Life as an orphan or widow is difficult in Nigeria with only a few social services catering to millions experiencing societal stigma and marginalization. The work of indigenous philanthropic organizations like the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation is critical as it works to improve the lives of orphans and widows and eventually reduce the associated stigma. We recently sat down with the Executive Coordinator of the Foundation, Mrs Foluke Ademokun, to learn more about the Foundation.
Q – What was the motivation for starting the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation?
The Foundation is named after late Alhaja Afolabi who was quite passionate about helping the less privileged during her life and focused particularly on widows. After she passed on, her children started the Foundation in 2008 to institutionalize the programmes their mother had supported. Although it is registered as an independent Foundation, AAF is associated with two family businesses that provide the funding to support the Foundation‘s work.
Q – What is the underlying ethos of the Foundation?
The Foundation is built on the belief that widows, orphans, and less privileged children are potential key stakeholders in the development of society. With increased access to education, health care, skills training, and a support system, we believe that the less privileged can break out of a dependence mentality and become worthy contributors to Nigeria‘s progress.
Q – What are the Foundation’s focal areas and target population?
We work in the areas of health, education, and empowerment in an effort to build the capacity of our beneficiaries. We try to align our work with the Sustainable Development Goals and specifically work on goals 3, 4, and 5: Good Health and Wellbeing; Quality Education, and Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. Our programmes primarily target widows, orphans and vulnerable children. Although we are based in Lagos, our work impacts other communities across the country.
Q – What are the major programmes of the Foundation?
The Foundation partners with Ferguson Clinic for medical outreach programmes within Lagos every quarter. During each medical outreach, over 500 people are screened for various ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Our health intervention also includes counseling, legal aid, and maternal and child healthcare services for widows and their families.
The Foundation’s flagship programme provides annual scholarships to over 300 orphans and vulnerable children in selected primary and secondary schools across Nigeria. In Supporting a Child with Knowledge to reduce Poverty (SACK-Poverty), we spend approximately N30 million ($98,000) annually on scholarships. The programme covers university students as well, providing scholarships to approximately 40 students every year. In addition to providing scholarships, the Foundation conducts national essay competitions and spelling bee competitions.
In the area of empowerment, we offer a Vocational Skills Acquisition Project (VSAP) which provides vocational and entrepreneurial skills training and grant opportunities for women and youth beneficiaries. The project equips them with skills in bead making, bag making, soap making, and construction of wooden cups, bangles, and pendants from coconut shells. The goal is to build self-reliance as beneficiaries become entrepreneurs or skillful employees. We don’t want them to only learn how to fish, we want them to own the pond and be a partner to the Foundation in the future.
For more information, visit the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation website.