By Yemisi Suleiman
It is a fact that the less privileged and vulnerable children in the society can blossom when an adult gives them tender, loving care and support needed in life. One woman poised to providing the.love and encouragement that is crucial for healthy development is Olori Wuraola Enitan Ogunwusi, wife of the Ooni of Ife and founder of The Orphan Aid Project. The non profit organization is founded to better the lives of orphaned and abandoned children living in orphanages around the country.
The Olori Wuraola Orphan Aid Project, is an initiative under The House of Oduduwa Foundation aimed at empowering the less privileged children in Nigeria regardless of their cultural and religious affiliations. The project assists in the renovation of local orphanages, as well as providing food and supplies for orphans in rural areas of Nigeria. To this end, she is set to hold a musical concert tagged, “The Giveback Concert” slated for this month, as a means of creating awareness for the plight of these children, as well as raising funds and ultimately, putting smiles on their faces. In this interview with Allure, she tells us more about the Project, her love for orphans, life as a Queen and more.
What informed the creation of The Orphan Aid Project?
The Orphan Aid Project is a project born out of a compassion to help orphans in orphanages. The idea came from a personal survey of a number of orphanages and after a realization of the tremendous lot that needs to be done. There is this attitude to philanthropy in this country, people just give money and there is no follow up on how the money is spent or how the orphanages are managed. There is no check on whether the money given was even enough. In a few cases, people set up these orphanages to take money from donors using the orphans as pawns. There is a need for someone to really step into the gap and ensure that there is real care given to these orphans. We have established a relationship with a number of genuine orphanages and we are doing our best to see that real difference is made in the lives of these children.
Why did you decide to focus on Orphanages, it could have been any other less privileged groups?
If you look deeply, you will find that of all under-privileged people, orphans are the most vulnerable. First of all, they are mostly babies, who are not in any position to contribute as individuals to the decisions bothering on their fate. Secondly, they do not have any family to render that love and developmental management. Finally, the real handicap to these children is a psychological traumatization. There is often no way of fathoming how deep it really is. Orphaned children interact with other children and soon find out that they have no mommies or daddies. The people taking care of them sometimes treat them like charity recipients. This is where the injury starts, injuries to their souls. Hurt to pride, inability to develop self-confidence, lack of hope, inability to sustain dreams and ambitions, and sometimes, where God doesn’t help, it descends into the state of becoming a social misfit. This is why we chose to focus on them, because there is a need to help create a foundation upon which they can build their lives and future. It is not easy but we are trying our best.
Is the project limited to orphanages in Osun State?
Of course not; presently, we are covering the entire Western Region of Nigeria, including parts of Edo and Delta States. Ultimately, we plan to cover all of Nigeria with outreaches in other African Countries. That is why we need all the help we can get. We cannot do this alone. We need the assistance of every other compassionate Nigerian; it has to be a collective effort.
Tell us about the Give Back Concert, what’s the idea behind it and why did you choose to do it in Lagos?
The give back concert is designed to be a superlative show involving major Nigerian artists. It is happening this month at the Eko Hotel. There will be Tuface, Cobhams Asuquo, Dare Art Alade, and so many others who also consider the act of giving back a necessity. Children from twenty orphanages from across the Western part of Nigeria will be there. The Idea is first and foremost, to give to these children, the kind of love and gift that only loving parents can give their children.
These children will take away from this concert, memories that will last them a lifetime. It is an effort to give them a sense of belonging and a hope for the future. Talented children from the orphanages will also be featured, with a view to discovering their talents and helping them become future stars. Finally, it will be an avenue for raising funds for the rehabilitation of orphanages, reconstruction of some of their schools and facilities, medical care provision and feeding them.
Will the Give Back Concert be a yearly event?
We really hope so. This is the maiden edition. The results and feedbacks will determine a lot. But we are doing all we can to ensure that the objectives are met. If that happens, I really think the Give Back Concert will be a yearly event.
Is this part of your responsibility as Olori? Or is it something you just thought you should do because you are are a queen and must give back to society?
