February is almost done, but we could not let this month go by without bringing you another spotlight feature. In January, we brought you Mawata Kamara and HEAL. This month, we bring you Bunmi Babajide and Merry Hearts Foundation (MHF); a nonprofit organization whose vision is to elevate the standard of education in remote localities in Nigeria.
The inspiration to create Merry Hearts Foundation was born out of an experience that most of us who grew up in Nigeria can relate with. Bunmi Babajide recalls sitting on the balcony with her grandmother in 2005 and seeing a few school children going back home during school hours. Upon inquiry, she was informed that they were being sent home because their parents could not afford to pay their fees. This experience stayed with Bunmi, and in 2007, MHF was formally launched through the combined effort of Bunmi, her sister and friends.
A PhD. Student and electrical engineer by trade, Bunmi is a testament to how a good education can increase global competitiveness. Bunmi has worked in the automotive industry, the logistics industry, consulting, and currently works for a company that makes fiber composites for the aerospace industry. For Bunmi, MHF is an opportunity for her to pay forward the sacrifices her parents made in order for her to get a good education, and also practice the instilled value of caring for others and giving back.
Merry Hearts Foundation was established in response to the educational needs of Nigerian children living in villages and local areas where the quality of education is very poor or almost non-existent. Merry Hearts also works with orphanages to ensure that no child is left behind, regardless of their socio-economic status.
The decision to focus on education was driven by the understanding that globalization characterized by technological advancement has significantly influenced business operations and hiring practices. The World Wide Web has not only blurred geographical boundaries, but also made it possible for businesses to transcend time and space in the traditional sense. A good education is necessary for anyone who wants to be professionally competitive in today’s work environment.
Merry Hearts Foundations’ goal is to support and equip Nigerian students from less privileged localities with the right tools to be globally competitive, by providing educational scholarships and rehabilitating school facilities where possible to help them succeed in the global market.
Merry Hearts Foundation: Programs and Initiatives
In 2007, MHF’s goal was to offer scholarships to children from impoverished backgrounds by providing tuition fees and school supplies such as books, bags, uniforms and shoes. With 2008 came the introduction of two new initiatives; Adopt-a-Classroom, which involves renovating infrastructure such as classrooms, libraries and other school facilities; and Adopt-an-Orphanage, which is geared towards providing the basic needs of children living in orphanages.
The decision to expand MHF’s program offering was driven by the need to understand some of the underlying factors affecting child education in the country. For instance, most primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are lacking the infrastructures necessary to provide a holistic education for the Nigerian child. This problem is magnified in remote villages where majority of the students have not seen or used a computer, or worked in an available or fully equipped science lab. They are essentially been provided theoretical knowledge without the practical experience or application of what is being learnt. Furthermore, the education of children in orphanages is often times overlooked because of the absence of a guardian to look out for their best interest. The few, who get adopted sometimes end up being used as housemaids and care givers, with no consideration given to their education.
For these very reasons, Merry Hearts Foundation expanded its focus from solely providing scholarships to also working with children in orphanages and also championing the rehabilitation of school infrastructures to ensure that children, especially those living in remote areas and from impoverished backgrounds receive quality education.
- Since its official launch in 2007, the Foundation has been able to award a total of 36 scholarships around Nigeria.
- In 2008, the foundation renovated five classrooms in Epe, Lagos State, and adopted an orphanage in Uganda, called Friends Orphanage.
- In 2009, the foundation supported SOS orphanage to celebrate Christmas with the children at the Isolo Lagos facility, and also sponsored the education of 10 children from the facility.
- In 2010, MHF visited two orphanages in Ibadan, (Oyiza Orphanage, and Mercy of God Orphanage), and also did a ground breaking ceremony for the library in Ososo (Akoko Edo), Edo State, Nigeria. A firm believer in continuity, MHF returned to the Mercy of God Orphanage for the mentally challenged in 2011 and also included the Destiny Orphanage in Calabar, Cross River to the list of MHF’s courtesy call. MHF also revisited Oyiza Orphanage and Heritage Orphanage in 2013 and hope to continue to follow up with these orphanages in the future.
- In 2013, efforts were ramped up to get the Ososo Library project in Ekoko Edo off the ground; work on the Library project is currently in full swing. The goal is to provide a library for the Ososo community, equipped with computers, books, internet and also a training center for those who want to learn a trade. The first phase of the project has been completed, and MHF is currently raising funds for the second construction phase.
Same as every venture, Merry Hearts Foundation has had its fair share of challenges, such as continued communication with scholarship recipients. Although, MHF obtained contact information for its first 20 scholars and assigned coordinators to keep tabs on the students, the follow up process was difficult due to inactive email addresses, phone numbers and the inability to directly communicate with the children.
Coordinators also had to ensure that the children remained in school to continue to receive funding. MHF solved this problem by paying out directly to the school, bookshop and other vendors involved in the child’s education.
The biggest challenge faced by MHF is that of scammers using the organization as front to obtain money from individuals, businesses and organizations. MHF encourages prospective sponsors and interested individuals to reach out directly by email to schedule a call, before sending out donations.
Despite all the challenges faced in previous years, Merry Hearts Foundations hopes to continue providing a healthy learning environment for the Nigerian child. This involves a lot of fundraising efforts and partnerships with people and organizations to make things happen. MHF’s programs are funded through the support of donors and founders of the organization. A fundraising gala event is also organized every other year to showcase accomplishments of the previous years and also acquaint sponsors, donors and investors with future plans and how they can support a great cause.
Merry Hearts is currently looking to partner with individuals and companies who are aligned with their mission of providing education to children who cannot afford it and also meeting the basic needs for children living in orphanages. Projects that need funding include the Ososo Library project in Akoko Edo, Edo State, and also the continuous support of various orphanages that MHF’s supports.
“Education is huge, and it is becoming more expensive for many people to afford. It is also hard to offer education to a hungry child, so supporting basic needs and education remains MHF’s vision now and in the future”.
For Bunmi Babajide, co-founder of Merry Hearts Foundation, the following quote by Nelson Henderson sums up her vision on giving and caring for others. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Bunmi know that not everyone can share her vision, however she expects people to have at least one thing they are passionate about; something that is not self-serving. The reward for her is immeasurable.
Click Here to find out more about Merry Hearts Foundation.