LOTS Charity Foundation is about hope for the hopeless -Tolulope Sangosanya
Hundreds of millions of children are suffering from severe exploitation and discrimination and have become virtually invisible to the world. Children who lack the basic amenities of life are more vulnerable to exploitation because they have less information on how to protect themselves. WOS Nigeria Editor in Chief Ify Onyegbule in this special edition chats with the Founder, LOTS Charity Foundation, Tolulope Sangosanya, a young Nigerian redefining perspectives and mindsets of what obtains in the slums!
WOS – Take us through the journey of lots and why you chose to work in Ajegunle with the kids at the Dust Bin Estate
TOLU – LOTS (Love on the Streets) Charity Foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, 2009. After winning the category for the ‘Best use of Advocacy’ at the 2010 future awards Nigeria, we got lots of media attention and now we are getting known for our work at dustbin estate nationally. Before dustbin estate, LOTS Charity Foundation under the unregistered name ‘Project LOTS’ was already working in other environments, feeding street kids and clothing them.
We have fed over 5,000 street children and other vulnerable children between 2006-2011, we had given educational support to over a hundred kids, relocated a family from the refuse dump site, had one health outreach that reached over 200 kids not counting the clothing drive exercises. I chose Ajegunle not because I did a visibility study; i got there because my spirit led me there. It doesn’t make logical sense but that is what happened. I feel i was wired to work in that environment and that is where i have been working for the last couple of years.
WOS -Brings us to values, what would you say has stunned you the most in the course of your work regarding the women and children?
TOLU – Less than normal Value for human lives is a general problem that i have seen in Nigeria and i discovered that poverty and illiteracy makes it worse. So if we have arguably 70% living below 1 dollar per day and we are still a 3rd world country with high level of illiteracy, DUSTBIN ESTATE is a slum so you can imagine what happens there. I must give it to the women though, even with the little they have, they do the best they can for their children.
WOS -how daunting have the challenges been having to try in your own way to make life easier?
TOLU – Making life better in the community has been with mixed feelings and i have learnt a lot. The best way to help someone solve their problem is by helping them solve it themselves via needs assessment and community map. The challenges are opportunities in disguise. Lack of adequate funding makes you think of ways to generating money on your own. Inadequate workers and volunteers makes you multi task, relating to the disagreeing members of the community makes one develop negotiating skills plus communication skill married with diplomacy.
WOS -you started years ago, if you look at the journey from where you set off, how far have you come and are you there yet?
TOLU – I cry when i think of the journey. This ‘thing’ was supposed to be like my hobby. My way of saying’ Tolu is alive’. I didn’t see this coming. A decade ago i would have thought i will be in the entertainment industry but nothing gives more joy and fulfillment than what i do now. If i have just 24 more hours to live, i wouldn’t change my work for a second. I found my path out of pain and I am proud that God turned it all around for His name to be glorified. I get to the office and see some things and i still can’t believe what we have been able to do since 2005.
WOS -Does government understand there is an estate with such a designation?
TOLU – The Government? Who are those? The official office ones or the REAL Government; the people? Right now i cannot control the office holders, but i can influence the real Government starting with me. I cannot tell the official government anything or call-pain by complaining about what i think they haven’t done when i haven’t done anything first. so my work is still with the real Government and when we have had mile stone achievement, we will get the attention of the official Government.
Do they know about the existence of slums? or that there is poverty? Well, we will have to ask them. I love Governor Fashola and i feel he needs more like minded people to really get his work to the grassroots level.
Making life better in the community has been with mixed feelings and i have learnt a lot. The best way to help someone solve their problem is by helping them solve it themselves via needs assessment and community map. The challenges are opportunities in disguise. Lack of adequate funding makes you think of ways to generating money on your own.
Inadequate workers and volunteers makes you multi task, relating to the disagreeing members of the community makes one develop negotiating skills plus communication skill married with diplomacy. ~ Tolulope Sangosanya
WOS -Take us through the state of mind of the children there? Are they in school are they eager to learn and leave there?
TOLU – We have 150 registered children that attends the LOTS resource center on a daily basis and over 80 on the waiting list yet there are thousands others we only work on a one off basis via health outreaches, food or cloth drive. I can speak for those i deal with daily, they will change the world for good just WATCH OUT for them. They are still doing dress rehearsal in leadership training, They have seen the worst and they will now work for the best. They are better than they were 5 years ago and so am i.
We are learning and unlearning somethings. Develop a child friendly space and see how children will be energized to learn. Their attitudes keep increasing as we show them the possibilities that education opens up for them.
WOS -Medical attention is something they so would need there, how do they manage?
TOLU – Inadequate Medical facilities is a general Nigerian problem, we have one close nice modern structured general hospital with inadequate partially skilled medical practitioners. There is no time i go there that i don’t ‘fight’. It is unbelievably how ignorant those we put our lives in their hands are. Doctors who don’t know about preventing mother-to -child HIV transmission, hospital where there are no counselors to give succor, emergency wards that do shabby first aid dressing on fire victims and the list goes on.
There is no such thing as free medical care that i can tell you as fact so some of my people then turn to spiritualist and ‘in-house’ midwives and chemist for care. We do ideally 2-3 free medical outreaches in the community on an annual basis with the help of other NGOs like Junior Achievement Nigeria but that is nothing compared to the needs of the people, so most times we leave our lives in the hands of fate and God. This year alone i have lost 4 parents to death that i think could have been prevented and it hurts to see the future leaders being partial orphans.
WOS -What is the dream for LOTS regarding these children and their community?
TOLU – My dream personally is to turn DUSTBIN ESTATE to TREASURE ESTATE housing project befitting of human being with basic facilities available for families starting with the 100 families we cater to now.
WOS -If you were not doing this, what would you be doing?
TOLU – If i wasn’t doing this, i will be in entertainment industry.
WOS -What on the average inspires Tolulope Sangosanya and how would she manage with the job when she gets married?
TOLU – Doing what i am doing now when i marry is one challenge i am ready for. I am smiling knowing that it will be a beautiful ride to raising beautiful family married to 150 homes. My unborn children have 150 and counting siblings. Now that is interesting. I think about it daily and i smile. My husband opened his eyes before he proposed right? So it is not like i changed after marriage.
I am sure he would have counted his cost before proposing and i am hoping he is going to read this. [Laughing] What motivates me is DEATH!!! One day i am going to die and that thought makes me live life INTENTIONALLY. Giving is LIVING for me. So every opportunity i get i give, that’s how i get joy.