Funmi Omisope is a Development professional with over 14 years’ experience in nonprofit management and leadership; particularly in the administration and implementation of child education and health projects, child rights advocacy, and promoting sustainable development in low-income marginalized and refugee communities.Funmi, the Executive Director and Founder of Home and Street Kids Welfare Initiative (HSKi) and Proprietress of The Oasis Academy (TOSA), a special school for the street kids operating from Ilorin, Kwara State.
HSKi is a social enterprise Funmi established in her first year at the university based on her burning passion to turn craving hands to creative minds by providing quality education and dignify source of livelihood to the street community.
She is the CEO of iMatter, an initiative that helps social entrepreneurs and busy entrepreneurs create a relaxing environment to unwind.
She is also the co-founder of NaiHealth an health solution initiative that promotes Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and access to holistic health products and services in Nigerian communities.
Funmi is the pioneer Programs Director of AdeGrange Child Foundation based in Lagos, Nigeria and England. With background in Guidance and Counselling from University of Ibadan, Funmi, an Alumnus of Daystar Leadership Academy (DLA), also a graduate of Social Sector Management at Enterprise Development Center, Pan Atlantic University.
She talks to us on her Fourteen years experience in Nonprofit management and her project aimed at educating and empowering street kids
Interviewer: Tell us about your family background and childhood growth
Funmi Omisope(F.O): I am the fifth child in a family of six. Im a native of Ile-Ife, Osun State, but I was born and brought up in Ondo Kingdom, Ondo State. Growing up was fun for me. I remember wanting to be a pilot when I was in primary three. Things changed when I was eight: I was called a demeaning name by my mum’s friend. I took this name as my new identity and it tormented me for eleven good years of my life. I suffered low self-esteem because of this, until one day. I had a conversation with myself in the mirror and I was able to see my beauty after eleven years. Needless to say, the problem affected my academic performance so much that I only passed Yoruba in my O level. After the conversation, I told my dad I would like to be enrolled into SSS2 in order to retake the O level. I told myself, No one here knows your past. It was a different school. “It’s who you call yourself that you are.” So I resumed the school with high shoulders and, in my third month in the school, I became the head girl of the school! That was how I got my confidence back.
Interviewer: A development professional with over fourteen years in nonprofit management. That’s remarkable. Could you tell us more on your journey spanning the fourteen years?
F.O: It’s been fourteen years of learning and growing for me. I started out with the aim of giving a better life to the street kids and their parents but beyond all that, I learnt a whole lot from this people through their stories and their way of life. They practically taught me how to take care of them, showed me love that exceeded language barrier, allowed me into their space and trusted me totally with their kids. I’ve helped take a delivery before, witnessed for another in court and sure carried a dead baby for burial. They also stood with me when I lost my mother. Seeing fathers shed tears for me moved me greatly. They know my heart beats for them. Its beyond nationality or religion. We are one big family.
Interviewer: Home and Street Kids Welfare Initiative (HSKi), an organization you founded in your first year in the university has one of its aims as providing quality education for street kids. What inspired you to focus on the street kids? And please give us more information and activities HSKi engages in and the impacts it has recorded so far.
F.O: I see myself in these kids and that’s enough for me. Also, I realised that when people want to give out stuff to charity they prefer taking it to a charity home. It’s more organized and the kids are cultured. Street kids can scare the people away with their numbers and their uncultured manners but the truth remains that they’re kids too and someone needs to tolerate their excesses and extend the hand of love and care to them. Our activities are in three folds:
-The Oasis Academy – TOSA
-Street Care Medical arm
-Creative minds workshop
Over the years, we have had 253 kids go through the academy. Through our medical outreaches and affiliation to hospitals we’ve been able to attend to the health challenges of the people on different occasions
Interviewer: During the course of your journey in nonprofit management and leadership, what have been the challenges you’ve encountered, and how have you been able to scale through some?
F.O: The challenges encountered include language barrier and mentality. Language barrier is my topmost challenge. Ninety-five percent of them only speak Hausa, even the ones not from Nigeria still speak it fluently and most of the time it’s the only language they speak. To circumvent this, I have some of my team members that understand the language. I will also be starting my Hausa class soon to boost the little I’ve already learnt from them.
Mentality of parents and our target is also a challenge. Some parents refuse to release their kids. These kids serve as their breadwinners and so they are not ready to lose a penny by having the kids off the streets. While some kids too refused to be enrolled because of the free food they get on the street. We don’t push or argue with such parents or kids who refused to follow us. We pick the ones who are ready and take good care of them as promised. Them seeing the positive changes in the ones that follows us increases interest in our program and this works all the time. All we need is at least a child to use as a model and its only a matter of time before others kids come onboard.
We have recorded huge successes. I was amazed when one of our target mothers told us about an event where she took her kids to the village for the holiday and one of our kids, Hannas, a seven year-old at the time, started a lesson for the other kids that don’t go to school. I was dazed because all he knew were numbers 1 to 20 and letter A to Z but to him it was a lot and he thought it wise to teach his friends. Such a ripple effect! Also, one of our kids, an immigrant from Niger Republic travelled to Ghana for an holiday and decided to get a book to teach alphabets and started a lesson for other Nigerien Kids over there who had refused the pleas of the teachers where they lived to get enrolled. They got interested in learning as a result of Aisha’s teaching and agreed to be enrolled. Six of the kids were enrolled into school and are doing great till now.
Our most senior is in SS1 science class and aims to become a Nurse.
Seven of our Nigerien immigrant families are back in their country making dignified income.
Interviewer: According to UNICEF, 10.5 million children are out of school. This is a staggering figure. What’s your view on the causes?
F.O: The figure is indeed overwhelming and to talk of the causes, fingers will be pointed to so many things from poverty to lack of value of education by the parents and lack of birth control among the poor to mention but a few.
Interviewer: What are the long time plans and vision you have for TOSA.
F.O: TOSA is an ongoing project. Also, our creative minds workshop is our upcoming project starting by April. This is mostly for the mothers of the kids at TOSA.
Interviewer: What role do you think government and the private sector could also play to reduce the huge number of out of school children and illiteracy?
F.O: The lasting approach is to start with the caregivers of the kids, for what keeps a child out of school is beyond the availability or unavailability of pen and biro. When the parents are empowered and enlightened, they’ll see to the success of having their kids in school. Therefore, in my opinion, I’d rather the government and private sector seek to know the root cause of whats keeping the kids out of school instead of providing random solutions.
Interviewer: How have you been able to juggle your work in the social development field and time spent with family and friends?
F.O: Time out is one thing I take seriously. I call it my recharging moments. I mostly leave town to rest my mind and see the work clearly from another city. It works for me.
Working in community development can be psychologically draining. What do you do to relax? A trip to the Maldives, sightseeing at the Eko beach, the cinema? We would love you to share it with us.
F.O: It took me over fourteen years in this space before I took my first vacation. Last year December, I realised the world would not fall apart if I took a break. The experience was so refreshing and it brought great productivity to the work.
Now I have out a brand called iMatter to help people like me and show that it’s okay to take a break. The brand will be launched on 14th March at Lekki Conservative, Lagos State. And yes, I go to cinema too when there’s a new movie in town. I love seeing such with my team. Coupled with that, is the monthly hangouts I made compulsory for my team, sponsored by the organisation, HSKi. It’s not selfish to put ourselves in the limelight one day of the month. We all deserve it.
Interviewer: To the thousands of amazing girls out there, whats your advice to them?
F.O: You have the right to choose what becomes of your life. Keep hope alive and, very soon, the dots will start connecting. You’re treasured.
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