According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, about 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030 due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global security.
And unless bold actions are taken to accelerate progress, especially actions to address major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition and the inequalities affecting the access of millions to food, FAO says hunger will not be eradicated by 2030″.
But in a bid to put an end to hunger in Nigeria, a humanitarian, an Enterprenur, and a cruasder of Christ, Tinuola Babafemi through her NGO, House of Praise and Prayer Ministry, (HOPAP ) is on a mission to end hunger with her project which is centered on reaching out to as many as possible with foods and making sure that no household goes hungry by providing free food bank.
Tinuola shares her story of how she struggled to survive outside Nigeria, why she started HOPAP, the impacts she has made and her plans towards the future with Sesan Awobiye
Tell us your background and how it has influenced your project?
I was brought up in a Christian home. My father was an elder of The Apostolic Church. My mother was a deaconess. They were very devoted in their religion. They loved Christ. My parents loved Christ and they brought us up in the same manner. I particularly followed their footsteps. I loved to go to church, anything of God, anything of Christian religion. That is where the interest of having a House of Praise and Prayer Ministry came from. It is the background, I was born into it.
My name is Tinuola Babafemi. I am a Nigerian, I am from the South West, Yoruba land from Ilesha. My parents are from Ilesha, but we grew up in Ibadan. I did most of my secondary school and some part of my education in some parts of Ibadan, before I moved on to Canada.
The name of our NGO is House of Praise and Prayer Ministry, (HOPAP). We started this Charitable Ministry on the 15th of December 2015 and this year by the grace of God we will be celebrating our 7th anniversary. We are based in Ontario, Canada, we are Canada incorporation and we are working across Ontario.
HOPAP Charity Organization is aimed at eradicating hunger in the world by 2029. There shouldn’t be anybody hungry in the world. So we started from Ontario, Canada.
Why did you choose to come to Nigeria?
Ontario, Canada was our first point of call and we are going all over Ontario, and now we are coming to Nigeria in October, and that is why I am here in preparation for that. Because obviously, I am a Nigerian, a proud Nigerian, I love my country, we are more hungry in Nigeria than in Canada, you understand what I mean. Here in Canada, there are social services, and there is government support, but in Nigeria, I am not saying there is no government support but I know there are huge gaps to fill, and we are willing to do that.
What are your impacts in the Society so far?
It has impacted society positively because we have been able to smile on people’s faces. When people walk into our food bank, they feel happy, asking are you guys Nigerians, they are so surprised. When you see a white person with blonde hair, with a smile, coming to ask people if we are Nigerian, and they keep reconfirming that we are Nigerian, that makes me happy, that makes me proud to be a Nigerian impacting all the society, blacks and whites alike.
Is this the first time your foundation is coming to Nigeria?
Yes, it is our first time.
So, where do you intend to start?
We are going to start in Ibadan because I grew up in Ibadan. Then to Lagos, and we take it across Nigeria.
How do you intend to reach out to people? What is your plan?
We are going to create awareness. we are going to get a location, a big warehouse. We are going to have different spots. Ibadan is a big city. We plan to have spots in Oke Ado, Ring Road, different areas where people can easily pick up foods. Different locations. There is going to be a warehouse from where all those foods will go out to different locations.
What is your organization offering to the people?
It is going to be both. We know some people are homeless, they don’t have means of cooking food. In the past, I have been homeless, I have been hungry, and I went to food bank, they gave me groceries, I had nowhere to cook it and I had to give out, so from that experience, I know that people are hungry, but they had nowhere to cook whatever you give them. So those people it is better you give them cooked food and uncooked food. So when people come to register we find out their situation so we know how to deal with them accordingly.
So would you say that It was your experience that prompted you to create this organization?
Yes. Because I have decided that If God can take me through that pain, I don’t want anybody to be hungry.
Can you tell us more about your experiences?
When we migrated to Canada, I was with my children. I have two children. It was very difficult for me to keep a job for me. I don’t know what went wrong, so If I couldn’t keep a job, I can’t earn a living and from there I was broke I resorted to going food bank to get food, and most of the time they didn’t have cooked meals, they don’t have facilities, they gave me what they had, the groceries and there is nowhere to cook the groceries, so I decided that it is also good to have a kitchen and a pantry. We are going to have both.
How did you come out of the painful experience?
Yes, I decided to get a loan and set up my own business. When I set up my own business, as you know it takes a few years or a few months, depending on how aggressive or the experience I have in the business to survive. So I have lived in my grocery store for six months. I got a place for my two children, where they lived together, actually, my daughter was in the university, she was living in the university facility, I moved my son to stay with her, and I was living in my grocery store. I chose my business over my accommodation because I was determined not to be hungry, and to beg anybody again. So, I created my own business and I lived inside my grocery store. I went to register with a local gym, in the morning I would g to the gym, take my showers, and just use their equipment for two minutes. I would do my make-up and stay in the front of my business, selling my products, and it worked, so that was how I came out of the situation.
