Nigerians should extend hands of love to the widows this festive season — Founder, Lawrence Grace Foundation


Oluyinka Adewoye, a banker and an event planner extraordinaire is the founder of Lawrence Grace Foundation. She however has passion for helping widows and indigent school children. In this interview by Bankole Taiwo, the seasoned banker with heart of gold speaks more on this and plights of widows in the country among other topical issues. Excerpts

For sometimes now you have been doing a lot as it relates to supporting the widows, what will you say informed this your choice of humanitarian gestures?

Foundation work to me is like a calling, I mean call to serve humanity. We particularly cater for widows and indigent school children in deprived communities. One of the reasons we do this is because of the peculiarity of these class of citizens. For widows; after the demise of their husbands, most of them lack  support from their spouse’s family particularly financially to support them and their children, as such they are unable to cater for their children, pay school fees,and other needs for their well-being.This becomes a major focus for us .These children are the future leaders, we understand the concerns and dangers if they are not able to have access to basic living and education.It is a burning desire of ours to secure the future of these children and the widows and most importantly alleviate their poverty.

And for the indigent school children, we believe that children are the leaders of tomorrow and a lot of them are very brilliant but with no financial and moral  support, to allow them to achieve their goals in life.Our desire is for these children to fulfill purpose and be great successes that would impact their families and generation at large.These are some of the reasons why our foundation, Lawrence Grace Foundations takes so much interest in widows and indigent school children in the society.

 What have been your source of inspiration to keep doing what you are doing? 

The inspiration is first from God, the author and finisher of our faith.When you feed the poor, widows and needy generally, you are touching the heart of God. Touching lives positively is a charge from God.So,that is our number  one inspiration.

Another thing is  the fact that lives  are being transformed, that we are affecting lives of the people and putting smiles on several faces gladdens my heart.We are therefore constantly inspired because we see the positive impact of our foundation, Lawrence Grace Foundation in several Lives.

The feedback from various locations of our empowerment programmes is another source of our inspiration and encouragement. The  feedback from the beneficiaries of our free health consultation and medications and particularly the free empowerment trainings on how the women have been able to use the knowledge acquired from the programmes  to do something for themselves and cater for their  children is always encouraging and inspiring too.

Do you think the widows in Nigeria are getting the best  and do you think government is doing well for the widows?

Personally, I feel a lot more needs to be done. I remember those days, we used to hear a lot of programmes and initiatives from the government like (Better Life for Rural Women) and other government initiatives. But these days, not so much is heard or done from government quarters for them.

I also feel that the government should focus more on the grassroot, because, that’s where we have these people. If government can give more considerations to grassroot development, issues relating to catering for the widows and all would be better handled. Little wonder, the reasons people are clamouring for local government autonomy because that is the closest form of government to the people at the grassroots.

It would make a lot of difference if we can have more involvement from necessary government officials, developing empowerment programmes, build more town halls for trainings, increase the access to good health facilities for these widows in different communities. We have a lot of these widows in deprived communities that don’t have access to quality health facilities, education for their children and support for their wellbeing.

How best do you think widows could be supported to ease their pains and be prepared in the absence of their loved ones?

It is not about giving people fish but about teaching people how to fish, and so, what we believe in is that more empowerment programmes should be organised for these women.

Women are being encouraged to brace up and be empowered to provide basic needs for themselves and children in case of death of their spouses. So, if they are able to do something no matter how small, poverty will be greatly alleviated. And that is the more reason why at any of our empowerment programmes, we teach them so many vocational skills such as how to make different kinds of drinks, soap making and other soft skills  that they can easily do to earn a living for themselves. Even just having a programme alone will not go a long way but helping them to know and understand what they can do to sustain their health, family and even the small enterprise we build for them.As a country we have to do a lot more in this regard.

How often do you do this?

Our last event was in September 2022, a few months ago and it was held at Agiliti community in Mile 12, Lagos. We had free medical outreach, the doctors were on ground to attend to them, gave them  free medications, and of course, those health talk that could be of help were also given to them, I mean with the widows. One major thing we also did during the empowerment programme was to train the widows on how to make soap, drinks, sobo, kunnu,  and other soft skills they were trained on. We also had free food and household gifts to support over 200 widows that were present at the event.

