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Beyond broadcasting, Funmi Iyanda touches lives

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IN 2002, celebrity television anchor woman, Funmi Iyanda initiated Change-A-Life to help indigent children. The project has now grown into the Change-A-Life Foundation.

Six years after a section of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Yaba, Lagos morning belt program, 'New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda' gave birth to the Change -A-Life (CAL) initiative it has transformed into a full-fledged charity. Live broadcast of its activities will debut on air 7pm through 9pm on Saturday, February 21 on NTA.

Organisers inform that over the years, the project has affected 150 children while over 3000 people now study under its education scholarship and health care support incentives.

Interestingly, Ms. Sekinat Ayeyemi, a beneficiary of the scheme is now one of the project's co-coordinators. “Change-A-Life is about people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. It is about changing the face of humanity, one person at a time,” Ayeyemi explained.

Throwing more light on her motivation for the project the initiator and chief executive, Ms. Iyanda said, “We were just doing what we thought was right at the time – helping hardworking people who just needed a hand. It is really about human dignity.”

According to her, the CAL project now needs people who can volunteer their time, goodwill and financial contributions to help the indigent. “We are asking everyone to get involved, it takes only one person to change a life,” Iyanda noted.

One of the beneficiaries named Mary, informed that when she was 25-years-old, the herculean task of raising her sister's five children singlehandedly, fell on her after the children first lost their father and later their mother. The youngsters were then left without anyone to cater for them. Mary, therefore brought the children to Lagos to live with her in her one-room shop apartment.

Saddled with taking care of the five orphaned children, aged between four and 12 with only proceeds from her sales of second hand shoes at the Tejuosho Railway Line, Yaba, Lagos, Mary was buckling under the pressure of the challenge. It was at this almost terminal point that she encountered Change-A-Life.

Iyanda, recalls: “Recognising in her, a person with enormous potential, yet great need CAL staged an intervention. The project paid for her rent and put two of the five children who were brilliant students on scholarships. Mary herself was enrolled at the Yaba College of Education. Today, one of those children is in university, studying Mechanical Engineering. As for Mary, she graduated from Yaba College of Education as an NCE holder and is fully qualified as a teacher. She has also got married to a man who took on, her and her five children. They all live together.”

Another beneficiary Mr. Odoakor found himself jilted by his wife who left him to care for a two-year-old son. Odoakor who refused to leave his son in the care of relations, decided he would take care of his child himself. Unfortunately his salary as a security guard was not enough to support his family. They soon lost their home and began sleeping on the streets. His son, Samuel began hawking pure water to supplement his father's tiny income.

Despite the circumstances, Samuel was able to maintain very good grades at school.

“His brilliance at school, as well as his father's determination not to shirk his responsibilities impressed everyone at Change-A-Life. Samuel was consequently put on scholarship, his school fees and needs, paid for by the programme. Change-A-Life was also able to take care of their housing expenses. Samuel is currently writing his WAEC exams. He no longer has to hawk pure water and can now concentrate on schoolwork. His father, supported by CAL, is currently enrolled in a driving school, giving him the foundation he needs to embark on his new career,” Iyanda explained.

Iyanda said Lagos State Government was partnering with CAL in their commitment to the less privileged in the state. Former governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu also supported CAL in 2002. That year, 68 people were awarded grants of N10,000 per-person in a micro-business and educational projects incentive.