by Seyi Oluyole
My name is Oluwaseyi Oluyole, but I go by the name Seyi Oluyole. I am from Ondo state; I am 24. I am a Writer, dance choreographer, fitness trainer and a child lover. I was born and bred in Lagos.
When I was 10, my parents sold our house at Mile 2 and we moved around. We slept on the road, then at church camp’s, then my uncle’s house. Finally we rented a house at Oyingbo, Ebute – Metta (I was 13 at this time). Moving to Oyingbo opened my eyes to a lot of things; a world beyond what I was used to. Our house was close to a place called ‘Ebute’ in Oyingbo. In this area, people lived in wooden house beside the beach. They did not have bathrooms and the children barely went to school. The highest achievement was JSS3 for the boys and the girls usually dropped out before JSS3 due to pregnancy.
When I was 14, I began a dance group (Victorious Dancers) with some of these children. Some of them where my mates or a year younger but they all called me ‘Aunty Seyi’ because they thought I was older than them (I thought so too). While I was in SS1, majority of them were still in primary school and could barely read. At the time the dance team was taking root, popular actress; Omotola Jalade Ekeinde started a nonprofit she called ‘Oyep’ and somehow I was able to get myself and the other dancers to be one of the proposed entertainers at one of her fundraising concert. I was in SS 2 at this time and I was taking school very seriously but this wasn’t the case for the other children. I wasn’t happy with this So as the leader, I told the other kids that they had to do well in school if they wanted to dance at the Omotola event. I don’t know anyone who would pass an opportunity of meeting and dancing at an Omotola event. Hence, they began to take school seriously and I saw this as a way to start working on them.
I had one of them come live with myself and parents at this time because he needed a positive environment and subsequently, 3 out of all four lived with me and my parents. This was the beginning for me.
I knew I wanted to do a lot to help children but I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly. In 2008, I saved my pocket money and did an outreach event for children in Ebute Oyingbo. In 2009, I held a free summer for approximately 150 children in Oyingbo and gave them school supplies at the end of the program. I did this outreach up until 2012 when I travelled to the United States. I left with the intention of starting a new life in the United States and saying goodbye to the tough Nigerian life. In the United states, I felt lost with no children to work with so I quickly joined the children department in church and started working with an organisation that catered to at-risk kids. However, something remained missing. At-risk children in the United States weren’t like the ones we had in Nigeria. I felt empty. I knew God had bigger plans for me, so I packed my bags and came back to Nigeria. So many people told me how stupid it was, some people still tell me about my stupid decision and the situation in Nigeria makes me doubt myself sometimes but when I look at the life I am impacting, it feels worth it.
Once I got back to Nigeria, I began looking around and gathering at risk children again then I started a community learning centre for indigent children in Imota Ikorodu.
As I did earlier, I used dance to get the children I have around me. Their lives seem so empty that they embrace this chance to dance. It is something that takes them away from their sad homes, sometimes they get invited to events and the applause they get helps them grow. I found out many of them could not read so I took those in public schools out and enrolled themin private school. I began to spend time teaching them to read and giving little assignments. However, the progress wasn’t as I wanted. Some of them were not doing homework. Some went right back to the street after the rehearsal so I started to take them in again. So as not to get overwhelmed, I took in five. I sponsor their education, feeding and clothing.
Dancing helps with little funds sometimes. Enough funds to feed for a few days. We perform at events and proceeds go towards the education of the children. But dancing is also my way of inculcating the culture of working hard to get what you want.
Presently I have 12 children that I work with personally. And out of the four children, I worked with earlier when I was a teenager, two were able to make the right choices and get into the university. One graduated in December last year while the other one is still in the university studying computer science.
I love what I do, I believe in these children and I had the resources, I’d take in more street children. We don’t get to choose our parents, these kids did not choose their parents. But with the opportunities I try to provide, they can start ti choose where their life would take. Every child deserves an equal chance at success irrespective of their background.
Brave Women is YNaija.com’s citizenship series for the month of March. Find more stories in the series here.