Dreams, something precious every child grows up with. From when a child is asked the question “What would you want to be when in future?” or a teenager “where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” the replies are always fascinating. Everyone dreams, children, teens, youths, even adults. We all have dreams and visions that keep us going every day and we strive to achieve them. But, the harsh reality of life is that not everyone gets to live their dream(s) or see those precious visions come to life. While some are far more privileged than others and some luckier, others don’t have the same share of privilege or luck others do, and sadly their dreams are never realized.
Sitting with Temitope Olukanmi, a 23-year-old Project Manager who holds a Bsc in Economics from Covenant University, an MSc in Management-Supply Chain Logistics from Durham University. Someone who loves solving complex problems and adding value to people’s lives, and also the founder of The Cedar Tribe – an NGO passionate about helping teens, youths, and young adults realize their dreams, we get to know more about the organization trying to change the harsh reality of children, teens, and youths in Nigeria.
On what the vision behind the brand was, she had this to say
“Cedar Tribe started with a genuine desire for adolescents and youths to maximize their God-given potential. As a teenager, I got so much support from the church, school, family, and friends, and this enabled me to thrive and excel beyond my peers, but sadly, this isn’t the case for most Nigerian teenagers. One in every five children in Nigeria is out of school due to social vices or because their parents can no longer afford fees primarily due to the rising economic hardships in the country and these kids end up being forced into cruel practices to fend for themselves.
Cedar Tribe seeks to tackle this social inequality by enlightening, educating, and empowering them with resources that boost their socio-economic status and position them to compete effectively with the rest of the world. Through these means, we hope that we inspire and empower 1000 trailblazers to impact their communities positively by 2023”.
On steps she and the organization had taken to accomplish that vision, and what other steps would be taken as they proceed with the vision, she replied with
“Cedar Tribes vision is to liberate disadvantaged families from poverty cycles by empowering its adolescents and youths with education. Now, the term “disadvantaged” doesn’t just stand for the “poor” or “marginalized communities” in our environment, and it stands for all the decisions we could have taken that have been limited by our current income, education, network, or even location.
Cedar Tribe aims to improve the socio-economic status of every family by empowering its adolescents and youths with Education-in all its forms. This could be in personal awareness, mental health, skills acquisition, life survival skills, etc. We take a holistic view to enhance the standard of living / the experiences of the teenagers we come across, so we organize:
– Enlightenment conferences on personal awareness, purpose, and mental health to make them more emotionally resilient individuals.
– Partnerships for social change by linking NGOs and Volunteers to education Initiatives and Sponsors that improve the quality and equity of Education.
– Skill acquisition boot camps to boost adolescents and youth earning capabilities and
– Workshops addressing social issues and problems.
Hmm… Education is an enlightening experience. I’m a Christian and my faith has enlightened most of my life decisions, so I plan to include more & deeper spiritual dimensions to triumphant living in our programs. We have a power-packed mentorship boot camp called “Reign” coming up this summer for teenagers, and I’m sure that all participants will connect with their destinies and dominate their world after this”.
What achievements are you most proud of?
“I think I’m most proud of the lives I’ve been able to touch positively. It’s a privilege to be a blessing, so I do not take this achievement/opportunity lightly because many are called, but only a few are chosen”.
On what challenges the brand faced and are still facing in realizing its vision, she responded by saying
“I tell our volunteers that challenges make us creative, prudent, and resourceful. But to answer your question, our primary constraint would be not having our own space/hub”. Being that we work with teenagers, it’d be great to have a safe space/ building that teenagers could come to for all the activities we have scheduled, from a skill/ recreational/ tutoring classes/boot camps to a free library for their exam preparations. Having our own space would go a long way to enhance our programs and reduce our financial obligations”.
How are you working on getting a place to operate?
“At the moment we partner with schools and we are looking to partner with churches, organisations, and hubs in Lagos. Pending when we can afford our own space, we hope to have a consistent partner as some of our skill/mentorship/summer programs would run during the weekends. Overall, the last thing I’d want is to work with a partner that feels like they are doing us a favor. Impact is a two-way street so I’m praying and actively searching for partners that understand and key into our vision as we address salient social issues in education”.
