Roses of My Passion by Febisola Okonkwo/

Title: Roses of My Passion
Author: Mrs. Febisola Okonkwo
Publishers: Havillah Books
Year Published: 2016
Reviewer: Ademola Akinbola

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This book is made up of 16 Chapters. This review takes the approach of reviewing the book chapter by chapter.

Chapter 1: Early Life

This chapter is a chronicle of the early life of the author. It delves into her lineage, giving us valuable insights into both paternal and maternal families. It also gives a vivid account of the writer's birth and upbringing, telling the reader the meaning of the name “FEBISOLA", which, as explained by the author’s father, was derived from the fact that she born among many siblings and relations"

Chapter 2: Memories

The author takes the reader on an interesting journey into her childhood and early years in school. She relives fond memories of life as a student and a chorister. Her early childhood experience of grief, especially at funerals were recalled by the writer in this chapter. She also recalls the salient core family values that were imbibed into her even at that tender age. The chapter also talks about the author’s relationship with her father.

Chapter 3: Marriage and family life

This chapter, like the two previous chapters, talks about the personal and family life of the author; how she met her husband, Lawrence, his support for her vision, support from children and siblings, etc. She took time to eulogise her departed heroes, explaining significant roles each played in her life

Chapter 4: Life stinks

Here, the writer reminds us of the vanity of life, as she shares some of her experience as volunteer at various homes, orphanages, rehabilitation centres, etc. She concludes by stating that "true happiness is neither in physical possessions nor material wealth but in interactions with loved ones, friends, people who genuinely care and are able to identify with us.". True happiness is also “when we learn how to die that we learn how to live".

Chapter 5: Help Initiative/Tabitha home

Chapter 5 Leads us into the days of little beginning of Help initiative and Tabitha home. The vision, mission and core values of Help Initiative were explicitly explained by the author. The fact that Tabitha Home is dear to the heart of the author has never been in doubt, and she uses the opportunity presented by the book to talk about the vision of the Home which is to “to erase the stigma attached to orphans and vulnerable children, thereby creating a leverage of equality for the children among their peers irrespective of their circumstances and situations”.

The author talks of how the Home has steadily grown from having just three occupants in 2014 to 25 as at today. The author captures her joy and satisfaction in these words: “Today, what I feel about Tabitha Home can be compared to a woman who had been heavily pregnant, subsequently in labour and eventually delivered of a healthy bouncing baby! Tabitha Home is the satisfaction for all my years working for Help Initiative”. According to her, the concept of “love in raw form” is fully in practice at Tabitha.

The impact that Tabitha has created in the society has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the various letters of commendation and goodwill messages that the author published in this chapter.

Chapter 6: My Challenges as a Social Service Entrepreneur

Corporate Social Investment comes with different challenges. Attempts to reform the society, revamp certain norms, values, and turn things round always attract criticism, whether they are fair or not. The author in this chapter shares some of her challenges and frustrations with the reader, not with a view to discouraging other social reformers, but as an early warning signal that change, in any form and at any level, is usually greeted with initial resistance.

Some of the challenges the author highlighted are the increasing number of women and children who are in need of support, the societal belief system, ignorance of the work of social services entrepreneurs, civilization, negative perceptions of NGOs, funding, etc. But, the author has not allowed these challenges to kill the vision. She writes: “On several occasions, there were instances of discouraging moments; periods of lack and urgent needs of funds for important and official needs like paying salaries, school fees, feeding, medicals and other running costs for our projects. There have been periods that could have prompted my giving up but the vision led me on. Interestingly, no matter how tough, stressed, challenging and fierce these situations appear, it has never occurred to me to give up”.

Chapter 7: Tribute to Chief (Mrs) Victoria Oni

Chief Mrs. Victoria Olufunmilola Oni was one of the influential figures in Ile-Oluji and she positively influenced many people’s lives, including that of the author who deservedly devoted this Chapter to acknowledging the leadership and motivational qualities of Mrs. Oni, a renowned educationist who served meritoriously as the Principal of Holy Saviour’s High School, Ile-Oluji, while her husband, Dr Olumide Oni held sway at Gboluji Grammar School, also in Ile-Oluji.

The author appreciated the role Mrs. Oni played in her life and traced her early belief in the ethos of hard work and her conviction that success is for women, as much as it is for men. She says this about Mrs. Oni: “a magnanimous and graceful woman, a teacher, a brilliant academician, a choir mistress, an amazing mother, a devoted wife, a community leader with the strength, steel and strength of an Amazon”.

Chapter 8: Giving

The author opens this chapter with this powerful anonymous quote: “‘Love never reasons, but freely gives like a thoughtless prodigal. Love is giving, yet it fears that it has not given enough”. Indeed, it could only have been selfless love that has motivated and sustained the author in her social services entrepreneurship projects. Although giving is usually associated with physical donation of cash or material items, the author observes that giving is much more than that.

According to her, “Quality giving is much more than what can be seen with the eyes. It is embedded in qualities like commitment, responsibility, desires, considerations, and many more. Giving does not have to involve your wallet but it is a conscious effort to put in your time and energy and get involved in things for a worthy and noble cause”. She advocates for selfless giving and goes ahead to list renowned personalities such as Mama Ekundayo, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mother Theresa, Andrew Foster, Mary Slessor, etc. who gave their all. She refers to them as “angels of mercy, men and women, dead and alive who lived for humanity”.

