Avantgarde event planner, Ibidunni Ighodalo, has been pushing boundaries with her charity, touching many lives writes FUNKE OSAE-BROWN
After a 15-minute drive, the rickety Marwa I boarded from Ikorodu bus stop arrived at the gate of the Bola Tinubu Millennium Estate, Ibeshie. I decided not to drive. It was the end of the year, vehicular movement in and outside Lagos City centre was at the peak. Traffic logjam was at a standstill from Ojota inward Mile 12. But that did not deter me from getting to the venue of the Ibidunni Ighodalo Foundation (IIF) first Christmas ‘Baby’s Day Out’.
I never had to ask the security personnel manning the gates if I was in the right place. The number of women with their children in tow trooping into the large estate said it all. The tents erected on the field were filled with pregnant women, women with toddlers and babies. Despite the crowd, more women were still coming.
“More women are still coming,” said Nse, her publicist. “The security men were turning them back but Ibidunni told them not to send them back.” To our amazement the number kept growing as the day wore on.
I took my time moving from tent-to-tent talking to some of the pregnant women. There stories were as diverse as their looks. Most of them cannot afford to do decent shopping for their unborn children. However, IIF took them on a shopping spree with different gifts brought to the venue by the foundation.
I moved further into the main arena, looking for the brain behind the project, Ibidunni Ighodalo, CEO of Elizabeth R, a top-notch events’ planning company and wife of Ituah Ighodalo, accountant and Senior Pastor of Trinity House. After moving around for a few minutes, there she was submerged in the crowd of little children with their hands raised for the packs of food she was sharing.
Despite the tugging and pulling at her dress, Ighodalo remained calm through it all. She never shouted at the children. I could see the untold joy on her face, the sense of satisfaction of touching many lives.
Ighodalo’s life has been one of many paradoxes. She has turned a critical part of her life into a life-saving guard for many families. Through the many activities of IIF, she has brought hope, joy and laughter into many homes. More importantly, she is truly blessed. She has been a mother to many children who have found succour beneath the wings of her foundation. Like the biblical Sarah, she has birthed many stars, who are uncountable like the sand by the seashore.
In addition to the Baby Day Out programme, her foundation has funded IVF treatment for couples who are hoping to have their own babies. Casting her own care aside, Ighodalo has shouldered and keeps shouldering the needs of other families most especially women.
“My focus now is to help others, one at a time,” she told This Day Newspaper in a previous interview. “I want to make a family happy and with the help of God, their prayers would be answered. I know the pain and what it feels like. It will give me joy to see them jumping and rejoicing, saying that they are expecting their own children. I have seen it happen. I have seen the two sides during my course of treatment. I said, God help me, let me do this. When you focus on helping others, you don’t know the blessings that come back to you. It is difficult, but I said Lord you have put this in me, You have to provide. You know when God gives you a vision, He makes the provision. I have been amazed at the response. It is unbelievable.”
IIF was created to raise awareness on issues pertaining to infertility and to provide grants for couples that require fertility treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intrauterine Insemination.
The foundation partners with highly reputable fertility clinics in Nigeria and with other donors to provide couples with the financial and material support they require during the treatments. It also provides the necessary psychological and spiritual support they require to deal with the pressures they face along their journey to conception.
A graduate of Microbiology from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ighodalo has used the platform of IIF to award grants for fertility treatment such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Frozen Embryo Transfer and Intrauterine Insemination.
When the foundation was launched two years ago, her plan was to help one or two couples who were in need but the number of applications she received would alter the course of the foundation positively. The plan was changed to accommodate 28 couples.
“There are some couples that have applied that have been married for between 20 and 25 years and when I read their history, they have come to a point where they are tired. I even found out that it was their family that applied for some of them. A lot of people have asked me why I don’t face my life, why I am trying to be Mother Theresa. What is it? Is it that you have so much money you don’t know what to do with it? I can’t even explain it,” she explains.
Sharing her personal story on the IIF website, she recalled how as a newly married couple, she and her husband, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, looked forward to starting their family and holding their children in their arms. To their dismay, after getting married 11 years ago, they watched the years roll by without a child of their own.
“After several doctors’ appointments,” she wrote in the post, “we were told that we wouldn’t have children unless we sought treatment through assisted reproduction. This was the doctor’s report we received, but we choose to believe God’s own report, unshaken in our faith as we firmly believe that that we will have our children. This period of delay also came with pressure and a lot of insensitivity from people to our situation. I also had to deal with the emotions, pain and the roller-coaster hormonal imbalance that comes with all sorts of treatments. Thankfully, I am married to an amazing man who has been there for me through all the procedures; unflinching in his support.”
She later made up her mind to stop worrying over childbearing and to just keep trusting God while helping other couples through their own fertility journey. “As I prayed and mulled over the idea, I felt peace and that was how the IIF was born.” Since then, she hasn’t looked back.
Ighodalo is not new to charity. She has been a great supporter of Heritage Homes, a motherless babies’ home. She is equally involved in Lydia Grace, a foundation for socially challenged women. Also, she offers support to her brother’s charity, Biire Foundation, an NGO that caters to malnourished children, women and People living with HIV.
With her involvement in charity, Ighodalo is sure pushing boundaries and making positive impacts on many lives.