•Reveals Why She Took To Philanthropy
Engr Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo was one of those who City People honoured a few days back in Lagos at the City People Awards for Excellence. Born in Ondo State. She attended Ladoke Akintola University and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Mechanical Engineers as well as a member of many other professional bodies including COREN. She was formerly the Head of Mechanical Engineering Unit, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
As the Head, Mechanical Engineering Unit at the Works and Service Unit of FUNAAB, she was responsible for Power Generation through the use of generators. The University had quite a large number of them and she was responsible for their maintenance and servicing. She determined the load requirement and forecast in power need of the University.
In the Automobile section, she oversaw the maintenance and servicing of the University fleet. She was also responsible for the activities and coordination of the work of all University drivers. For the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Section, she oversaw the installation, maintenance and servicing of more than 1000 units of air-conditioners and refrigerators including heavy-duty A/C, split and window unit type; she was also in charge of the welding and fabrication section where she designed and developed various projects involving metal welding and fabrication including seats in lecture theatres, beds in the hostel, gates, water scaffold, etc.
She was responsible for all the administrative work of the Mechanical Engineering Unit including being a member of University sensitive committees. Her other administrative works included the coordination and delegation of duties to all the technicians and artisans in her Unit. She was also accountable for the preparation of contracts for repairs and maintenance of the above-mentioned section, the retirement of all cash advances, supervision of the workers in her unit and contractors working for the Unit and Member, Tender Evaluation Committee, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
She is presently the CEO of FunmiAyinke Nigeria limited, a global project management, Consultancy, Construction as well as Facility management conglomerate. They have as clients, top blue-chip companies, government parastatals as well as ministries, state governments, and international organizations.
Honours and awards have been flowing both from professional as well as other bodies that have been touched by her activities. Most outstanding however on the professional level is the Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Mechanical Engineers, which is the highest the body can give to any of its professional. On the philanthropic level, it has been tons of Awards and honours one of which is Matron of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Ogun State Branch. This is among several others.
In this interview, she spoke about her life, passions and struggles that made her decide to be a philanthropist and how the life experiences have turned out to bring the best out of her.
At what point did you start helping people, devoting resources to the needy?
I won’t deceive you, it has been long. Even as an undergraduate when I didn’t have, and I had to struggle to pay fees, I was always doing something. I recall one instance, while I was at LAUTECH struggling to pay school fees, there was this woman whose daughter dropped out school because of 1,000 Naira. I paid the money and friends were looking at me and saying, ‘you sef’, nawa o, you cannot pay your fees yet you are taking care of someone else’s child. That was me. I recall another instance, I had this friend, whose room was opposite mine. I had paid school fees and it was few days to examination. She approached me, and said, Funmi, there is trouble, exams are here and I am yet to pay school fees. I had money, at least enough to feed myself for the remaining days in school. Well, it so happened that that same amount was also enough to pay her school fees. Of course, we paid the fees and had to live on garri all through the examination. We did it with joy. That was the type of life that I lived when I was in school. So after school, you could have imagined what I felt like when I had more than enough to help others.
So what really attracts you to helping people?
It is a passion. I love my job as an Engineer, a female Engineer at that, but I am beginning to take so much joy in the passion for helping for others, especially when you see people appreciate what you have done, old people, young people, people you never knew before, whose life you turn around by giving so little.
Does this have to do with your growing up?
[Countenance changes] Hmmmmm. I was raised by a single mother. We were raised by our mother. We lost our father at a tender age and our mother was a teacher. So you can only imagine what it felt like raising three children. I had to drop out of medical school because we could not afford the money to buy books and other things we needed. I lost two years in the process. Taking that decision was not easy for me and my mother. The day I informed my mother, I cried and cried. She also wept. But I made up my mind that I would do my best and ensure that even as a Professional Engineer, I was successful. I also decided, deep within me that as long as I live, I will help others and ensure that no child has to go through what I went through.
With all the Courses you had taken in Medicine and Surgery, how was the transition to now read Engineering?
Hmmmm. You can ask that question again. It was never easy. But God gave me a guardian angel who saw me through. My knowledge of Mathematical Engineering was down since I was no longer taking courses in Mathematics as a Medical student, but he directed me to lecturers who helped me. I ended up coming out with a 2:1 in Mechanical Engineering.
So how much have you expended on Funmilayo Ayinke Humanity Foundation since inception?
It is difficult for me to estimate. But I think it will be close to half a billion Naira. You can see how we operate. We don’t limit ourselves to once- in -a -year activities or school period activities. A lady needed baby things, she contacted me, I verified the need and send 150k to her, she sent the proof of receipt to our Whatsapp group page, everyone’s happy, life goes on. Others have special needs, they raise them and we take care of the needs. These are apart from school fees; things you need in school. Don’t forget, the people I am talking about here are children of single parents or widows who cannot afford to make ends meet. The tears of joy in their faces, the way they express themselves inspire me to do more. Only last December we were able to touch the lives of widows again in Abeokuta, Ogun State. We gave many grinding machines, other things to empower them and for some who needed cash, we also provided cash. We ended up giving everyone cash, one way or the other, bags of rice were also shared We touched over four thousand lives. Many still continued to come after what we did at the palace of Olowu of Owu in Ogun State and we have been helping them. We will continue to.
We started out never really caring about how many people we touched their lives, believe me we have done so much for many.
Have you been challenged by people about having political ambitions and maybe this is why you are doing all these?
Yea, I had a situation last December in which some women came to me that I should go and contest and that they are ready, or bring someone out they will support. I laughed it off. That has never crossed my mind. I am not from Ogun and the large chunk of beneficiaries, the widows are from Ogun so there is no way I can set out to woo them for votes. I am just doing what God has put in my heart.
Given this large bill, how do you finance the giving you have been doing?
It’s God’s doing. Don’t forget I am an Engineer. Ten per cent of our profits in Engineering Services is set apart for humanitarian activities.
How does it feel, a female Mechanical Engineer, in man’s world? Do they discriminate against the female Engineers as we hear in some other professions?
No, not at all. They rather encourage us, they see us as their little sisters, the men in Engineering are so helpful. They are willing to help at any point in time. That’s why you see women aspiring to positions of leadership in COREN and others. They want the women to step out and lead while they stay at the background. Engineering men are quite supportive. They are always there for us. I can boldly say that.