Chapter 9: Success Stories

This Chapter gives the reader an insight into the inner workings of the mind of the author, in terms of her personal philosophy, value system, and world view. While success is narrowly defined by many as attainment of material wealth or a status in life, she sees success as “the ability to add value and make worthwhile positive difference in other people’s lives”.

She adds: “This means for anyone to be successful, he/she must be a protégé and must have protégés that have gone through his/her tutelage; people he/she has taken through some level of mentoring, advocacy, counselling and has finally obtained some level/degree of change or visible transformation in their wellbeing and lifestyles”.

Chapter 10: Child Protection

The author strongly believes that every child, no matter his background, situation, circumstance and status, deserves a home and all other forms of child protection support. This is the crux of her campaign and the fulcrum of Help Initiative’s activities culminating in the Tabitha Home project.  To her, child protection refers to the protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect, etc., with the objective of shielding them away from life situations and circumstances that can make them vulnerable. Such situations include child abuse (which could be physical, psychological and sexual), child labour, abandonment, maltreatment, neglect, etc.

The author posits that for a child to develop appropriately and his/her well-being safeguarded, many factors need to be put in place by the family and the community, including food, clothing, shelter, protection (from harm and danger), access to medical care, education, psychosocial support and all other necessary support that will enhance the physical and mental development of the child. She admonishes parents and caregivers to realise the fact that the best environment to raise children is where love, care, and respect exist rather than where anger, frustration, turmoil and pandemonium are prevalent.

Chapter 11: Parenting

Parenting is one of the areas where civilization and modernisation has negatively influenced the Nigerian society. Parents have suddenly become too busy and distracted to provide all-round support for their children. The author uses th.is chapter to remind parents of their responsibilities and obligations. She identifies parental involvement, emotional stability, economic strength of family, protection, shelter, access to education, etc. as factors that can affect a child’s development and welfare.

The author delves into her rich repository of skills, knowledge, and experience in social work to analyse some of the factors required in meeting a child’s needs. She refers to the “assessment framework” used by child protection organizations, which employs factors/tools such as committed carers, essential care and needs, and psychological support/emotional warmth, safety, identity, transition assistance, etc.

Chapter 12: Emotional Intelligence

The author uses findings from various studies to define Emotional Intelligence (EI) as “the ability to identify, understand, utilize and manage our emotions appropriately to communicate effectively, reduce stress, solve problem and empathize with others”. According to her, Emotional Intelligence provides us with the tools we need to interact in a society in a positive and emotionally healthy manner. She goes ahead to identify five main attributes of Emotional Intelligence as: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Inter-personal intelligence, Empathy, and Relationship management.

The author frowns on cruel acts perpetrated by parents and caregivers against vulnerable groups such as women, children, the disabled, elderly and others. Though children could be difficult to cope with, she does not subscribe to beating them to the point of harming them. Tracing the cause of child abuse, the author notes that it is less of poverty and more of ignorance. Also, she contends that most of the concerned parents do not have the essential qualities to bring up a child.

Her profound view on this is worth noting: “Child abuse is not only physical but could also be psychological and emotional. An adult who is qualified to take care of a child is someone   who has the capacity to do so. This means he/she is capable of protecting the child from physical and non-physical harm and danger.”

Chapter 13: Teamwork

The importance of teamwork to the success of any organisation is highlighted in this chapter as the author draws a correlation between good team work and corporate development. Stressing that teams are not born but built, she advises that to build an effective team, employers must begin by hiring people with the best qualities and that can easily fit into the company’s team culture. Interviewing for people who can work with children, for example, needs candidates who are patient, tolerant, considerate, innovative and love children.

She adds: “Greater   understanding of teamwork      in         care     homes makes caregiving easier and more efficient. Caregivers should never function in isolation but rather function as part of a unit and act as part of a team.”

Chapter 14: Health and Safety

Health and Safety  implies the regulations and procedures intended to prevent accident or injury in workplaces or public environment. The author nicely relates this to child care by defining it “as organized efforts and procedures initiated and implemented in a child care environment in order to reduce or eliminate exposure to harm or accidents and to provide adequate control of health risk”.

In order to maintain a healthy and safe environment, the author recommends that caregivers should carefully dispose every sharp object, constantly supervise children, keep drugs out of reach, have a well-designed Indoor Air Quality, communicate with the children, and practice risk avoidance.

Chapter 15: The Myth and Reality of Child Adoption and Fostering

In most African societies, a marriage is considered to be a “failure” if there are no children. But, in recent years, this negative stereotype has given way, as couples now embrace child adoption. The author counsels against the stigmatization of couples that are yet to have children, pointing out that “as much         as children are blessings of matrimony, the   society needs to be aware of other advantages of marriage such as companionship, stability, unity, care and others”. This is necessary, she posits, in order to deemphasize the undue priority given to procreation over other benefits of marriage.

Chapter 16: The Place of Compassion and Empathy in Social Service

This last chapter of the book enables the author to dwell on two main pillars of caregiving – empathy and sympathy. She is of the opinion that we should   be sensitive to the needs of other people wherever we are, and that this should not be limited to our nuclear families, but also include the extended family and the larger society. In our support for people, we should not limit this to our immediate environment rather to everyone we meet.

In conclusion, Roses of My Passion is a well written book, a commendable effort by Mrs. Febisola Okonkwo to give the reader an insight into her background, and the factors or influences that define her personality today as a celebrated social services entrepreneurship. The book is recommended for both the young and the old, irrespective of educational background. It is a book that teaches various aspects of care giving.

As there is no completely perfect work, Roses of my Passion would have benefitted from tighter editing and proof reading.


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