Lion Olive Odimegwu’s story is that of determination and resilience to succeed and survive all odds.
When she lost her father at infancy, she might not have understood the magnitude of challenges the loss of a father posed for her family. However, with time, the realities of life set in and the chances to further her education to tertiary level were truncated, the only escape for young Olive was early marriage. She was married at 19.
Life appeared good until, again, tragedy struck. She was widowed with four children to cater for. The young widow was determined to push beyond the vicissitudes of life.
Today, Olive has accomplished what many other people whose family background and foundations were not as turbulent as hers. She has successfully achieved some of her life goals, including ensuring that her children acquired qualitative education, and is pursuing her passion for helping the less privileged. Achieving the latter led her to become a member of Lions Club, where she has distinguished herself.
Lion Olive Odimegwu, president of the Yaba Golden Lions Club, spoke to Daily Sun recently.
How and why did you join the Lions Club?
All my life, I have been involved in running charity events, either in the church or in my immediate village community. I did this for years because, as a child and a teenager, I knew what it was to be in need. That experience fired me to be hardworking and empathic towards my fellow humans, and I was really just looking to meet some new people who shared my love for service and the need to put a smile on a lost soul. Lions Club provided that platform, the need to serve humanity.
As a widow, I am sure you have personal challenges. Where do you still find the strength to do charity?
I refuse to let my situation deter me from my destiny or my promise to God. I have come to realise that the most generous people do not have so much; it could have been worse for me. Yet God gave me the strength to bear my husband’s loss and train (and still training) my children. What better ways to thank God than by being a vessel for good works?
What do you want people to know about the benefits of joining Lions Club?
We are a growing club. Even though we have passed our 100th birthday, we still need more hands on deck. There are so many opportunities to get involved with our great club. If you truly have the heart to serve, Lions Club is a great place to work on strengthening your skills, if you are new to community involvement and philanthropy. And if you just want to hang out, there are ways to do that, too, community outreaches. I think it is a blessing to be part of a group whose common purpose is charity and philanthropy. People are suffering. People need help. Sometimes, I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all my wishes come true.
What are your goals as the president of Yaba Golden Lions Club?
I want to appeal to people to, please, come to our aid. We have a project to perform 100 cataract surgeries. I believe we can do it. We want to create more awareness so that we can successfully carry out this project. We need people to believe in this noble cause and see the need to be part of it.
What is the most important agenda for your club right now?
We need funds so, so badly. It is very expensive to have eye surgeries and take care of old and needy people. I am very thankful to past and present donors and members of my club who bring out a substantial amount of their time and resources to push our goals. A lot of us are really not financially buoyant and, considering the economy of the country, feeding the hungry and buying food items costs a whole lot.
What is your favourite thing about charity work?
Like I said, I have been involved in charity for quite some time. I love that smile, the light and life that come to a person’s eyes when you have alleviated a pressing need for them. That look remains constant in my mind.
How do you relax?
I am so bad at relaxing, I think it’s been years since I did that intentionally. I don’t really eat out or even drink out! I love to take a walk when I can, but my secret favourite thing is taking a walk in a quiet street or environment. It enables me to reflect and process my thoughts.
What is your forte as a person?
Becoming a widow at a very early age for me was like reliving my childhood nightmare all over again. As a child, I never knew my father and life was hard. I promised myself that that would not be the same situation for my children. When I am challenged, I get more motivated, and every challenge makes me a stronger and better person. Inspired by and drawing strength from the scriptures, I went into the footwear business head-on and have not looked back ever since. Nothing scares me. The only fear I have is when I am not in line with God. I suppose, because of all I have been through, I find it easy talking and counselling people. I am a student of optimism. I believe that tomorrow will be better, no matter the circumstances.
What is your advice to young widows?
Look unto God and God alone, and just be rest assured that every other thing will fall in place. With Him, everything becomes possible. Over the years, my business has suffered. I have endured several other challenges but, by the Grace of God, I am able to carry on because I cried and still cry only to him. He gave me and is still giving me the strength to move on.
So, keep moving, keep striving, keep working hard and keep believing in God, because you will be disappointed if you don’t. The world is not going to stop rotating or stand still because you lost your husband and father of your kids. We all have our individual crosses to bear. Carry yours with quiet dignity. No one will carry your cross for you. Other women have passed through this and survived it with flying colours. You too shall survive it.