Says:”I have spent 8 years of my life working to make a difference in the lives of women and youths”
AYECI Africa is a non-profit organization on a mission to improve the prospects and living conditions of the most disadvantaged population in Africa, through a variety of interventions that expands access to education and employment opportunities. The founder, Ifeoma Adibe, didn’t set out to become all these. She loathed the idea of becoming a Polytechnic student because of the discrimination that exists between universities and polytechnics.She channeled her frustration into establishing ASPIRE , a student empowerment initiative. In this chat she talks about being tempted to give up, her eureka moment why she created AYECI and other issues.
Early childhood dream
Growing up as a young girl I recall nursing the ambition to one day becomes a beauty queen. I’ve always been fascinated by the world of beauty pageants, not solely because of the pageantry and glamour but I was drawn and inspired by the way beauty queens used their platform to address social issues and help those in need. Year after Year I remember keeping a journal of the reign several beauty queens and a portfolio of the social projects they were involved in. As a teenager, this experience helped me develop a strong sense of devotion for charitable work and fostered my interest to be part of the process of bringing hope and improving the quality of lives for those in need.
Today, I am a social entrepreneur, an advocate for women and child’s right . I may not be your regular beauty queen but I’m living out the ambition I nursed to help people in need become better.
Discovering my passion for charity
I developed a strong sense of passion for charitable work as far back as when I was 14years old. However, my work in advocacy and development didn’t start till I was about 18years as a freshman in Lagos State Polytechnic. At that point, heaven knows I would have given anything to not be part of that school system, I detested the school environment, didn’t want to associate with the students in it. Most heartbreaking was when I discovered that majority of the students who graduated from the Polytechnic were not given equal opportunities in the workplace no matter how good they were academically. They were usually treated as second rate graduates compared to students from the universities. I just wanted to be in Unilag, Uniport or University of Abuja.
My eureka moment
During my second semester as a freshman, I recall attending a personal development summit. After that session I told myself it would do me no good to continue hating on the polytechnic school system, I alone had the power to change my mindset and make something positive out of my situation.
This singular decision propelled me to start a student initiative on campus in 2006 called ASPIRE- African Students Partnership and Relevance. With a vision to help change the way undeserved students viewed themselves and also empower and engage them to take on the responsibility of driving social interventions in their school community. In less than 4years with the help of other team members, we grew the initiative to four campuses with over 400 student members. Managing the activities of ASPIRE and its growing student network was my first major role in youth development and advocacy. The effect this singular decision and corresponding actions had on students, led me to discover my passion for advocating for the rights of underserved young people and women.
Strong women inspire me
I don’t just have one person who has the greatest impact on me, except for Jesus Christ. His leadership quality, humanitarian attribute, teaching skill, the way he served the people who followed him, the way he loved and selflessly gave. Everything about his life and time on earth greatly impacts and continues to inspire me. Asides from him, stories of women in the bible like Queen Esther, Hannah; Deborah also has a great impact on me. Coming back home I’ve been greatly inspired by the works of several strong African women like: Liberian, Sara Kaba Jones of Face Africa, Kenyan; Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg of Akili Dada, Nigerian Toyosi Akerele-Oginsiji of RISE, Nigerian; Toyin Saraki of Wellbeing Foundation, Nigerian; Esther Ijewere-Kalejaiye of Rubies Ink.
Inspiration behind the creation of AYECI
The inspiration behind the creation of AYECI Africa is to respond to the cry of the undeserved woman and young person seeking for opportunities to better their lives. We work to create an environment where every young person and woman without recourse to status gets access to the learning opportunities they need to realize their full potential. As an organization, we believe improved access to information, learning opportunities and meaningful engagement empowers people to fight poverty, inequality and contributes to the future success of their communities
As an organization we’ve worked with several organizations to implement so many incredible projects. Our first funded projects: THE EDUCATE-A-COMMUNITY PROGRAM is a community based learning project that provides basic and functional literacy training and livelihood grants for educationally disadvantaged women and out-of-school youths. The program currently operates three learning centers in (Ikorodu, Isolo and Ijede) that serve over 220 learners. In 2015, we graduated 37 learners who completed 9months of literacy classes from our Ikorodu
learning center.In September 2014, we launched the #1MillionGiftofLiteracy Campaign a 5-year long campaign with the aim to increase the reading habits and literacy skills of 1,000,000 women and children across West Africa. We are currently leveraging the support of corporate organizations through an annual football charity activation (Play for Literacy) to help us meet our fundraising goals for the campaign. We’ve also succeeded in engaging celebrity advocates like Lami Phillips, Olori Supergal, JJC, to support our literacy campaign.
As part of our career development platform, we also organize an annual workplace mentorship program in collaboration with SAP to match fresh school leavers with corporate organizations for a 3weeks workplace mentorship that would help them make informed.
“I felt like giving up”
Yes, several times I have felt like giving up. When you work in a sector like mine, you always have to source for funding and defend every kobo spent. Often times it takes a lot to get the right kind of personnel to work with and resources to keep operation going. There are always setbacks that would make you want to throw in the towel. However, the fulfillment I get from empowering people and having to witness the t effect of the time and effort invested in their lives, their families and communities is a motivation that keeps me going. I like the thought of waking up and going into the world to do some good! One good deed everyday
People’s measurement of achievement and reward differs. For me, I consider the number of lives as one of my greatest rewards. These rewards are ongoing and I’m excited to see how my work will continue to transform the lives of people in need.
Advice for budding social entrepreneurs