*says she hawked, ate rice once a week, slept in one room with 14 others
By Olayinka Latona
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
In fulfilling the aforementioned proverb that the General Overseer of Grace-to-Grace International Church, United Kingdom, Pastor Atinuke Adesanya bares her mind on why she has a soft spot for the less privileged, her childhood experience, life’s challenges among others during the church’s annual Grace and Mercy Programme(GAMP) held recently in Ikorodu, Lagos . Excerpts:
WHY are you so passionate about Grace and Mercy Programme GAMP?
It is an empowerment programme that the church started eight years ago. We believe that one of the ways we can reach out to the less privileged among us is to make sure that we pick them from the grass root and impact their life positively through our empowerment programme.
What does helping the underprivileged mean to you?
The secret of happiness is in helping others and I am happy seeing people’s life transformed through our empowerment programme. Like today, we have 21 people graduating and I believe we are taking them from one level of life to another which is better from where they are coming from.
Those graduating today have been trained for two years on fashion designing; they are going with free sewing machine to start them up including some amount of money which they can use to purchase other things. It is solely sponsored by Grace To Grace members in United Kingdom. They know the passion that I have and they are also interested in the passion and they respond anytime I call on them.
Is there any life experience that propels you in doing this?
I will say yes because I am from a very humble background and I know what it is for someone to struggle in life. I am what I am today through the help of God, hence I know that I have the mandate to impact life positively, bring smiles to the face of the less privileged by training them in one vocation or the other. There are some people who had similar experiences and they did not have anybody to help them in life. Coming from that kind of background, I felt strongly that I should be able to give back to the society.
What do you stand to gain in doing this?
I do not need to gain anything. But just seeing that lives are changing, is enough for me.
What was your childhood experience like?
I am the second child in the family of six. We had other members of the extended family living with us in a one- room apartment in Fadeyi, Lagos. I remember we used to be 14 in the same room. At night we all have to sleep in opposite direction so that the available space can be enough for all of us. We always prayed that our visitors will go on time because they were occupying our small spaces.
We ate rice once a week and if we missed that very Sunday, it would be the next one. There is a friend of my daddy who always visited when we were about to eat our rice and we knew that our portion would be given to him. My sister and I would burst into songs, praying that the man would not come and if he came, we would stay by the door step and start singing. But he would not mind us and my mother would ask us to eat Eba.
How did you wade through your humble background?
We have a praying mother; she tried all she could do to ensure that all her children were brought up in the Lord’s way. When we were growing up, my mother used to sell moin-moin, later she went into clothing materials. I and my siblings hawked with her because we had to carry it on our heads and move round with her. But she always encouraged us, saying that it was not the end of our lives that she foresaw that we would go far in life. My mother also instilled moral values in us and never spared the rod when we got it wrong.
What advice do you have for the graduands?
They should not relent in acquiring more knowledge. They should take the training they have received here to a higher level because the sky is their starting point.
And religious organisations
They should reach out to the less privileged in their various communities, even if they are not their members. We started the empowerment programme not as a church. But the church angle started a few years ago.
Bread winners at home
It is not about the church but the community because we know that if we impact our community positively; bringing them to Christ will be easy including propagation of the gospel.
What’s your take on moral decadence in the society?
It is obvious that most parents do not spend much time with their children any longer, especially the mothers. When we were growing up, our mothers were there for us. They spent quality time with their children.
In this 21st century, mothers are also bread winners at home and they are working and struggling to earn a living for the family. They go out very early, come back late and would be so exhausted to check on the children’s welfare. Most fathers are also lacking in discharging their responsibilities. They leave everything in the hands of the mothers.
What advice do you have for mothers then?
I will urge all mothers to mother their children and not be murderers. When I talk about not murdering your children, it is for you to be there for your them, be their best friend, talk to them and spend quality time with them because if we fail to establish cordial relationship with our children, then we become murderers.
You do not need all the money before you can train your children but if you are there for them, they will be able to discuss with you. Share their thoughts to know what they are going through and proffering the right solution for them.
And the youths
Our youths should listen to their parents and know that there is nothing new under the earth. Whatever they are going through now, their parents would have had similar experience if not same experience or something terrible.