By John Mayaki
It’s easy to see how anyone who makes it out of Nigeria to greener pastures, particularly one as lush and inclusive as the United States of America, might relegate or entirely banish thoughts of home to focus on building roots in their new abode.
Adapting, making the painful adjustments, and blending into the new and better lease of life available represent greater and beneficial concerns. The motivation is there and the promise alluring: there, in the land of dreamers, all that you want – wealth and its attendant pleasures and privileges – can be yours provided you can seize opportunities that are both available and accessible.
So it makes it somewhat strange and out of the ordinary that when Ms. Adetutu Owolabi made the trip, instead of reveling in the new world of modernity enjoyed even by those at the lower rung of the ladder, she was troubled by a niggling concern.
The new norm of functionality, dignity for the poor, and serious focus on the protection of the rights of women and children did not give her the familiar triumphant feeling that comes with knowing that one’s hard work and dedication had culminated in personal salvation.
Rather, she thought of the countless women and children at home, particularly in her native Akoko-Edo (an LGA in Edo State), who weren’t so lucky and, given the prevailing conditions that existed, had very little chances of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty they seem trapped in.
The bright lights of America and the little disparity in the quality of life accessible to all parts of her society, especially when stripped down to the basics, illuminated for her the suffering of those at home. It was a burden she carried in her heart even though nothing compelled her to. A burden borne out of extraordinary selflessness, remarkable empathy, and exemplary patriotism.
She decided to do something about it, and the result was the establishment of the Stephen Gideon Owolabi Women and Children Foundation.
“When I traveled out of the country and saw the way people lived over there, I flashed back to the situation of things in Nigeria and realized that most people are suffering, especially people in the village, so I decided to come back home and support with the little I have because I understand government alone cannot help everybody,” she said in a recent interview with Bloomshire Nigeria, a media agency traveling across the country to document and amplify important stories flying under the radar.
Adetutu Owolabi, a trained nurse who is on the brink of receiving a doctorate degree in the United States of America, established the Foundation in 2019 and has since then reached thousands of women and children in Akoko-Edo and beyond with different empowerment programs.
Of note was the medical outreach held in Akoko-Edo in the first month of the year in Igarra and Ibillo, two large towns in Akoko-Edo. The outreach provided access to quality care to over 4000 residents, many of whom got important diagnoses, preventive care, long-sought medical interventions, and practical medical instructions on personal and communal health improvement.
In Auchi, a city in Etsako West LGA of Edo State, the Stephen Gideon Owolabi Foundation carried out a money market trade targeted at widows. A total of 250 widows got N10,000 as support funds to start/grow their small businesses, similar to the market moni initiative of the Federal Government of Nigeria, except that the Foundation’s intervention is not a loan and beneficiaries are not required to return any of it.
As a trained nurse, Ms. Adetutu Owolabi is well aware of the importance of rural health in facilitating growth and aiding moves to break free from the claws of cyclical poverty and hardship. Health underpins every effort undertaken to improve one’s living conditions.
Hence her awe-inspiring move to, in addition to previous and ongoing charity interventions, build a healthcare center in Afeye, Akoko-Edo to provide round-the-clock access to quality care for residents. Upon completion and equipping, the center will be donated and handed over to the local authorities for operations.
When asked what the motivation is for this outstanding philanthropy that must indisputably come at great personal cost considering the level of finance and organizational structure required to facilitate them, her response reiterated her altruism and kindness.
“It makes me happy to help those truly in need of it. And knowing that government cannot do everything, it falls to us with slightly more to contribute whatever little we have to improve the lives and well-being of others, especially those living in areas receiving less attention,” she said.
Observing the passion and generosity of Ms. Adetutu Owolabi, and documenting the profound impact they have on beneficiaries in Edo State, the words of Mandy Hale ring true. Nothing is indeed more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others. In her, we have a living superhero.
Mayaki is a Journalist, Historian, Diplomat, Archivist, Documentalist, Communication, Culture and Media expert (Coventry University, England). He’s also an Oxford and Cambridge University-trained entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability expert. A Professional Consultant on Communication, Management and Strategy (Chattered Management Institute, England).