After Ibadan where else do you plan to go?
Our first point of call is Ibadan, because I am from Ibadan, and I have local contacts in Ibadan. It is a good point to start. I have friends, I have families that can support, to put me through what I needed to do. So Ibadan is a good place to start, I mean Oyo State, then we go to Lagos State.
Like how many people do you plan to reach out to?
As many people that need the help. It is not one person’s job. It is not my own job alone, together we can end hunger in Nigeria. So when you start it and people see how effective it is, people will support you, it is normal. I started it alone. My ministry started alone in Canada and one morning, I discovered that we were running out of food, I sent out ministry support letter to every contacts on my e-mail and my letter got to a particular man that I didn’t even know, and I think he had a friend in the government set-up, a local government, he sent the letter to the local government I got an email, Pastor Tinuola Babafemi, we heard about your project, ‘Project Feed 5000’ we are curious about it, how can we help you, how can we partner with you, we have read and heard a lot about you and the government started giving out grant support. So when you start and people see your commitment and you are really doing what you say you want to do and you are making impact. It becomes everybody’s work, that is what I believe
I learnt you have a published book, please, can you tell us about it
My book is tells about my testimonies. Testimonies of what has done for me. I put them together in a book to tell the world what I have been through and how God saw me through and how much God has been kind to me.
What Niche do you want to create in the society?
I want to make sure that nobody is hungry in Nigeria. Do you know the meaning of hunger?
For people to be hungry? Do you know how bad hunger is, for people not to have something to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I want to make sure nobody is hungry again in Nigeria. That is my dream and it will come to pass.
Listening to your live experiences, one will say that you were able to come out of it because you stayed abroad, and life abroad as many thinks it’s better and easier, can you please, tell us how it was and how you think young people here in Nigeria can come out of such situation?
That is the mistake most people make. There is nowhere that is fair. Life over there is not even fair. It’s determination. There are people with Canadian passports that are hungry, with British passports that are hungry, that are poor. Being a British, being a foreigner, being a Canadian, doesn’t make you rich, it doesn’t make you make it in life. So it is individual’s determination. There are hungry people in Canada, if there were no hungry people there will be nothing like food bank. The difference is that there is help, there is somewhere to run to. So when you are in a difficult situation where everything is bad, be determined. Don’t give up. The first thing is don’t give up. When you give up, you cannot plan, you cannot think of the next thing. No matter how bad it is you can still come out. Things were very difficult, I was losing my job, I decided to set up a business, I didn’t have money, I took up a loan, you said Canada is easier than Nigerian, I actually got my loan from Nigeria. In Canada they would tell you, you have no credit history, you don’t have this, you don’t have that, it is very difficult, I had to get loan from family and friends, the loan was from Nigeria. Part of the groceries I started with, a friend shipped it into Canada. Food groceries like garri, beans and so on, from Nigeria. So it is determination. Whenever you are in trouble everything down, you have to remember that being broke is not the end, you have to see yourself getting up again, and you have to keep moving, that is my own belief
At this stage of your life, would you say that you have found fulfillment?
Yes, I am very happy with what I am doing, I believe I am fulfilled.
How do your children see you?
Sometimes, your children don’t say much about you until the opportunity presents itself. Few days ago, I was celebrating my 50th birthday and they invited my children to give testimonies about what they know about me, or what they feel about me. Wow! it was mind-blowing what they said and I felt so happy. My son was very proud of my achievements, he said mummy said she would do this, and she did it, I didn’t know that they were observing that when I say something, I would do it, so they have positive testimonies to give. My daughter said there was no mother that could have brought her up, because she believes I am understanding, they said all sorts of nice things, so they have good testimonies to give.
What does the NGO plans to achieve?
To see to the end of hunger in Nigeria. To make sure that nobody goes hungry.
You said earlier that you reside in Canada even during your hard times, why did you leave Nigeria to Canada?
Migration. We migrated for better education for my children. So that is my reason for relocating to Canada.
For you to have an strong NGO like this in Canada, you must have gained support from the government. Tell us how much support are you enjoying from the government?
Without any support from the government there is no programme that can survive. Yes, individuals may help, but government carries most of the responsibilities, but before government support your vision, they have to see what you are doing. The same thing happens in Canada. We first started as a ministry, and when we ran out of resources, we wrote ministry support letters, we were lucky enough to see one person, out of the letters we sent out, to help us get the letter to the right place, and they reached us by themselves, because they see the difference we are making in the community. So I believe it is the same in Nigeria, when they see what you are doing and you reach out, they will support, it will not be just individuals supporting.
You cannot compare Canada with Nigeria in terms of getting this support, have you considered some of the stress you may have to undergo in Nigeria to get support?
