Aunt Landa as she is popularly known is a gynecologist and a neurosurgeon, she also the presenter of Sharing Life Issues on Inspiration FM, she has affected the lives of a lot of helpless Nigerians and widows by providing food supplies, accommodations, and means of livelihood for them.
Dr. Yolanda shared her experience on how she came to Nigeria in the year 2012 with the intention to go back the following year but until now she couldn’t leave due to the level of poverty afflicting the people.
Here is the full interview:
When did Aunt Landa Bethel Foundation start?
It started in 2012 on the 27th of May, what we did was to actually announce if you are sexually abused come to meet us in Makoko and we had over seven hundred and sixty people and that was how we grew leaps and bounds and you can see today, we were able to service over 23, 000 people and we are still counting, we had less than 3, 000 children.
Twenty thousand adults is a good reason for us to realize that people are suffering and a good reason for us to see that we need to do things and of course, I feel that the way everybody got food in surplus was the way we could bring 20, 000 grinding machines to people.
I did letters to 350 companies, I spent over #790, 000 of my money writing to those companies but they told me that beneficiaries are too poor so if they sponsor, they cannot buy their goods. So, at the end of the day, it still had to come from my pocket. Everybody that came here, service provider, people who were cooking, everything was bought.
We continue because all of these people-you saw those people who were excited about the houses, the apartments, people who are homeless moving from under the bridge, it’s a whole new life and that is it. Whether it is someone who got a sealing machine or someone who got a sewing machine or an accommodation or like that little boy who got a suit and tucked in the suit because he’s never worn a suit before, those things are the beginning of history, if he becomes a president tomorrow because he got a scholarship here for four years, people will not know where he started.
Why did you venture into a project like this?
The thing is I started being who I am long as a teenager, I started doing what I am doing since I was 12, since I was a kid and of course everywhere I have been posted, this is what I do. I have actually extended my stay in Nigeria, I’m not a Nigerian, I came in from Baghdad as that was my last post I should have shipped out by now to North Korea but you see, how do you leave this people?
I came here in 2012, I told everybody that I will be out of here in 2013 but you don’t leave this amount of work and that’s why I’m still here although I’m married to a Nigerian. We do not understand what people go through but pain is real.
If you were at our centers and you see our free medical Wednesdays and or some people who are in so much pain and they just come to these people (volunteers) to come and massage them not because they are sick but some people call and they are suicidal. We have a suicide department that is why we are begging for people to come and take our phone lines. There is no day we don’t get up to one, two three rescues; we have ‘Okadas’ that go pick people that have been sexually abused, of course, there should be ambulances but I tell my ambulances to make bikes to do all of that. The work is endless.
How do you create time for your family?
I have double certification; I am a gynecologist and a neurosurgeon, a marine and with our training comes the fact that once you are a soldier, you are able to know what is important and what is not important. All my life I have known pain and before my husband got married to me and that is what I saying to young people, he did not get married to someone who wasn’t doing this and so I got into his house because that is the African thing you people say-get into the man’s house but it wasn’t a matter of that, by the time he met me, at that time, I was running missionary courses as a teenager when we were just friends in Istumor, I was being locked in prisons because I was preaching and how I preach is this. I am an ordained Minister but I do not stand with the altar, I do my free surgeries.
Everybody that came here, three mosques brought there buses and emptied their people here, it is the love of God we preach and so as at the time he came he knew that this was who I am and his priority of course is first but because he also has the heart of God and he knows what it is, he knew what he was getting into and we make it work.
I have a son after eighteen miscarriages and so that is a very long time but apart from my son who came late, I have being a mother and a grandmother to millions of children. We do something called Anonymous Dear Santa where children from all across the world write a letter to God, it comes to me via P.O box and then I reply so it goes to Baghdad.
Some of the children ask for crayon infact a boy asked for erasers because last year I gave him a pack of pencils, the erasers are finished but the pencils are still there and guess what this boy is in Allepo and he actually think God replied and of course when I write my letters in reply, I always say “Dear son, thank you for sending, Love God”, I don’t write the letters, all these my volunteers sit down and also write, we just make the provisions.
People think it cost a lot, of course yes, there are some millions but you see like last week all of the widows woke up and they got their wrappers and in between their wrappers was #5,000, it made all of them cry- a wrapper cost about #4,500 to #5, 000, Those little acts made them know they were not alone.
It’s not about just going on social media and shouting and taking selfies; it’s about change in futures, today, a widow who came last year and got all those things and her job donated #50, 000 to this place and that’s it.
We also had another widow who drove her car because last year her husband threw her out, she was homeless, the lawyers fought for her and she’s gotten back, we spent just #200, 000 in court and now from going under the bridge, she is now running her husband’s pure water machine, farm and she also has three cars. She actually drove here; she was the one that brought the blocks when we were out of blocks.
In a way, can you refer to yourself as an activist?
No, I’m a merchant of hope, that’s what I sell. I sell hope that’s why you see people coming. There is a difference between charity where you dehumanize the receiver. Everybody that came here have the choice of what they wanted, so, we stored up here we could have handled 50, 000 people if we put only small little things but you saw all those things that came from London, Senegalese and all. I sent one of my staff to Senegal to buy the material to sew because this is Christmas; if their husbands were alive they will do those singular things. People get whole chicken for the first time, people get fish, those little acts is not activism; it’s a lifestyle.
I cannot treat my pain until God heals me but what I can do is that everybody who comes in contact with me because I do not understand any Nigerian language but the thing is Love and Pain are the same thing; we all cry the same way, and we all feel compassion and that’s all that matters.