Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Impacting Positive Change Through Education" @wlffgirls

Emmanuel is 12 years old and lives in the area within Ajeromi-ifelodun local government of Ajegunle, Lagos, which WLFF have selected to implement the WLFF 2011 project in.  He comes from a very humble home structure, which he shares with his parents and seven siblings (younger and older).
He is an A student and has held first position in his class at a public school for a significant period. He is also bright and articulate and attends the LOTS Resource Centre each day after school during the term and during the day during school holidays. He enjoyed going to see a film at the ‘Silverbird’ cinema, Victoria Island and also visiting ‘Terraculture’ (sponsored trips arranged by LOTS). He is an avid reader, (His peers at LOTS said his head is always buried deep in a book); he however admitted the bible was still his favourite book.
This September he will start Secondary School on a full scholarship sponsored by With Love From Friends WLFF (with funds raised at the 2011 Ball).

In this interview, the team of WLFF share their passion and expectations for the 2011 fundraising event tagged “OLD HOLLYWOOD BALL.”

Since you started out in 2008, what has been your most significant achievement?
WLFF: The most significant achievement was our first event held in October 2008 which raised over £6,000 for the Premier Foundation Nursery and Primary School  (PFS) in Iwaya and being able to see that project through to fruition.
Working in partnership with ACDI (African Child Development Initiative, a charity based in Nigeria) we returned to Nigeria to visit the students of PFS. We had purchased text and exercise books, stationery, art materials etc, for Nursery to Primary 6 classes. Armed with some snacks and drinks, we arrived at Iwaya (at the Church hall the students were calling school at the time) and handed over the resources/materials we had bought.
We spent the day holding quizzes with the older students and playing games, dancing and singing with the younger ones. We also spoke to the teachers and thanked them for their dedication to educating the youths/future generation of our country.
Leaving Iwaya that day I remember looking back at some children in the neighbourhood who did not attend school at PFS. Members of the team who accompanied us to Iwaya bought them loaves of bread and there was a big scramble as they fought to get a portion. It felt like those were the children we were ‘leaving behind’ despite having just been able to act towards the success of the PFS students.
A year later, in 2009 when we returned to PFS the Students were in their new school building (built with funds raised by ACDI), complete with desks and tables purchased by WLFF. The children were cleaning out their classrooms – with proud smiles at their brand new school.
This is an example of the experience that I think we encounter year on year. We do make a change and impact that we are proud of, through hard work and our supporters who finance the cause. But it can be tinged with a sense of more to still be done. One of our main aims is to continue to urge others to make a contribution also; together we can increase the impact of change.

How did WLFF come about? How did you team up and come up with the idea?  
WLFF: WLFF is literarily seven friends giving back. Six of the WLFF members met and became friends at university. During the planning of our first event, we met Tayo who was volunteering at the time in the planning/organising e.t.c, and she became part of the team thereafter.

Tell us more about the team members. A) Why are you involved with WLFF as individuals? B) Do you do other things aside this project?
WLFF: Tayo:  WLFF, to me, means giving back! Giving back to people who are perhaps not as privileged and blessed as I have been. Giving back to a country that I love and grew up in and most of all, doing this with friends! 
Toritse: It used to be very difficult to be optimistic about Nigeria’s progress in educating our future generations to the high level required for positive change. With Love From Friends and meeting all our amazing partner charities, changed it all. It became very simple, if everyone takes one step at our time, we’ll get there pretty soon :).
Seun: With Love From Friends, for me, created an opportunity for me to give back to a cause I truly believe in. Our core belief centres on education, which includes helping to providing an environment that facilitates knowledge and skills been passed on to a younger generation.
Bim: It means making a contribution to affecting some positive & tangible changes, in the life of at least one child living in extreme poverty in Africa. Its means putting aside self and my 'wants' for bursts of periods.
 Dami: WLFF provides a means for me to give back to young people who may not have had the same opportunities as I have had. With a focus on education; we are able to have a positive impact on the lives of young people in Nigeria.
 Winnie: For me, WLFF is about a network of friends coming together, utilising diverse life experiences and skills to make a strong impact - some sort of domino effect or a chain reaction of social change (if you can call it that) which hopefully inspires other people to roll up their sleeves and get involved. 
Londe: WLFF is about appreciating the difference that passion, drive and hard work can make in the lives of others. It is about putting a permanent smile on people’s faces and inspiring hope in their lives.
B) Five of us are in full time work, and Tayo and Toritse are both on a full time PHD programme. WLFF activities are all performed/planned/co-ordinated during our evenings, weekends and free time.
It can be tough trying to schedule meetings around seven busy ladies, one of whom now lives in Nigeria (and is thus closer to the home of our current cause) and another in Scotland – also a flight away from London. Skype/dialling in on meetings is now familiar grounds. We are also pleased to have survived two members of WLFF adding the task of ‘planning a wedding’ to the balancing act of juggling commitments. I think these experiences teach us the importance of really working as a team!

