Folorunso Alakija: Founder of Rose of Sharon Foundation

Mrs. Folounsho Alakija, one of Africa’s foremost entrepreneurs and philanthropist, is the carrier of the vision of Rose of Sharon Foundation (RoSF). It is a philanthropic organisation that was born from a revelation the founder received from God during prayer. The foundation is affiliated to Rose of Sharon Glorious Ministry International and positioned to provide God’s spiritual strengthening and give comfort and encouragement to the defined classes of people in society.

The operation of the foundation is based on the bible definition of pure and undefiled religion in James 1:27. The role of the foundation is drawn from the conclusion of that scripture that “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”.

RoSF is focused on alleviating the plight of widows and orphans with a mandate to take away hopelessness and wipe away tears. It designs and executes programmes that give financial independence and educational opportunities to widows, their children, orphans and vulnerable women in society.

The foundation works in four programme areas, encompassing fourteen initiatives designed to fulfill the scripture in the book of Isaiah 1:17 that says “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the course of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow”.

The mission that kicked off with three widows in May 2008, has blossomed into a network of about a thousand widows. Since inception, RoSF has empowered over 3,000 widows through vocational skills acquisition training programmes and awarded academic scholarships up to tertiary institutional level to 1,366 widows’ children and 86 orphans.

One of the foundation’s intervening channels in the educational sector is its Bridge of Hope Educational Programme that provides a continuous access to high quality education from primary to tertiary levels to orphans and indigent students. The investments here are made in partnership with schools as well as local and international communities. The programme creates an environment that provides such children the education they need in order to realize their full potentials and impact their communities positively.

Another channel of intervention is Community Impact Education Programme, which is designed to overcome obstacles such as lack of basic school facilities that prevent indigent students in rural and urban communities from obtaining good quality education. The foundation intervenes by working with local communities and schools to improve the learning environment for school children at primary and secondary school levels.

The foundation also sponsors a scholarship scheme tagged Bridge of Hope Scholarship Programme premised on the principle that every child has a right to receive good quality education. More than 850 students, made up of widows’ children and orphans, are currently receiving free education through the programme, according to the foundation.

The foundation has in place a women-empowerment programme structured to provide business and life support services to widows who are the principal providers for their families. It seeks to create the conditions for beneficiaries to operate with a reasonable degree of stability in terms of resources to take care of their basic needs, raise and educate their children and find satisfaction in life.

The empowerment programme is designed to groom and mentor young widow entrepreneurs and young school leavers (orphans) with the objective of raising ambassadors of the foundation through whose success stories other widows and orphans will draw inspirations and hope. It is delivered through seven initiatives.

The initiatives include a microcredit scheme structured to deliver the world’s smallest loans to the world’s poorest people. It delivers interest free loans to widows organised into self-help groups with a flexible repayment plan that spans over a period of 18 months. The scheme has helped to boost economic activities and increase incomes of the beneficiaries.

Another initiative is a skills acquisition and vocational scheme that seeks to assist widows take on the inevitable role as breadwinners. Skills acquisition is a key component of support for widows towards income generating activities, which the scheme is designed to provide.

There is also a small and medium enterprises scheme run with partners to enhance self-initiatives and encourage women, especially widows to venture into entrepreneurship as an effective income generating activity. The scheme grooms such up-coming widow entrepreneurs through training and follow-ups for them to excel in the business.

Another initiative is life support scheme that is delivered through counseling and monthly allowances for non-active widows and orphans. The fifth initiative is agric-business scheme – designed to provide access to finance, knowledge and training to widows and vulnerable women working in the agricultural sector. The scheme empowers them to establish sustainable livelihood and food security through farming.

The other initiatives include legal support services, which help widows and their children gain access and have control over their late husbands’/fathers’ assets and pursue gratuity and work benefits of the deceased. The scheme provides free legal consultations to hundreds of widows who need help.

The seventh scheme is RoSF shelter programme under which the foundation provides accommodation for residence or business for orphans, widows and their children. RoSF has helped more than 300 widows and their children secure accommodations. This affords them an immediate relief, particularly where some widows and their children are usually ejected from their homes by relatives.

Other activities of the foundation include free healthcare checkups, annual Christmas parties for children in orphanages across Lagos and financial empowerment events. All the activities dovetail into the mission of applying the tools of financial independence and educational opportunity to rebuild self esteem and smoothen socio-economic integration of targeted beneficiaries.

The foundation has in place a board that comprises people of integrity, professional excellence and accomplishments. It says its work is produced by faith; its labour prompted by love and its thriving by endurance inspired by hope.