It is a self-given responsibility. And I would still have committed myself to this if I wasn’t a queen. I believe that human beings are the greatest assets that the world and any country can have. I believe human lives are so precious that none should be wasted. I think there could be no crueler way of wasting a human life than to watch a child uncared for from birth to adulthood;No one to love, guide and share with. On the other hand all that is needed is just a lot of love, I intend to do all that I can to give that love.
Which orphanages are you assisting this year and what is the criteria for selection?
There are twenty of them and there is no definite criteria aside from the fact that these are the ones we have interacted with in the past and have a form of relationship with. We are expanding the borders and like I said earlier, we plan to cover the whole of Nigeria and perhaps Africa in the long run. It looks quite ambitious but if providence smiles on us, we can achieve it. With the support of everyone who finds it in their heart to reach out I have no doubt we will do a lot in closing the gap and restoring most of the homes back to good living conditions and helping the children succeed.
How does it feel being a queen and what is a typical day like for you at the palace?
Being an Olori is being the wife to a husband who is a figure of great public significance. First of all, it is being a wife. My first responsibility is to my family. Then I also represent a voice to the women and children.
A typical day starts like with every other person, I wake up, say my prayers, take a while to plan my day mentally, then take care of my family and then we start other businesses of the day.
Tell us more about yourself, growing up years.
I cannot remember my growing up years without recalling moments of great joy. My parents were very much present as parents and that helped in shaping my person, I grew up in Benin and in Lagos and traveling outside the shores of this country to also experience life from a different culture and perspective, helped in shaping my overall view about life, I believe I am still growing and learning.
How does being a royalty influence your dress sense?
Being a royalty comes with statutory responsibilities. You are a source of inspiration and a role model. This is very important. Beyond looking as good as befits the office, there is also the consideration that one has become a reference point. Then, you also have personal needs and preferences. The line of best fit is the points of convergence between these considerations. Personally, I do not compromise on comfort. I also emphasize on employing some of the most talented grassroots dressmakers around whom I have discovered that they are really good.
When you’re not working, what is the next best thing?
Family of course, before and after work! For relaxation, I like to read a lot though, and I write when the inspiration comes. Other than that, I find time to plan activities with my family.
What beauty regime do you employ?
I don’t have any specific beauty regimen, I just try to do everything in moderation. And that has a way of reflecting in one’s outward appearance.
What fashion and beauty items can’t you do without?
I am not sure there is any. No matter what is today, there will always be a better one tomorrow. The only thing that is permanent in this life is change and one has to keep up with the tempo. Continuous and never ending improvement is the idea.
What bedtime ritual do you follow?
Reading a line or 2 of a book till I sleep off, that’s an old ritual for me.
Do you sometimes feel your life is restricted as Olori,. Is it something you regret?
No I do not regret being an Olori. First of all I married the man I love. I do not feel restricted. On the other hand, there is a whole lot to do, making life a lot more purposeful. There is a part to play in forming the history of a great people. Take for instance, the Orphan Aid Project, who knows what lives it will help build in the future. There may be some space engineers, rocket scientists and Nelson Mandelas among these children. Without this office, maybe I wouldn’t be able to achieve as much in helping and creating the opportunity to make any reasonable impact in so many lives.
What inspires you in life?
God, people and a strong desire to help where help is needed.
If you have to change anything about the world, what would it be?
I would like to change the state of women in Africa and the grassroots especially. It is terrible. Helping them to see that the world is changing and we as women have a strong role to play. The days of women not doing anything and waiting for a man is gone, it is now a stage for all. Everyone, male or female is now finding ways to contribute to the progress and movement of the human race. But again we can’t ignore the fact that women are our own worst enemies. We do not network properly, we do not commune healthily; whenever women gather, it is to run each other down. Infact, whenever a woman succeeds, there is often a hard driving man in the background nudging, prodding and inspiring her. And this could be a husband, a close friend, father, uncle or brother.
Women really should support women more. There is a need for African women to join the new paradigm. Globally, women are rising. African women need a jolt. We need to wake up and take our place among our global peers. I am not talking about a women’s revolt, I am talking about constructive responsibility, unity among ourselves, hard work and great results that will rise above the noise and stand us out and give us a voice.