Pain can be a precursor of greatness, though we most often wish that was not the case. An epiphany can be birthed at a time of great anguish; and that is the story of Bitebo Gogo.
In her words, ‘I didn’t choose my path, my path chose me;’ and what a choice that was! At the age of 40 in 2010, Bitebo Gogo started forth on a path of which she proudly declares, ‘The girl I was will be proud of the woman I have become!’
TEDxPHCity Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria afforded me –and everyone else present- the opportunity to be inspired by the heart-rending story which formed the crux of Bitebo Gogo’s revelation and re-direction. All she wanted was a normal life with normal goals and normal aspirations; nothing over-the-top or unexpected. Get an education, get a good job, get married, have a brood of kids, live happily ever after…
No, this wasn’t the path that chose her, well perhaps it did- in the beginning.
Marriage came with the usual expectations- the noise and clatter of children coming and children going, but in Bitebo’s home, no such noises were heard, and none have been heard for almost 17 years. Instead, there was pain, there was anguish, there was a laparoscopy gone bad; there was the threat of a colostomy, and finally, there was death-almost. She found God’s number just in time and she dialled it non-stop.
Literally torn apart from the inside out and vice versa, Bitebo’s thoughts lingered on ensuring that whatever portion of life she was granted following her life and death struggle was dedicated to ensuring that the girl she was would be proud of the woman she became. In that womb of agony and hurt, the seed for the Keeping it Real Foundation [KIR] was planted, nurtured and birthed.
Now a full grown entity, the Keeping it Real foundation was founded in 2010 to transform the lives of orphans and vulnerable children, youths, persons living with disabilities, prisoners and women.
We pursue this mission by inspiring change through learning and providing innovative and sustainable learning opportunities that enrich the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the lives of our beneficiaries and communities;
Programs on leadership, entrepreneurship and other life skills that will enable our beneficiaries become self -reliant and leaders in their communities;
Platforms for advocacy, volunteerism and personal social responsibility; [http://www.kirfoundation.org/about-us/]
This is achieved by donating books, establishing book clubs and organizing after school projects, vocational training and skills acquisition for wealth creation and self-reliance-especially for those with disabilities.
For a Foundation which started with a Play and Learn Project at the Red Cross Orphanage at Makoka, Yaba Lagos, it has grown in leaps and bounds with the donation of over 6,000 books to public and private schools, orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), prisoners, exceptional people and out-of –school youths. The KIR Foundation furnished the Kuje Prison Reading Room in 2012, and has come a great ways in involving the Rivers State Government in taking an active role in the welfare of the students of the Special Needs School in Rivers State where it runs a vocational training programme.
Presently operating out of its new quarters in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, the facilities –donated by a like-minded individual- consist of a vocational workshop for persons living with disabilities, a department for the visually impaired that will rehabilitate and provide recreation for beneficiaries, an autistic centre (run by a sister Foundation; Blazing Hearts Foundation), a resource centre, a training room and administrative offices.
I have it on good authority that this facility is already bursting at the seams in an effort to contain the influx of users who seek refuge and knowledge within.
So this is the path that chose Bitebo Gogo; a path that has birthed her sons and daughters who have a future, a purpose, a plan, because of her investment of time, resources, manpower and I daresay a good dose of love!
‘I don’t want to leave my footsteps in the sands of time because it will be washed away; I want to leave it in the hearts of men.’ She says.
I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
To contact the KIR Foundation:
Or call: 234-8171988475
Or visit: Plot 8, Road 112, Federal Housing Estate, Amadi-Ama, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.