As we stated in our previous post, Ify Obienu emerged winner of the Samsung Picture Your Dream Competition. Read Samsung’s interview with her on how she heard about the competition and how her win will help her to realise the dream.
Samsung: Can we meet you?
Ify: My name is Ifeyinwa Obienu, simply addressed as ‘Ify’. I come from Oba, Idemmili South of Anambra State though born and raised in Lagos State. I started my educational journey at Pampers Private School after which I left for Hopebay College in Apapa. Upon graduation, I gained admission to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where I studied law. I got called to the Nigerian Bar in 2012 and now a practising lawyer in Abuja where I work as a legal adviser/ company secretary. Apart from Law, I have a passion for helping disadvantaged children which is why I joined The Destiny Trust. My other interests include editing- books and images for now cos I love creativity.
Samsung: How did you hear about the Samsung Picture your dream contest?
Ify: I heard about the Samsung #PictureYourDream campaign through a friend and colleague, Bukky Shaba. We both work with The Destiny Trust, a social initiative committed to the care, rehabilitation, education, development and basic needs of disadvantaged children from poor communities. She told me about the campaign and sent me the ‘pictureyourdream.ng’ link. I set to work creating my palm selfie and signed up.
Samsung: How do you feel emerging winner of the competition?
Ify: Honestly, it still feels so surreal but I am delighted at what this win means for the children who will be impacted under the Destiny Trust’s Programme and with Samsung’s help!
Samsung: How did you make this happen?
Ify: I am blessed with friends, family and team members with like-passion for my dream, and they all made winning possible. The real task was sustaining the highest number of votes, in good time, and we worked to achieve this through social media platforms, personal interaction and even chats with complete strangers! On the final day of voting, Saturday 7th November, it seemed like I will come in second place. I was at a friend’s church when calls and messages came in, saying my dream had topped the dreamboard! My friends, family and Destiny Trust Team members, spent a great deal of time monitoring the dreamboard and pulling in the votes to ensure my dream emerged number one at 12 midnight and we pulled it off!
Samsung: How will this impact on helping to realise and develop your dream of having a Nigeria where no child is denied education?
Ify: I joined the Destiny Trust Children Foundation for the sole purpose of renewing the hope of disadvantaged children, and since inception in 2012, we have been committed to this by working to rehabilitate street children and giving them an opportunity to receive basic education. We are a team of young professionals who have pulled our resources and leveraged on our network to help actualize our goals. We maintain a residential Learning and Rehabilitation Centre where we accommodate, feed and provide education to children from disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise be living under harsh conditions on the streets. In August 2014, we ran a social media campaign tagged #1000HelpingHands with the objective of getting 1000 individuals to donate N1000 which would help enroll and provide 100 children with basic school supplies in the new school session. While we are glad to see the positive impact of these programmes, we know that with more support, we can reach a larger number of disadvantaged children and create opportunities for a better future for them. Winning this competition is such a big deal for me because it means we are able to do more and to see the impact of a little love, care and education and for more disadvantaged children.
Samsung: What is your source of inspiration?
Ify: My inspiration comes from my late mum who lived a very fulfilling life. She always championed the Cause of Education and would ensure that the kids in our neighborhood all went to school and had the basic educational needs. Whenever she was on leave, she would sit in the balcony and watch for any kid perambulating the street during school hours and call that child’s parent later in the evening to ask why. She was passionate about kids and education and it was so inspiring to see how those kids’ lives changed for the better.
Samsung: What were the high points of your preparation?
Ify: The high points for me, was reaching out to large groups of people at a time or individuals who have massive followings on social media; putting together several “campaign posters” because unfortunately my profile picture on the ‘picture your dream’ website did not show my face and people wanted to put a face to the Dream. Mails were also sent out, and a few to celebrities I felt had similar interests, also the likes of ‘Krakstv’ on Instagram. It was great to see the power of a group effort, where a few people spreading the word to their contacts grew into an amazing network of different people in diverse locations helping to achieve a common goal.
Apart from my personal effort and those of my family and friends, the Destiny Trust Team and our community of volunteers leveraged on their contacts, talking to friends and friends of friends to help make my dream a reality. The Destiny Trust’s social media platform was also a great help, and the team helped to push personalized messages, videos, posters and direct one-on-one campaigns for this dream.
Samsung: You sound like you knew you would win….
Ify: Oh my! Shall we start with, “did you know your dream will be short-listed as top 7?” It was thrilling finding out my dream was short-listed, moving on to the final round, I would say I had very high hopes. At some point when it seemed like I will remain in second position, three people spurred my determination. Two of them said: Believe, you will win this; and the third said: You are coming to Lagos as the winner. That was all I needed.
