My name is Aisha Yahaya, and I was born in the late 1990s. I am from Jere Local Government in Borno State, but I grew up in Lagos State. I come from a middle-income polygamous family, and I am the first daughter of my parents.
While growing up, my father was a transporter, while my mother was a home maker. According to my mom, I was a very curious and creative child who loved eating sugary food.
I started my primary education at Tender Crown Nursery and Primary School in Lagos State. After completing my common entrance examination, I proceeded to Hopebay College, also in Lagos. I have great memories from secondary school because it was in that phase of my life that I learned to be independent and hardworking.
My little kind deeds helped me heal from the grief of losing my dad
As a child, my dream was to become a medical doctor, but I studied Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the National Open University of Nigeria. I also obtained a certificate in Leadership in Civic Engagement from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, USA, and a diploma in Health and Social Care from the Inspire School of London.
Aisha Children’s Foundation
As I mentioned earlier, I have always wanted to study medicine and surgery. However, when I lost my dad, I felt like my whole world had crumbled. Words can’t explain the grief I experienced. At one point, my mother had to relocate me to Abuja so I could forget the trauma and start life afresh.
My father was a very kind-hearted man. While growing up, I watched him support his neighbours and distant relatives. Back then, during the Ramadan festival, visitors from far and near would fill up our home. I watched my dad feed hundreds of people so effortlessly, and after his death, I decided to emulate his humanitarian service.
So, after I moved to Abuja, I started visiting hospitals to support sick and vulnerable children. I was buying drugs, toiletries, and food items for them. I was also donating blood and those little kind deeds actually helped me heal from the grief of losing my dad.
A hospital is a place where you will find many people in need of help, especially financial assistance. As an individual, I can only reach out to a few people. So, at some point, I decided to start the Aisha Children Foundation to reach out to more people.
Goals and mission
ACF is a registered non-governmental organisation that is engaged in cancer awareness, free cancer screening, retrieval of abandoned sick children and supporting children battling non-communicable diseases.
The Aisha Children Foundation is passionate about children with special health needs. We have demonstrated this passion through regular and timely financial and medical interventions for this category of children. Our vision is to have a society where every child has equal access to quality healthcare and welfare.
When we started, most of our beneficiaries were children sourced from public hospitals, but later on, we started moving into rural communities in Abuja to look for children with special health needs. I’m talking about children whose parents may have given up on finding a solution to their health challenges.
After finding them, we enter into partnerships with hospitals designated to provide healthcare services to them at a subsidised rate.
Our vision is to have a society where every child has equal access to quality healthcare and welfare
After getting the profile of the patient, we share the information on social media and plead with members of the public to contribute to the treatment expenses. Sometimes, I get donations from family and friends. In addition, I often apply for international grants or seed funding.
The Aisha Children Foundation is also involved in donating food, clothes, and drugs to the poor in rural communities. We have been doing that for many years now, and the results have been amazing.
As a beginner, increasing my social media visibility was one of my major challenges. At the foundation, we have had overwhelming cases that we couldn’t attend to because of lack of finances. We need regular donations to run the foundation because a single case sometimes requires millions of naira.
Due to some challenges, there was a time I felt like giving up, but when I remembered the smiles that appeared on those lovely cheeks after the children might have recovered, I decided to keep pushing.
Besides the financial challenges, we have met some uneducated parents who went against doctors’ advice. For example, I recently had a case of an eight-year-old girl called Kauna. She was diagnosed with an enterocutaneous fistula, which is an abnormal opening that develops between the intestinal tracts and the skin.
Due to the ailment, faeces and body fluid was gushing out of her belly. She had undergone three unsuccessful surgeries and was placed on a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract.
We spent over a million naira on her medical expenses within a month. Meanwhile, while her treatment was still ongoing, her parents were agitating to take her to a herbalist because they felt Kauna’s ailment was beyond medical capacity.
I hope to establish a cancer centre in Abuja within the next five years
The doctors and I tried counselling the uneducated parents but they refused to listen to us and insisted on being discharged. Two days after they left the hospital, I got a call from the uncle saying that the poor child had passed on. I was really sad about it.
Working as a medical social worker has been very fulfilling. My greatest fulfilling moment is seeing our children recover fully and get discharged. I had a two-year-old girl from a village in Nassarawa State, who was diagnosed with metastasized rhetinoblastoma (advanced cancer of the eye). The Aisha Children Foundation took over the case until she finished her course of chemotherapy. After the child got better, her father broke down in tears while saying thank you to us. He even asked me to take his child and be her foster parent. However, I convinced him to go with his daughter. When it was time to wave goodbyes, it was a very teary and touching moment.
God is great, and He has been supporting our mission since we started. Late last year, we had a case of conjoined twins, and after several consultations, we were told that the surgery to separate them would cost over $300,000. So, after weeks of discussions with Burjeel Medical City Hospital in the UAE, they offered to do the surgery for free on humanitarian grounds. The surgery will be conducted by doctors from Italy, the USA, and the UAE.
The first step to success is believing in yourself and your ability
My prime target has been the community of abandoned sick children and children with special health needs. So, going forward, I intend to develop a database for this community and update the database from time to time. I also hope to establish a cancer centre in Abuja within the next five years.
Awards and recognitions
When I started this journey, my goal was to touch lives, but as time went by, I started receiving awards for the good works. I am a two-time awardee at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.
In 2022, I was awarded a Young African Leader by the Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States. In 2021, I was given the Health Champion Award in Dubai. In 2017, I was awarded the Youngest Humanitarian and Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador.
When I am not at work, I am mostly at home bonding with my family or watching movies on Netflix. I also enjoy reading books. My favourite book is Becoming, by Michelle Obama. I love Michelle because she is very intelligent and has a great sense of humor. I would be very glad if I got the opportunity to meet her one-on-one.
Advice for women
I’m a young, single woman who decided to pursue her passion against all odds. I’m able to do all these things because I believe in God and in myself.
Do you have a dream? If so, do you believe that you can achieve them? The first step to success is believing in yourself and your abilities. Some people will laugh at you in the beginning, but don’t be swayed by their opinions.
Always trust your own judgment and keep chasing that goal. If you don’t give up, then, very soon, you will also have a success story to share.