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By NBF News

When people mark their birthdays, it is usually with pomp and ceremony. And when the occasion is the 50th birthday, it is always done in an elaborate manner. Such celebrations are done to show how many bigwigs the celebrant has as friends as well as to show off wealth. Indeed, it is rare, these days, for celebrities or chief executive officers to celebrate in the midst of the underprivileged.

However, on Sunday, September 19, 2010, when Executive Director of Marketing Mix, Muyiwa Akintunde, marked his 50th anniversary on earth, it was something remarkable. He actually rolled out drums, as expected, and hosted a party. But if you thought that the party was for the big and mighty in the society, you are wrong. It was for motherless boys and girls, at the SOS Children Village, Isolo, Lagos.

Akintunde used his golden jubilee celebration to help the kids at the SOS Children Village. He had invited his friends and associates to not only join him to mingle with these kids but also to give them succour. For him, it was an opportunity to put smiles on the faces of children who were picked in the streets, where their biological mothers dumped them after birth. And the kids were really glad, as they danced and cheered while the party lasted.

Present to give Akintunde support were such friends and associates, as publisher/editor-in-chief of Africa Today, United Kingdom and Action Congress of Nigeria's governorship aspirant in Ogun State, Mr. Kayode Soyinka, who was chairman of the occasion and his pretty wife, Titilope; Managing Director of Marketing Mix, Mr. Akin Adeoya and his wife; Editor of Saturday Sun, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh; Mr. William Afemikhe, a chartered accountant, and his wife as well as CEO, Chris-Thelma and Company Limited, Mr. Aiyeru; Mr. Yemisi Fadairo, former special adviser to ex-Jigawa State governor and Mr. Muyiwa Mayowa, formerly of GTBank.

There were also ministers of God, such as Pastor Kunle Eludine of The Redeemed Christian Church of God and Reverend (Mrs.) Grace Oyelade of Oasis of Breakthrough Ministries.

Thankful for the opportunity to care for the underprivileged, chairman of the occasion, Mr. Soyinka, recalled that every adult was once a child. 'It was not until today that I was touched to the marrows about the underprivileged children. We had our parents to take our problems to while growing up, but these kids have none. God is great in taking care of them. Anybody, after going through labour, would like to stay alive and take care of the child,' he said.

Praying for peace in Nigeria, especially Niger Delta and Jos, Soyinka thanked Akintunde for bringing him to SOS Village, Isolo. 'I will come back after today. I am really touched about these children. They will grow older and succeed more than Muyiwa. Some will be journalists, like Muyiwa, I and the late Pa Awolowo. Like Muyiwa, my wife was born in 1960. I will bring her back to SOS to celebrate her birthday in a few week's time.'

Mrs. Onifade,  a guidance counsellor, representing the director of SOS Village, Isolo, Mr., Inusa Ahmed, said that Akintunde's golden jubilee celebration,  in the year Nigeria is marking its 50th independence anniversary, was auspicious, especially being marked at the auditorium of SOS Children's Village, Isolo.

She said that although the SOS Village is for the underprivileged, its true meaning is, 'stands for societal socialis, an Austrian phrase, which means a society where every individual is given equal opportunity to excel.

She said: 'Here in SOS Children's Village, we give all individuals equal opportunity to showcase themselves. The founder of SOS Villages, Hermann Gmeiner, was born in Austria on June 23, 1919. He grew normally but lost his mother at a very tender age. He was a brilliant, talented child and got scholarship to the grammar school and also to study medicine; he abandoned his medical career to take care of abandoned kids. Having experienced the horrors of war himself, as a soldier in Russia, he was then confronted with the isolation and suffering of many orphans and homeless children as a child welfare worker after the end of the Second World War. He begged elite for assistance in taking care of them. He took them home to his eldest sister who raised him and other siblings, since their mother's death.

'In his unswerving conviction that help can never be effective as long as the children have to grow up without a home to call theirs, he set about implementing his idea of giving abandoned children and orphans the family setting that every child requires; he achieved this by setting up SOS Children's Villages across the world. Hermann Gmeiner established SOS Children's Villages Association in 1949; in the same year, the foundation stone was laid for the first SOS Children's Village in Austria.'

Emphasising that the ultimate aim of SOS concept was to reintegrate the SOS children into the society, Mrs. Onifade pointed out that the re-integration is already underway. 'Kids from normal homes attend SOS Kindergarten and Primary schools together with SOS children. Since kids from normal homes outside SOS Village attend our schools, SOS children interact with them. We will have a secondary school soon. At the age of 14 to 16, a youth is moved from SOS Family House to SOS Youth

Akintunde, having directed his family, friends and associates to give his birthday gifts to the SOS children, lent his voice in soliciting aid for the kids. 'When we say 'give,' it might not be so much. We can touch the lives of these kids in little way; let us support them in cash or kind. One of the things that touched me recently when I went to School of the Blind in Oshodi was when I saw how old calendars that we throw away are converted to Braille materials for the blind students,' he said.