Philanthropist and Entrepreneur Princess Modupe Ozolua from the Benin Kingdom, Nigeria is a life saver and hero to many. Her charity Empower 54 provides healing to Africa’s less privileged by restoring the lives of underprivileged Africans through modern medicine, education, self-empowerment, rehabilitation programs and food drives.
Empower 54’s charitable endeavors primarily target the unrest in Boko Haram, Nigeria. The Bring Back Our Girls Campaign, supported by First Lady, Michelle Obama, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Ellen DeGeneres, Recording artists Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Justin Timberlake and more, was a massive global outcry campaign which successfully assisted in the safe release and return of over 120 school children in Boko Haram, Nigeria.
For those of us who do not know, how are you a Princess and from what family?
I am Ozolua. A great grand daughter of the legendary warrior King Ozolua of the ancient Benin Kingdom in Edo State, Nigeria. In addition, my mother was a Princess from the Otaru family from a tribe called Ososo also in Edo State.
What was life like growing up in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a wonderful country. Yes, we have our challenges just as every other nation, but we are wonderful people, love life and very religious in our beliefs. I grew up in a privileged home, had the best of everything including vacations in America, Uk and every where we wanted to visit to enable us appreciate other cultures and ways of life. I only have wonderful childhood memories and I try to do the same for my son.
What are some of the major problems people face in Nigeria today?
Nigeria is in a terrible state right now due to certain factors such as political, economical, infrastructural and of course security. Not to get into the other critical areas, as we all know, terrorism is a global issue of concern and a group called Boko Haram that has affiliations with ISIS does not exempt Nigeria from terrorist attacks.
No one feels safe because of suicide bombers. As terrible as that is, it’s even more heart breaking that the suicide bombers are young girls are girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram, raped and brain washed into carrying these horrible acts. Some of the girls that were caught before their suicide vests detonated, said they agreed to wear the suicide vests loaded with bombs just so they could get away from the terrorist and prayed the Nigerian arm would stop and help them before the vests detonate.
Not many of them get so lucky because most times, the vests are controlled by remote by the terrorists watching from a distance and they detonate the devices by remote control. What’s going on in Nigeria is very bad, but we must admit the Nigerian army has recently made a lot of progress in the fight against Boko Haram, but we still have a long way to go both in safety and even more so, rebuilding the states destroyed by Boko Haram.
Why did you start your charity? Tell us more about it?
I pioneered Cosmetic Surgery in West Africa in 2001. Prior to that, I lived and schooled in California. My company, Body Enhancement Ltd brings plastic surgeons from the US to render cosmetic surgery to clients. That service put me in the spot light. I have been featured in numerous national and international press including CNN, BBC, etc.
In 2003, a couple came to me asking for help because the woman needed reconstructive surgery due of injuries she sustained from a fire. I couldn’t understand why no one had helped them because they were poor. During the conversation with them, they asked if I could start helping people like them because they felt people would listen to me if I spoke for the underprivileged.
That was it. I immediately contacted my surgeons in America to inform them we would commence condign free medical missions for underprivileged people, put my money into it and here we are, 13years later still helping the helpless and doing much more than medical missions. We are also blessed to have His Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu as our Patron.
How can people help?
Empower54 is a US registered non-profit and have a 501(c)3 tax exempt status. So donations to us are tax deductible. We need people to support us financially, technically and also volunteer their skills. Medical personnel are needed for medical missions, volunteers to help with staying connected to the world, collection drives of books, toys, clothes, etc and of course, we need cash donations to execute programs. 80% of financial donations go to the field; only 20% is used for administrative purposes. We are a dedicated organization and invite everyone to become a part of our growing global family.
Tell us about your upcoming Art fundraiser in Atlanta this month
Our upcoming charity gala on Saturday April 30th 2016 at the Besharat Gallery, is the maiden edition of our annual art charity gala. We intend holding one every year in Atlanta.
This maiden edition on April 30th is focused on raising funds through the auction of stunning African arts, we plan to raise funds to continue our Rise Above Terror campaign that establishes schools in IDP camps and rebuilding schools destroyed by Boko Haram in North East Nigeria.
We will be auctioning stunning African Paintings and breathtaking handicrafts representing the Kings, Queens, traditions, and rich history of the legendary ancient Benin Kingdom (Edo State, Nigeria)
Stunning paintings by Nigerian painters El-Dragg Leonard Okwoju, Damola Adepoju, Bimbo Adenugba, Abdulrazaq Ahmed, Shonibare Olatunbosun, Stanley Anyanwu and Tega Akpokoma will be auctioned to support to this cause.
Some of our partners are The City of Atlanta, Desmond & Leah Tutu Foundation, Borno State Government (Nigeria), Coca-Cola, Andrew Young Foundation, Africa Atlanta, Besharat Gallery, Nigeria High Consulate (Atlanta), Body Enhancement Ltd.
How did Kat Graham from the Vampire Diaries become involved?
We were fortunate to be introduced to her by the City of Atlanta because she is not only a wonderful actress, but also a dedicated humanitarian. She took time to learn about our organization and decided to get involved because of our credible history and passion for what we do. She also did a video to promote our upcoming Art charity gala, which we greatly appreciate.
How did Desmond Tutu become an Ambassador?
His Emeritus has been our Patron since we commenced our philanthropic activities in 2003. We contacted the South African embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, had a meeting with them and they did a through background check on our organization before agreeing to assist with sending our introduction letter to his office in South Africa.
After His Emeritus’ office received our documents, they also did due diligence checks on us, he accepted our request and has been on our Board since.
Which art pieces do you think will stand and why? Attach picture of art pieces.
At the gala on April 30th, there will be 29 stunning paintings and 11 hand made wood and brass carvings for auction. I personally love all the pieces but have my favorites of course, but as you will agree, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So far, the reviews have been extremely encouraging especially with people offering to purchase some of the paintings now before the event in a few weeks!
How can people attend or donate?
There are two categories of tickets. The VIP Exclusive, which was for $100 but that, is sold out. We still have VIP tickets for $50 available for sale on our event brite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/empower54s-annual-african-art-charity-gala-tickets-21475332297
People that can’t attend can purchase tickets, receive a link to view all the pieces and bid online. For people that wish to support us via donations, they can visit our website, www.empower54 and donate via different mediums available there. We certainly need all the support we can get.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
I must first thank all Empower54 staff, volunteers, partners and everyone that has and is supporting in various ways. On a daily basis, more people in Atlanta are jumping on board to help us make this event a success, so mentioning individual names now will be very premature but they will all be duly recognized on and after our charity gala on the 30th.
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The Empower 54 initiative will be touching down in Atlanta, Saturday April 30th for a special presentation of illustrations by one of West Africa’s most prominent photographers, Don Barber. Don Barber’s artwork will be displayed, alongside the work of some of the villagers in Boko, Haram. This artwork will be available for purchase where the proceeds will go back to Empower 54’s charitable endeavors.