I won’t go through any stress. Nigerian government is a very sensible government. They are educated they know what they are doing, when they see something that works, they will support. The people they are trying to work with are not making it work, when they see team of people that are making it work, they will be happy to team up with them. I am positive, I have no problem, when we reach out to them they will support us.
We will reach out to them, they will see what we are doing, they will be convinced and they will support us. I will remind you when we get to the stage. Every government want good things for their country but when we are not getting the right and adequate personnel, it will not work. When they see people doing things that have to be done and they are doing it in the right way, they will support.
What would you say about Nigerian youths?
I love the youths in Nigeria. They are very strong, because when we were growing up, it wasn’t as tough as this. And these things keep happening and Nigerians youths still have joyful disposition, they make use of every opportunity to make themselves happy regardless of what is going on. I believe in them, I believe with a little help, most Nigerian youths will do better.
What project will you have for them?
When you have a charity organization you will focus on a particular theme, our own NGO is to end hunger, so if any youth is hungry, it still covers them. They still come to have their lunch, dinner, we are still doing something for them. Food is number one. when they have enough food, they can think right and think of what to do next, you cannot promise, accommodation, jobs, you have to focus on one thing when youths are not hungry there will be less trouble in the community, they are happier, they can think well and they can plan well, I think it is the foundation. We give them the foundation.
Please, what is your message for the youths at this hard times as a mother?
They should stay away from trouble and not to give up. To believe in themselves. Being broke is not being poor and there has to be break down before breakthrough. Sometimes, when you go down, it means you are still coming up.
Aside this project of ending hunger, what else do you do?
I want to continue to expand my ministry. I am an evangelical pastor. I like to preach the gospels, I like to travel to different countries for ministry works. That is what I love doing and I will keep doing that.
How long have you been in this Ministry?
It is going to be seven years now.
What is the experience like?
Very interesting. It’s been very interesting. There are so many churches in Nigeria, but all the churches are not producing food banks, food supports, basic facilities the communities. So we are bringing from Canada, from my own church to Nigeria.
It’s not my plan, but God knows the future. My plan is to bring out the food bank aspect of the ministry to come and support my people in Nigeria.
We have seen kindhearted Nigerians trying to reach out like this but because it is not channeled to the right people, it does not get to people that needs them instead, the people they gave the project to either pocket them, or reach out to minimal number of people, how do you tend to bridge that gap of corruption?
Thank you that’s a very good question. During COVID-19, I was watching on the social media, some of the items to give out to the communities and it got expired in the warehouse. If they had given it to their families I would be happier. Boxes of Indomie noodles, bags of rice, all sort of food stored in the big warehouses, expired. And that is why I came on ground. I am going to arrange my own team. I will come with my team from Canada to supervise and train some of Nigeria they will be in charge of every unit. My trusted team, I am going to bring them in from Canada and in Nigeria am not going to rely or partner with just anybody that I don’t trust. It’s going to be my team we are going to it, put it in place, and we can entrust to reliable personnel as we go along.
Considering the present situation in the Nigeria. the economy, insecurity, and others, what can you tell us as a pastor, evangelist, and a humanitarian?
We have to keep praying. I know we pray a lot in Nigeria, and that is what is sustaining us. We have to keep praying, hold on to our faith, and we have to change from our evils ways. The Bible says if my people that are called by my name, if they are sober and they come before me let us be sober, let us pray to God and He will heal our land, It will happen one day.
Do you have other project or businesses you do that you will like us to hear, please?
Okay, please, let’s hear them.
I own a kitchen in two locations. Mummy Afro Caribbean is the name. They in both Mississauga and Etobicoke Ontario in Canada and they are 5 Star Restaurants.
What is your slogan?
Together we can end hunger in Nigeria.
Tell us about your most exciting moment or moments?
When I celebrated my 50th birthday recently. It was very exciting. I had photo shoots for two days. I changed over and over and over again. I ordered few more attires, but they didn’t allow it on time so I couldn’t use it. May be God is saying that don’t overdo, you have dressed enough, you have changed enough. I like occasions that will bring families together, I get excited seeing my siblings, seeing my friends, celebration makes me excited. Church makes me excited too. I always look forward to Sunday service, where I am going to see everybody. I love the church, I love to see the church members, the kids. I get excited on Saturday night because I know I am going to see everybody on Sunday, I get excited about the place I worship. So, church make me get excited.
From the little you have shared with us. Will it be right if I say you are the one that inherited your parents godly life style?
No, I won’t be able to say that because we are six children. I believe some of us love church. They are doing well and also serving God in their best interest.
I think you reflect it (parents’ religious background) the more.
You may be right, somehow.
Some parents like to see their children reflecting on them while they are still alive, can you share their experiences of seeing you reflecting on them, I mean their features
Yes. My mother is still alive and she still sees that. My father too saw me going to church and doing the things of the Lord.
So, you preach?
Yes, of course, I do.