UK Celebrity Woman, Erelu VICTORIA OMOLOLA OLAGOKE-HARLEY
Friday 3rd November, the CEO of Abike Ade Foundation, Erelu Victoria Omolola Olagoke-Harley, held 2023 Abike Ade Foundation Annual General Meeting Night in Lagos. During her speech she talked about how she almost commit suicide over 17 years ago. Below are the excerpts of her story.
“I want to appreciate everyone for being here this year, especially, for being here today to witness another history in the making. Indeed I am grateful to you all. Today, I want to tell you the reason behind this charity. I am sure many of you want to know the genesis of Abike Ade Foundation.
Abike Ade Foundation was founded in United Kingdom in the year 2006. Before 2006, we have been around doing the same thing, supporting the needy and the less priviledged. It is not just Nigerian abroad but including the white people the whereever you come from Abike Ade stands up to support and to reach out to the needy. This is our aim and objectives.
“The reason behind the charity, before I went to U.K., at age 18, I started working with the 5th Nigerian Airways then, as air hostess and I worked with them till 1987 before I travelled to UK. Getting to UK, I did not just travel because wanted to JAPA, I went there because I wanted to study and my late husband actually forced me to go there to study because I only had GCSE at that time. So I went to UK to study, I went to South Bank Polytechnic at that time, it was when I graduated from there that they changed it to a University, it is now South Bank University.
In UK, In Elephant and Castle London, I graduated in 1991 then. I had two wonderful children, unfortunately, the plan with my late husband for me was to finish my education and come back to Nigeria to help him with his business but unfortunately I lost him. He died, he was killed by armed robber in this country and I became a widow. Up till today, I never remarried.
“I have two wonderful children they were very young. At that time my daughter was 12 years old and my son was 6 years old and it was so rough for me to the point that I started begging. Begging to sustain the life of my children and myself. It was very hard, I had to go Brixtol market, after their daily market, the reminant thrown out I will go and pick to feed my children. That is how I started my journey, it was very hard and tough. I did not have papers to remain in United Kingdom at that time. I had to be going into family houses for shelter, so I go from one house to the other for shelter. But I give glory to God, as I was struggling, it got to a point that I nearly took my own life. I wanted to commit suicide because life was so hard. A lot of people are hearing about Abike Ade Foundation but you do not know my history. I have tasted hardship. “Eni ti ko ba mo ikan to nfe ni iya ko le mo ohun ta nse yi” meaning “anyone that has not gone through hardship can not understand what we are doing”. Whatever you are going through today, I have passed through it I am a living testimony.
“I was all over the place running helter-skelter but because I did not commit suicide, I promised and I vowed to God that if I can escape this hardship I will give back to my community. That is how I started. I did not have the money, I am not a millionaire but I am a working class girl. After the hardship subsided for few years, I went to University again to Greenwich University to study Psychiatric in Nursing my second degree and when I finished I started doing this charity, even though I have been doing it before then. So I started giving things out. I picked from the street of London people that are homeless. I did not come here to tell you tales but I am here to tell you nothing but the truth. I have a living testimony. Aunty Bunmi Lawson joined Abike Ade Foundation in 2011, and when we pick destitutes from the street there is no place to house them. This woman (Mrs Bunmi Lawson) gave us her house to accomodate these people that roam the streets of London.
“Mostly, Igbos and Yorubas, she can attest to it. Even when I give her money that I need to buy food because we are feeding them Aunty Bunmi Lawson will say I don’t need your money I will feed them. People like Aunty Bunmi and Lawyer Olaokun were there to support with their money and we are able to do more than expected so we were going from one street to the other.
Feeding the homeless persons. During Christmas at any point in time especially, during the cold time, you will see us wearing our T-shirt on the streets of London feeding people. We were so happy doing it. We don’t look left or right before doing anything, we are just doing it. We did not know it will get to where it is today. Now we are celebrating 14th year of Abike Ade Foundation over a decade that we collected charity registration in UK. 2014, we decided to register the charity here in Nigeria with CAC and in 2016, we had the same gathering in Lagos at Airport Road. We had top personalities like the Ooni of Ife, all of them were present and to God be the glory this is our second time in Nigeria and I want to use this opportunity to say a big thank you to Abike Ade Foundation. I am not the one that bears Abike Ade Foundation, but I am the CEO. I want to say a big thanks to the people behind Abike Ade Foundation. May the Lord continue to uphold you.
– Olusola Abiodun