Posted by Patricia Iwelunmor on
Mrs.Patricia Onyelo Iwelunmor, an all-rounder, educationist and a helper to the helpless, is a Home Economist, Designer, Hair dresser, Caterer and a Food Nutritionist....
Mrs.Patricia Onyelo Iwelunmor, an all-rounder, educationist and a helper to the helpless, is a Home Economist, Designer, Hair dresser, Caterer and a Food Nutritionist. She is the founder/president of the Morning Star Foundation, a non-governmental organization which renders humanitarian services to the masses. Excerpts from our chat with her:
"I HAIL from Delta State and I was born in the early fifties . I attended Saint Joseph Primary School, Bori-Ogoni in Rivers State and Holy Rosary Secondary School, Port-Harcourt. I was in form three when the war started so, I had to stop school. My father was a policeman and later, things became so difficult because of the civil war and suddenly, my husband came to ask for my hand in marriage. I got married in 1970 to Mr. Celestine Iwelunmor. I started teaching in 1974 in Lagos after having my second child. After teaching for two years, I went to the African Church Teachers Training College, Ifako, at Agege. On graduation, I was posted to the Local Authority (LA) School, Ikeja, and later to Bola Memorial School, Ikeja. After another stint at the college, I was at the LA School again at Agege and I taught for one year before going to the Lagos State College of Education which was then at Onitolo in Surulere where I read Home Economics. After the first session, we were tranferred to Ijanikin. After I got the NCE, I did my NYSC in one of the schools in Mile-2, Lagos, and after the service, I started teaching at Festac Community Secondary School. After three years, I proceeded to the Delta State University, Abraka, where I graduated with a B.Sc in Home Economics. After teaching for some time, I proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for a Master's programme in Adult Education. After I graduated, I went for a Master's programme in Philosophy . Currently, I am about rounding off a Ph.D programme in Philosophy at the University of Lagos. I am married with six children.
The Morning Star Foundation is a non-profit organization which was founded on July 18, 1998. I was motivated into establishing the organization by my project supervisor in school. I was already a bit into this before my supervisor advised me to take to it fully. My project topic was Teenage Mothering and my supervisor felt it was a good motivation for setting up a non-governmental organization and so he encouraged me. Another reason why I went into this was that I felt bad seeing young girls dropping out of school and some even going into prostitution due to one problem or another. Then I would stop by on the road and would chat with any of them I saw hustling. Some of them told me they were willing to stop hustling. I trained them in some vocations to enable them earn money and cater for themselves. Those that are educationally talented, I saw them through school. I got the knowledge of vocations such as catering, sewing, baking, hair dressing, etc through studying Home Economics.
The vision of the organization is to become an important force in the developmental empowerment of the ‘Runaway from homes, wild street kids, an awareness of the reality of AIDS among students and adults, taking care of the sick, the widows, the senior citizens and the orphans left behind by couples who died of AIDS. Also, teaching different communities on how to show love to people living with HIV and never stigmatize them.
The organization is managed by nine-member board of trustees who are seasoned, prominent, and successful professionals in their fields. I am the founder and also the CEO/President of the organization. We also have other trained members in the organization and in various departments. We have the Administrative Dept., Executive Dept., Vocational Training Dept. and then the Secretariat. Other targets of mine are the motorcyclists and market women. One day, I found some motorcyclists quarreling and when I asked the cause of their quarrel, I was told that three of them share one hired motorcycle a day, and one of them after doing his own hours, refused to release the motorcycle for the next man to work with. I was filled with sympathy, and so I established a programme for motorcyclists. Some months ago, I called some prominent doctors and we did an HIV awareness programme for the motorcyclists. I enlightened them on the dangers of taking alcohol while on duty. I also advised them against using their hard earned money to sleep with prostitutes when they have wives at home.
I also gave out ten motorcycles on hire purchase to some selected motorcyclists who were sharing one motorcycle. I gave out six motorcycles during the first week of May, 2006. Naturally, getting motorcyclists together is not easy but I was able to do that because I used the method I know best. Being a caterer has made me realize that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so I went to all the motorcycle parks in Festac and spoke to their chairmen and luckily, they cooperated with me. I would cook varieties of food and then call them to gather at my place to eat and then while they are eating, I would be giving my talk.
I did this several times before I could fully gain their attention. I also run a programme for market women with the aim of ensuring that they are always neat even though they sell at the market. I made them understand the importance of cleanliness in the market, and today, some of the them in Festac and Agboju markets have improved on cleanliness. Sometime ago, I travelled to my village (Onicha-Ugbo in Delta State) in the company of some of my members to carry out an HIV awareness campaign. I printed and distributed pamphlets on HIV to several schools in my town. I still hope to do more for people and touch lives greatly but it all depends on funds. I don’t get any assistance from the government. When I have projects to embark on, I borrow money from cooperatives but sometimes, my husband assists me when he feels like. My children also assist me with funds. I’ve applied for loans in banks but they still have not given me a positive answer.
Running the NGO and managing my family is not difficult because my children are all grown. Although some of the women in politics are outspoken, so many of them are not participating in the decision-making process. Nigeria has not reached the stage where women will come out to say they want to rule the country. I don’t wish to become a politician because one has to be a liar in order to become a successful politician.
Life should be simple because we all came to this world with nothing and we’ll go back with nothing. Serving the masses is a good legacy to leave behind and that is why I live for the masses to live. I don’t believe in enjoying alone. When I go for functions, my driver will sit close to me and whatever I eat, I share with him. I’m sad when I see people gathering leftovers in parties to eat because those serving the food should be able to stop them from doing that, and then dish from the pot for them
Mothers should not spare the rod and spoil the child. They should not defend their child when the child is wrong.
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