How have you been able to cope with funding for the vision and brand?
“This scripture comes to mind -He who calls you is faithful; he will do it-1 Thessalonians 5:24. Most of our donations have been unsolicited, and before registering this organization, I acknowledged that it was less of me and more of God. I’m just a vessel that he’s using to perform his works here on earth, so when it comes to finances, I leave that to him- God is well able to take care of his own without any man, so honestly, It’s less of a “coping” situation.
In addition to this, we generally take a “lean” approach to all our programs and have a maximum financial limit per program depending on the number of participants. Even as we plan for more events during the year, we have curated fundraising strategies but, ultimately, people key into the genuineness of the vision, so we always make sure that our programs are adequately aligned to the vision”.
We often hear stories of how CEOs or Founders dabble into many ventures before finally settling for one; what is the story behind getting to where you are now?
“Oh my, I can still remember when I collected my first paycheck as a babysitter during my Jss3 summer break. But jokes apart, before the Cedar Tribe Foundation, I was engaged in several leadership roles and internships in diverse sectors. Amongst these roles, I founded the Straight Outta Love Initiative, was the head of the Hospitality Unit at Covenant University, and also a Pre-sessional Mentor for International Post-Graduate Students at Durham University. In all of these engagements, I realized that the nurturing/value-adding factor was a consistent string. So, since I had already been in the sector for over five years, it was wise to incorporate my several initiatives under a foundation”.
How would you expand your vision to parts of Nigeria, the local communities with very little or no access to technology and quality education?
“Partnership, Partnership, Partnership. The importance of alliances cannot be overemphasized and we are big on collaboration at Cedar Tribe. As for local communities, we work with our fantastic partner – Naza Agape Foundation. They have a significant bandwidth in rural communities, and our values align, so there’s a great synergy”.
On how much impact has the Cedar Tribe made in recent times, she replied
“We started operations this year, and we have empowered 219 teenagers. We are more focused on quality rather than quantity, but hopefully, we would have gained significant headway in our 1000 by 2023 goal before the end of the year”.
Looking back at how far you’ve come, If you were to meet your teenage self again, what top 5 advice would you give yourself?
“I’d tell her to take it easy on herself; character and skill develop with time. You were not born to fit in-Don’t compare yourself; your gifting is irrevocable and rare. Life is in seasons- harness every life experience/opportunity; that’s your superpower. There’s nothing that happens to you that is a surprise to God-seek his face and word in every situation. You are blessed to be a blessing-You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you. I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.- John 15:16[AMP]”
Tell CFS 10 Amazing Things People Do Not Know About You
Well, if I told you, it’s no longer a secret and it won’t be amazing anymore – would it?
On what kind of support systems does she think social entrepreneurs, who address poorly met social or environmental needs, transform the way societies work and generate positive social impact, would need to thrive in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, she responded with
“Nigeria and Africa at large have diverse challenges and opportunities, and as a quarter of the world’s population will be in Africa in 2050, there’s a lot of work to be done. Also, with the kind of work we do, we thrive in adversity: that’s when the opportunity arises and the need for our services heightens, so we’re right where we need to be”.
In other areas would she or the brand venture into in the nearest future, she replied
“For now, missions. I’d like us to explore re-inventing Christian missions and make it an alternative holiday destination. By doing this, people will get to travel to rural communities to share the love of God and undertake educational projects whether it be mentoring, school rehabilitation, teaching, skills acquisition, or even if it is just fellowshipping with the marginalized communities for some days”.
Her advice to young Africans who are equally passionate about social change is
“I don’t want to sound like an “aspire to perspire” person, but I’d share five things that have helped me:
- Keep the fire burning; once there is a will, there is always a way.
- All things work together for good – Romans 8:28
- Delay is not Denial
- Do not be timid of your call; destinies are tied to your obedience
- Be true to you-smile on and believe in your abilities
- You are the light of the world, so shine on(you can’t hide light anyways, so be unapologetic about your giftings and rare abilities-Matthew 5:14-16)”
We can help in our very own way kids, teens and youths realize their precious dreams as Cedar Tribe and the many other organizations passionate about social change do, and help create a better society for us and those to come.
Here are some other pictures of Cedar’s impactful outreach.