A lot of well-intentioned people who decide to do something about a social problem decide to re-invent the wheel and not only raise funds but set up a new entity to distribute those funds. They can rapidly become bogged down going in too many directions at once.
In contrast Wole Olugbenle took on more of a broker's role when the Houston resident who works for ExxonMobil in The Woodlands, decided to do more to help orphans in Africa. The organization he founded, Ife Aye, raises money but then distributes it to organizations already established and working in the field.
"If others are doing it really well, let's support them," he says, explaining his philosophy. "Let's give them the money and get out of the way."
This Saturday night at the Czech Center Museum, Ife Aye will be raising money to continue that work at the "Party For a Purpose" fundraiser featuring food, a fashion show, live performances and a silent auction and raffle giveaways.
"I have a team of 20 people helping me," he says. "Some from church, some from friendship. They were there last year and they'll be there this year."
Olugbenle came into the United States to live with a relative when he was 13-year-old. For ten years he didn't see his parents who remained in Nigeria. For a while he moved to Baltimore but returned to this area for graduate from Elsik High School, get his undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Houston and his master's in technology commercialization from UT-Austin.
His own experience of being separated from his parents made him sensitive to orphans who have no parents, he says.
In his late 20s he started going back to Nigeria and from that experience began making customized T-shirts reflecting both cultures. His next step was to sponsor five children over there in a basket of services providing for schooling and health care. The next development was to found a fund-raising organization whose money now goes to trafficking victim efforts as well as orphans.
The organizations the money is going to are: OneChild, serving children in poverty; Vine Uganda, which provides education, shelter and health treatment to disadvantaged communities, A21, an anti-trafficking group and IMHOTEP, which fights trafficking of boys.
“Growing up in both Africa and North America, I saw firsthand how the world was divided on cultural lines while dealing with various global inequalities. My own personal journey of having been separated at the age of 13 from my immediate family for a decade also opened my eyes to a glimpse of human suffering, and through my experience, I have learned that enduring love is the only way past all of our issues.
"My journey of self-discovery culminated into a vision that seeks to promote global togetherness through the celebration of diverse cultural heritage, fashion, performance, artwork, and food as we raise awareness and support for worldwide causes while marketing a fusion of culturally diverse products, and in 2018, I launched the lifestyle brand, Ife Aye, which means “Love World” in the Yoruba culture of Nigeria. I am using this platform to help address global inequalities, the first of which deals with 150 million orphans in the world, through our annual “Party for a Purpose.”
The fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday from 8-11 p.m. (doors open 7 p.m.) at the Czech Center Museum, 4920 San Jacinto. For tickets, visit ifeaye.com. Ticket prices vary.
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