Though a top level banker, Mrs. Chinwe Bode-Akinwande, has regularly taken out time to devote herself to catering for needy widows. She has used the platform of the Chinwe Bode-Akinwande Foundation where she serves as president/founder.
Ahead of the January 1, 2020 outreach to widows in Anambra State, she opened up in an interview on her motivation for looking after widows.Excerpts:
Why did you start your Foundation for widows?
The basis for starting the foundation was driven from the need to impact the lives of women who ordinarily might have lost hope. We give hope to the hopeless. We are driven to support underprivileged widows in having a positive outlook on life, despite the problems they experience by losing their loved one, mostly the breadwinner of the family.
What informed your foundation’s name?
I am deliberate and intentional. I needed to leave a legacy. I want to give back and be remembered for something. A name that would easily be associated with me. By me, I mean my passion and desire to put a smile on the faces of the underprivileged widows and their children. So CBA stands for Chinwe Bode-Akinwande and largely associates with the Grace upon me to impact women.
What have been some of the success stories?
The successes have been enormous, many women are now business owners and are able to not just fend for their families, but employers of labour. Over 40 children who had lost hope in education are back to school, through the payment of school fees as well as stationeries.
26 underprivileged widows through our medical intervention recovered from stroke. One of the widows during our medical outreach this year at Okun-Ilado, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos weighed 36kg as a result of malnutrition. Today she is well and sound. About four underprivileged widows attempted suicide but after our counselling sessions are doing well now and running their businesses.
We have reached out to over 3,000 underprivileged widows and over 800 children during our International Widow’s Day outreaches since we started with food items, clothing, skill acquisition training, financial empowerment to some selected and medical outreaches. We can go on and on but time wouldn’t permit me.
Why did you choose to start a foundation while still working at the bank?
The foundation is driven by my passion and being a charitable endeavour. It has no restriction on my career rather fulfilling to give back to the society and testify to lives touched positively.
It seemed you have slowed down on the activities around the foundation like the annual walk. What happened?
Slowed down? Not at all, we have not slowed down. We have a wide range of activities which are largely implemented yearly. The annual walk, vocational training and outreach programmes are among the many initiatives we have held back to back with no break. Next Walk4Hope will hold on the 29th of February 2020.
What are your expansion plans for the foundation?
We have a long term expansion plan but what matters to us at CBA Foundation is our immediate environment. This indeed forms the basis for expanding beyond Lagos, Ogun and Anambra which we currently cover. We are hopeful that more individuals and organisations will support us to spread across the country and beyond.
What has been your experience with widows in Nigeria?
First of all, may God continually give succour to the widows and the bereaved. It isn’t easy I must tell you. The experience has largely been a learning point for us to identify better ways to support them and importantly put a smile on their faces. Improvement is one thing we remain keen on, as it significantly influences our impact. These women go through a lot. Most of them have high blood pressure. They feel unhelped and maltreated. Culture in itself does not help matters. We need to be deliberate to look out for them, protect them and let justice be served for those that family members have confiscated their property.
What is the next big step for you?
The next big step for us at CBA Foundation is rooted in the word impact, especially beyond our immediate environment. Impacting other communities across the country. Once this is achieved, extending further to the West African sub-region, then Africa would definitely be a step forward to achieving a global footprint. We are encouraged with every testimony and the changed lives to continually impact and touch the lives of unprivileged widows with no limit.
Do you have time to relax?
Of course yes. Without relaxing, I would have been discouraged and burnt out a long time due to the magnitude of work and responsibilities bestowed on me. But taking a few “me time” does the magic.
How do you relax?
Largely watching movies at the cinemas, listening to music and spending quality time with my family. I also relax by mentoring younger people.
How have you been able to navigate the challenges?
Consistency has been our driving force at CBA Foundation. This has gone a long way to leave no stone unturned at breaking barriers and taking the foundation to greater heights.