influenced you into establishing this organisation?
Really, I don’t have a personal experience but there are other circumstances and experiences that pushed me into this. Although my father, wasn’t that rich, life wasn’t that cozy but he practically brought my siblings and I up the best way he could. No doubt, I knew little difficulty.
My father missed the opportunity of going to Denis Memorial Grammar School at Onitsha for the sake of four kobo. My husband was another person who felt the cold hands of poverty when his father died when he was about 12 and in those days, widows can’t come out for about six months or more.
So, at that age, he began to fend for himself, his siblings and his mother. He had to sacrifice his education and this affected his career.
But today, I am grateful he did not allow his circumstance then to define his life as he has practically employed a lot of his peers presently.
Why focus on orphans and widows?
My journey into charity, started when I almost lost a child of mine and when the child finally got well, I decided to thank God for preserving the life of my child, by visiting the motherless babies home.
Each time we went there, we gave them what we had and my child would play with the kids at the orphanage home for hours and then we take our leave. And when my child began school, we started going there every three months.
At a point, I decided to reach out to the widows, realizing that if not for God, those of us who are married know that there are situations that would have taken the lives of our husbands but God didn’t allow it. Also, I had an intriguing experience two years into my marriage. For that reason, I am careful, because if not for the grace God, I might have been a widow.
Do you think that most people use the under privilege as an excuse to make money?
Many people, not all of them. Although most people who fall under the less privilege strata suffer from laziness and poverty of the mind. Take the case of my husband, he had every reason to remain poor by all standard in his environment but he preferred to work.
How have you been able to balance work and family life without sacrificing the other?
There is a book I am writing presently titled Today’s Woman. In that book, I am looking at the women who have made it. Many of them are wives, mothers and career women, three things in one.
I know how to strike the balance between being a career woman, a wife and a mother. At the office, my husband is my boss but at home, he is my husband and the father of my children. At times, he carries office into the house and I remind him gently that this is not the office, this is the house.
I thank God that the business I met him with, has grown immeasurably as we have built together and my dream for the company has become a reality. And now, I am running this foundation with my friends, the poor.
How would you describe yourself?
I can be described from two perspectives. From afar, most people would say that Favour is a proud girl, nasty, full of herself, thinks she knows it all, and never cares about anyone. From another perspective, I will say I am nice, an extrovert.
Simply put, I am like a coconut. If you can have patient to get inside, you will find out that it has the shell, the nut and the water. Those in a hurry don’t know what to do with me, and those that are patient are able to enjoy my person.