Oluwakemi Sharifah Adekanye is the Founder and Chief Volunteer of the Okapi Children Cancer Foundation (OCCF). She is a passionate humanitarian with a firm belief in the kindness and humanity of mankind. Oluwakemi has a Bachelors’ degree in Business Economics and Finance, a Masters’ degree in Business Administration, a professional certificate in Business Accounting and a Diploma in Public Relations. She currently works in the Nigerian Energy sector. Kemi as she is fondly called has over 15 years’ experience in Finance and service related organisations, but has always been driven by her passion to serve humanity. This is reflected in her numerous volunteering activities with a particular bias for children, women and the less privileged in the society, before setting up OCCF in memory of her brother, Taiwo Ogungbayi(Okapi). Kemi currently seats on the board of two other Non-profit organisations.
Kemi in this interview with the Publisher, Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable, Sunday Oyinloye speaks about her Foundation
Why did you set up Okapi Foundation?
The aim of Okapi Children Cancer Foundation is to give hope and succor to children battling Cancer, and their families. We hear of a variety of support and awareness for other type of cancers especially in adults but childhood cancer has been relegated to the back in the grand scheme of things.
How is cancer an issue in Nigeria?
The issues surrounding Cancer are numerous. One of the major issues is lack of awareness. A lot of Nigerians still believe Cancer is a spiritual problem and that is because they do not understand it. There is also the believe that Cancer is a death sentence, but i beg to differ; if caught early, Cancer can be managed very well especially in children which is why we at OCCF do a lot of advocacy and awareness creation on the need for early detection and proper treatment. Treatment abandonment is also a major issue we see as an NGO and this is always due to lack of finances. Cancer is very financially draining; it can render the average Nigerian family bankrupt. Some parents run away and even abandon their children when given cancer diagnosis.
Why did you choose to assist children only; why not children and adults?
OCCF was formed in memory of my brother Tunde Ogungbayi who passed on in 2017 due to complications from cancer. He was an ardent lover of children and before he passed on he had ignited the fire in me to help Nigerian children who are fighting Cancer .And of course, children like i said earlier get little or no attention and support from individuals or even the government, therefore, somebody needs to stand in the gap for them, OCCF is that bridge.
Would you say OCCF has made meaning impact since you started in 2017?
Managing or supporting children with Cancer is not one person’s job, it is a collective effort of everybody in the society but in our own little corner at OCCF, we have been able to intervene in over 100 cases of children fighting Cancer. We have lost some along the way, but we have some survivors also which keeps us going
Some Nigerians alleged that many NGOs are not spending the funds they receive from donors for the intended purposes. What makes your Foundation different?
At OCCF we operate a very transparent structure, whatever donation is received is accounted for and disbursed for the purpose it was intended. We work with National Hospital Abuja and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and they can attest to the support we provide for children receiving treatments in their facilities. We also have our audited financial report that is available to the public.
Are you facing any challenges in running the organisation?
Of course finance is a major challenge we face. We currently do not receive any support from the government neither do we have any grants, so we basically work with available resources and donations received from friends, family and well-meaning Nigerians.
What is your long term dream for the Foundation?
Currently we can only assist children receiving treatment in recognized facilities in Abuja, we would love to be able to offer support to other children across the country. We receive so many requests daily for support, but sadly we are restricted to Abuja alone until we can get more supports.
You have a program later this month; can you briefly talk about it?
The Walk of Hope for Children fighting Cancer is awareness walk coming up on the 24th of September to raise awareness about childhood cancer in Nigeria and also garner support for children fighting Cancer. The walk is also one that encourages physical activities amongst Nigerians. This will be our 6th walk and it will be held at the Sandralia Hotel Abuja. The Permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Dr. Shuaib Belgore will be flagging off the walk.
What is your message to Nigerians?
Awareness is power. Cancer is not a death sentence. Treatment abandonment, late presentation, wrong or delayed diagnosis is what often times cause fatality. I will also like to urge Nigerians to support and show love to children fighting Cancer and their families because when a child has cancer, the whole family unit becomes ill.