#COVIDPositiveStories – Jennifer Agunloye Okoliko

Meet Jennifer Agunloye Okoliko, she is the founder of the Girls Should Thrive Initiative (GiST), an NGO focused on raising female leaders from disadvantaged communities through entrepreneurship, education, and technology. This is her #COVIDPositiveStory;

Our COVID-19 project is a Mobile food bank providing food for struggling families during the lockdown especially those who depend on daily earnings for survival.

As an organization operating in the second most populous state in the nation with one of the highest level of illiteracy and poverty, and also with our four years experience in working with marginalized and vulnerable groups, we saw that hunger would be the second biggest tragedy to hit after the pandemic.

This inspired us to start the mobile food bank to sensitize families in these communities on the reality on the ground as well as provide relief materials particularly food supplies to help support them during this period and curb the other side effects ranging from security and health challenges.

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Our Mobile food bank delivers food from house to house during the lockdown. We have a database of over 4000 people from different communities who cannot afford to eat since they are unable to run their business. So far we have raised over a million naira and fed just over 500 families across Kano state in the last 10 days.

Our beneficiaries include a pregnant widow with nine children and a starving family who had not eaten in four days. Part of our sustainability strategy is to continue to run the food bank by gathering dry food from families across the state as well as empowering some of the women into farming.

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This project has further emphasized to me that there is a huge gap between the government and the people which needs to be bridged quickly, so resources can easily and speedily be disseminated to those who really need it in times like this.

I’ve also realized that these vulnerable groups of people don’t get information as quickly as those in urban communities yet there are a lot of assumptions that everyone is aware of the reality on the ground and how to comply. The truth is there are so many myths flying around these communities and there is a need to constantly confront those myths with sensitization and information that they can easily relate with. That way we are able to have better compliance from them.

This experience has taught me two things. One of them is that nothing is impossible especially when it is a vision that involves meeting the needs of others. All you need to do is take the first step and things will always fall in place. The second thing I’ve learnt is the importance of having the right mentors, this will always help to guide you in making the right decisions and taking the right steps in crucial times.