How do you select NGOs or groups to support? For example, this year you are working with LOTS, what informed your decision to raise funds for them and not for other similar organizations?
WLFF: As much as possible, we want to work with a Nigerian charity that shares the same/similar values as us; one that exists to meet basic educational needs, that is hands on in providing/assisting its beneficiaries and that values accountability/transparency.
We find them through a combination of word of mouth, perhaps from friends/contacts who may have had experiences with the charity, online/ paper media sources or stumbling across their website.
This year, after much research, we came across LOTS Foundation and started talks with Tolu Sangosanya (the amazing woman behind LOTS) to assess its potential as a viable project for 2011. Toritse went to Nigeria earlier in the year and got the opportunity to meet Tolu and tell her a bit more about WLFF and what our objectives are. Toritse fed back on her experience to the rest of the WLFF Team and we found that LOTS ticks most (if not all) our requirements and that was the start of the relationship.
The rest of our team went back to Ajegunle in August and got to witness first hand and learn more about Dustbin Estate and the work LOTS is doing in the community, and we are even more convinced!

What do you do at WLFF and how do you do it? Do you just raise money and give to these organizations? Or you build up on the relationship?
WLFF: We try to build a relationship with the partner charity and the community/School management. We speak directly to both parties over the duration of time from inception – making the decision to have that cause as the project for the year, through to after we have purchased and donated materials/tools etc.
As much as possible we aim to directly purchase goods ourselves. The more involved we are personally, the greater understanding we will have of the factors the schools/charities face and also allows for greater accountability for how funds are spent.
We personally plan and organise events of two types. Firstly,  to raise awareness about the educational needs that exist in our chosen area of help for the year’s project and secondly, to actively raise funds for the project.
When we choose the cause we usually know what the funds will go towards. We continue to talk to the charity and school/community/resource centre through to the point where we actively plug funds to meet needs, to ensure that that particular need still exists, as a lot can change between when we start talks with the charity and when we have raised funds and can actively put them to use. This ensures that funds raised are still being put to use in the areas that will have the greatest impact for the children. We also request feedback after the project.

How do you measure your impact?
WLFF: Pictures, newsletters, videos and telephone feedback help us to measure our impact. Progress reports, pictures, newsletters, videos from the schools/charities, via email and feedback over the telephone. We physically, visit past projects school premises to observe what has changed and how much has changed.

What has been your core challenges? How are you overcoming them? What more should we expect from WLFF?
WLFF: Unfortunately, we cannot help everyone, thus we encourage others –students, working professionals e.t.c to contribute in some capacity to making a change.
Hosting quality events at a very low cost base. As we are a non-profit organisation, we are limited by how much we can spend on an event. We want to host an event that is well attended (since each ticket purchased adds to funds raised) but that requires inputs of high quality. So the balancing act is ensuring our inputs are at the lowest cost possible, so we have a bigger pool of funds to spend on the educational needs of the children.
Expect us to continue to raise funds to meet educational needs, year after year. In the future, we would like to offer programmes that encompass acquiring life skills, community development, as well as improving traditional teaching methods. We also hope to expand the ‘communities-in-need’ we reach Africa-wide and possibly beyond.

 What is your message of hope to underserved communities in Nigeria?
WLFF: Our message is keep your head up, work hard, and maintain integrity.  And when your circumstances change for the better, help someone else. Let's keep the cycle going!

About “With Love From Friends”

With Love From Friends  (WLFF) is a voluntary organisation founded in January 2008 by a group of close-knit friends with the aim of making positive and lasting contribution to the advancement of education in Africa.  

Since inception, WLFF has raised over £10,000 towards the provision of basic educational resource and furniture for a poor community school in a high density slum area of Lagos, Nigeria.  

This year, WLFF is teaming up with Love on the Street (LOTS) Foundation to meet the educational needs of children who live on Dustbin Estate, in Agegunle, Lagos.

LOTS is a registered charitable organization in Nigeria that caters to the physiological, social, educational,psychological, medical,  and emotional needs of  street  kids  and  vulnerable children. Their  area  of  focus  at  the  moment  is  the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local  government   in  a  Ajegunle,  Lagos  state.   LOTS  offer  the  children  living  in  Dustbin  Estate  :  literacy  supplementary   classes,  health  care,  daily  meals  and  food  items  and  social  outings  to  broaden   their  perspective.  To learn more about LOTS visit http://lotscharityfoundation.org

WLFF  is  raising  funds  in  2011  towards  a  sponsorship  program  to  put  through  a   Small  selection  of  the  children  from  Dustbin  Estate  through  six  years  of   secondary  school  education. The funds will  also  provide  educational  resources  for  the  LOTS  resource  centre  in   Ajegunle through  which  the  charity  administers  its  services. All  profits  raised  from  the  2011  Ball  will  go  towards  this  project.

Aim:  Raise funds  for  LOTS  Foundation  Project Estimated Numbers: 200  guests Date  :1  October  2011 Venue  :  Hotel  Russell,  Russell  square,  London Price:  £50  
Purchase:  Tickets  will  be  available  to  buy  online  via  Paypal.   
To  reserve  a  ticket  ,  please  email  info@wlff.co.uk.  
WLFF has supported organizations such as Premier Foundation Primary School (PFS) and Bethesda Child Support Agency (BCSA), working with underserved communities.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact WLFF on info@wlff.co.uk  
Twitter: @wlffgirls, Facebook group: With Love from Friends. 

1 comment:

Chiomarh said...

Really inspiring...
I love the content and their drive too. May God bless d WLFF Team.