Samsung: How do you plan to maximise the platform which your winning has brought you?
Ify: My plan is to use this platform to challenge the general public to do more for destitute children. At our Foundation, there are various opportunities to make a significant impact, like helping with the day to day needs of the Destiny Trust Centre, joining our mentorship programmes, sponsoring the education of one or more kids up to tertiary level, sponsoring the medical needs of the kids, contributing to our expansion programme and volunteering for our various projects. There is a lot of work to be done and collectively, we will make greater impact.
Samsung: What is the major challenge with Destiny Trust Centre and how can the society help?
Ify: Our major challenge has been getting consistent donors, sponsors and partners to help with our operational needs and specific projects. If we had more people committed to various aspects of each project in their little way, we would be able to make greater impact. Right now, the Trust’s Rehabilitation & Learning Centre at Ibeju-Lekki is a rented twin duplex which accommodates about fifteen kids enrolled in private schools. We have staff on hand to cater to them, and teach them; which comes with the consistent obligation to pay salaries. As I also mentioned the #1000HelpingHands campaign we ran last year, the Foundation needs to sustain the educational needs of the children enrolled in public schools, which is less than N5,000 for each child. So far, we have had a few wonderful donors, volunteers and sponsors, yet we know that we can cover additional ground if people realize the urgent need to help street children and make destitution a thing of the past in Nigeria.
There are various areas anyone can apply themselves to, to help make this dream a reality, and if they can also get ten more people to believe in this dream and those ten people get ten other people and so on, the society has been affected. Once they can all see the challenge and be willing to do something about it, real help will be made available for street children.
Samsung: How would you assess the current level of society’s involvement in helping to alleviate some of the challenges of destitution in some Nigerian communities?
Ify: Rather unfortunately, I would assess our society’s involvement in assuaging these challenges below average. While most people are seen to celebrate and mark a special occasion at orphanages and motherless babies’ homes across the country, little is done to see that homeless kids who roam about the streets are catered for. These children who are growing up without care or empowerment by individuals or government are the ones who need our attention. They are the one who easily fall prey to dangerous groups of people because they see no hope for a better future, they believe their lives begin and end on the streets. They need an intervention, they need people who believe in them and sadly our society looks the other way when they come across them in traffic or roaming idly on the streets. There is more to be done than just marking an occasion annually and donating food items and books, these set of kids need mentors, they need sponsors, they need a sustainable education, they need us.
Samsung: Are NGOs receiving adequate support in Nigeria? How can NGOs like yours enhance their impact in the society?
Ify: In terms of volunteers, NGOs in Nigeria receive adequate support; but in terms of funding, there is shortage. Everyone sees the various aspects of community development some NGOs seek to improve and they identify with them but only short term. While I applaud every volunteer, I encourage you to also use your resources, raise funds, challenge your circle of friends to do more than just volunteer time and energy. These NGOs run day-to-day and not just during festive seasons, hence they need consistent support.
In 2016, we have a lot of educational and vocational projects as well as campaigns we intend to run to enhance our impact in disadvantaged communities and in society at large. At these sessions, we seek to gain the confidence and cooperation of the beneficiaries of our campaigns and also interact with the general public and enlighten them on our purpose and objectives. On occasion, some or all of our kids at our Rehabilitation Centre, go on outings and attend events where individuals interact with them directly and see the changes themselves. We can only enhance our impact by increasing the awareness level and doing more collectively to bring a change to our society.
Samsung: What advice would you have for the government or corporate bodies with a view to strengthening, expanding and sustaining interventions such as this?
Ify: Corporate bodies currently incorporate some aspect of helping disadvantaged children in their annual CSR programmes. However, these organisations can make more sustainable impact by identifying and working with credible NGOs that work in the relevant intervention areas. Adopting creative processes like Samsung has done to identifying relevant causes will help in highlighting the critical need areas in our society, the structures already on ground for addressing these needs and the best avenue to deal with the challenges. Institutional focus must also shift from once-a-year activities to more sustainable programme with lasting impact.
It is also critical for corporate bodies to work with a clear understanding of the practical need to cater for street children in their neighborhoods and the likely effect on the organisation’s staff safety, productivity and bottomline. This will help to define the Company’s CSR focus.
Undoubtedly, the need for greater participation in helping the less privileged cannot be over-emphasised. The street child of today will not remain a child forever and if neglected can grow up to become a liability in their society.
We are indeed pleased with what Samsung has done as a corporate organisation. This should serve as an example to many other corporate organisations.