Can you give figure to the numbers of those who have benefitted from this selfless gesture?

So far, we’ve impacted more than 1,500 widows and more than 2,000 school children. We had a programme in February 14, 2022 to be precise, which was Valentine’s  day, we had the programme at Ajegunle, Apapa, in Lagos State, where we catered for two thousand (2,000) school children in that location at that period of time. It was a day of fun and involvement with those children with so many speakers to teach and train them on building a career, self esteem, sexuality, excellence as a student amongst other topics discussed. We had educational gift packs for the 2,000 children present on that day. It was well attended by representatives of the Primary Education Board, Lagos State as well.

Is your foundation limited to Lagos alone or it cuts across the states in Nigeria and if it cuts across,  how many states so far?

Our foundation cuts across states. So far, we have had programmes in both Lagos and Ogun States. We had programme at Abeokuta last year and we have had several of them in different communities in Lagos. We are looking at extending  to other states especially in the South West, from there we can take it up to go to other parts of the country. We are looking at having additional three states in the new year 2023 by the grace of God.

What is your next line of action?

By God’s grace, we are having a special Christmas party for widows on the 18th of December, 2022, and we will be  hosting over 300 widows from different local government areas in Lagos State. It is going to be a great event because we want them to have a feeling of Christmas. We want them to experience the joy of the festive season . So we will be spending the day with them and particularly we want to give each of the 300 widows food baskets. The baskets will have bags of rice, garri, oil and different other things that will make them have a memorable Christmas.

We all know that Christmas without good food can be devastating. So, we are providing those things and lots more  for them on the 18th of December at our Special Fun Christmas Party.

How do you identify the widows?

Most times, we get the widows through the local government areas and CDAs officials, because they are closer to the people in the locations we go to. For any location we go to, we set out to do our home work, meet those CDA officials, discuss with them, they identify the widows in their communities, give us list, we go back to verify before we invite them. It is a long process, but we try as much as possible  to ensure it is the people that really need the support that get it. It is so funny that even in some locations you will see women that are not widows coming around, they will regard themselves equally as widows because they are poor and could not provide for themselves and their children. It is really usually sad seeing such situations. Majorly, we ensure the people that are attended to are actually widows.

How do you go about funding this humanitarian assignment?

Sourcing for funds hasn’t really been easy. We get support from individuals, our patrons and some corporate bodies that believe in what we are doing. We are hoping to have more partnership with people of like minds as we forge ahead.

In everything we do there are always challenges, what are your challenges in getting widows and how do you relate with them?

The truth is, the challenge isn’t about getting these widows in communities. Most times, the supply is more than our demand. Because, there are a lot of poverty stricken widows that need support. Getting a meal per day and having access to basic health consultation and medications  is a challenge for most of these women. So the major challenge is usually in terms of financing, getting resources  to fund some of our projects. We get more widows than our projections and so we often times need more funds to cater for this growing needs in the society. So getting access to funding to be able to cater for all these people is a major challenge.

Another challenge has to do with the mentality of some citizens.This has to do with some officials of Community Development Association (CDA) that we relate with in different communities we go to. A lot of them are skeptical initially when we approach them. Some feel we have ulterior motive or that we are affiliated to politicians or political parties. So there is usually that feeling of reluctance from them to hold free health, empowerment training programmes and presentation of gifts to the widows and school children in their communities. It’s definitely a mindset to feel it is not normal for NGO to just come around and hold free poverty alleviation programmes in the society. Those are the challenges, majorly the financial part of it because the work is so much out there…. there are many widows out there who need to be supported.

One last word from you?

It has been an exciting journey as this is our 4th year of running the foundation. We are thankful to God. And special thanks and gratitude to our Chairman and Board of Trustees, Patrons, and all our volunteers that have been supporting us both financially and morally in putting smiles on the faces of the numerous less privileged in the society.

The foundation wouldn’t have been able to do all these without these great support. Our prayer is that the Lord will continue to bless everyone with the heart of gold that supports this great charity work.