Mallpai Foundation: A Beacon of Hope for the Vulnerable

Mallpai Foundation: A Beacon of Hope for the Vulnerable
Aisha Bagudu, Kebbi State Firstlady

The first lady of Kebbi State, North-western Nigeria and the founder of Mallpai Foundation, established to drive illiteracy out of communities

As a child, Hajia Aisha Bagudu would listen eagerly to her father discussing his philanthropic projects and ideas with his peers. She would hear him brainstorming about digging wells in villages where people suffered water shortages, with photos of drought-hit areas strewn across the table in front of him, or conferring over which scholarships to invest in to gain the most impact. These childhood experiences shaped her adult perceptions of the importance of giving and of developing a solutions-led mindset.

“My father was always the driving force behind these projects, many of which started happening many decades ago,” says Aisha Bagudu. “It was a natural progression for me to also be passionate about philanthropy.”

While playing the role of a mother and wife, philanthropy has always been part of her wider family’s philosophy, she says. It enabled the soft-spoken and workaholic Nigerian to be passionate about the less privileged, from providing scholarships to children and supporting their mothers with startups across Nigeria. Aisha says she derives immense satisfaction from seeing students graduate, as a result of a scholarship she funded.

Discussing with Hajia Aisha Bagudu, an Amazon of the 21st century, you will feel the aura of comfort and peace in her presence. A Great woman of substance who radiates humility and confidence. The first lady of Kebbi State, North-western Nigeria and the founder of Mallpai Foundation, established to drive illiteracy out of communities and enriching the minds of the youths for a better future. What more can one expect from this amiable mother of all mothers, a woman with a heart of gold that has brought succour to the lives of the downtrodden. In this exclusive interview with PLEASURES Magazine, Hajia Aisha Bagudu, X-Rays her passion for charity, the challenges of the last 11 years and the future of every girl child in Nigeria.

What inspire Mallpai Foundation?

I went out on a certain day with my driver, and I saw 2 little boys, between the ages of 2 to 5years old. The younger one was crying and the older was pulling him and I was trying to ask why he was crying and the older one said they are on the street begging. So as a mother, I tried to make them get into my car so as to take them back to their malam (Islamic teacher), or to see if I can help them return home. Immediately, the little one wanted to follow me and the older was saying no, that their mallam said they shouldn’t enter anyone’s car. He pulled the younger one back from getting into my car and I was trying to say that I’m not going to steal them, but the older refused. I was holding a sugar cane and I gave it to them and moved our car. Immediately we moved our car, the children started crying. And you know after my father died and was given my inheritance. As a Muslim, they give a female child her portion and a male child his portion. My father was someone that loves giving and helping. Whoever knew my father, knows my father loves charity a lot. Not the charity that you do for the world to see, but the charity that someone else will go and mention to people,and not him telling people, that’s the kind of home I was raised up from. So, I said to myself what will I do with my inheritance and what will I do to make my father proud.So, I started using my inheritance for the NGO, and that is how we built Mallpai Foundation.

It’s been 11 years, what has been your greatest achievement with MallPai Foundation

Like I said, we send children to school, there was a time, I was tired, I was saying I’m tired because, it’s not like we are getting any funding from other people. We source the money ourselves or myself, from friends, family and the board members. We tasks ourselves for Mallpai Foundation to continue. So I was saying , I’m tired , I’m not seeing any output in me and then one of these boys came with his result saying “ma, ma ma,I want to thank you for changing my life, thank you and God bless you” and that single moment is an achievement for me. You don’t have to change the whole world, but if you know you can change 1or 2 people’s life, it’s an achievement. We have people that have graduated, that are now working in our center at BirninKebbi teaching the less privileged. They came back to do that. We also have a Doctor, but he wouldn’t want his name mentioned and we respect his privacy but one way or the other he supports us, he gives back. We have a woman that we have empowered; we gave her grinding machine, she is a widow. And we said, we are giving her a loan because we realize when you are giving them for free, they will sell it, but if you say you are giving them things for loan and you expect them to be bringing back token for you, maybe every month you expect them to bring back say like 500 Naira, that commitment in them will make them to work hard, and then we tell them that we are going to put their children through school, make sure they go to school and we are going to give you food and we are going to make sure we check on your children in school and if they don’t attend classes, we will come back and take the grinding machine from you. To cut the story short, this woman now has 5 Grinding Machine of her own, just from that 1. We told her if she brings the money enough to buy that 1, we told her we are giving 1 more to enable her balance us up. Then she told me, Hajia, I don’t want you to give me more money to balance you back, I want to use my money and buy my thing, I now know the value of it. There’s a woman we saw also, I think her husband is alive, but they are really poor. What did we help her with? She said in their village they go very far to buy firewood. So she said, if she can buy firewood, she will sell and make money, so we said okay, we will buy the firewood for you, her pickup was 15,000 thousand naira but someone said no, we should not give her a lot of money that she might not appreciate it. So we bought her 5,000 Naira worth firewood and she gave us 7,000 Naira back in return. So we said okay, she should continue that we are expecting her to be giving us 500 naira every month and she has been doing that, enjoying it. And then she told us that, how much is our money because now she can afford to give us the capital and still continue to do her business. So to me that’s an achievement.

The challenges for the past 11 years?

A lot of them. Like I said earlier that I was going to quit. When you send them to school you will have to bargain with them. Apart from bargaining with them, you will be giving them school fees, handouts, then you try to set them up. Tell them this is your business, do it, so that you can be buying your handouts. Some of them will go and sell it, and tell people that Mallpai Foundation has sent them to school without helping them, so to me that’s another challenge. You can’t say you will continue giving and giving, they have to learn to work, but people will think otherwise. For example, because my husband is the executive governor of Kebbi State, people usually think, I will just snap my fingers and miracle will happen, as if I have a tree of money in my house or MallPai foundation is linked with the State government. Mallpai is an institute on its own and not part of Kebbi State Government, and it will never be part of Kebbi State Government, and I think everybody know that even His Excellency, understand that Mallpai is a body. If you ask him, he will tell you that MallPai is a different body, it’s not Kebbi State.

How necessary is education and community development to People benefiting from the foundation?

Let me give an example, we are doing a Fulani- Ruga project. We train them skill acquisition, we make them go to school, especially their girl child, in return for the skills. They keep their bargain and we keep ours. We try to see that we empower them in a way that they will not be able to sell their local milk {Fura and Nunu} on their heads. We want people to come to their settlement and buy things from them, instead of them going out to hawk. We even train them on Yoghurt making from their local milk {fura and Nunu} and how to preserve it without getting spoilt. Train them on hygiene things. So to me, it’s an achievement and also a community development.

Where do you see Mallpai foundation in the next 4 to 5 years?

Waoow, I’m seeing the foundation as a global foundation impacting lives globally.

Beneficiaries of the foundation, are they limited to Kebbi State only or across the country Nigeria?

Abuja is our head office. We have an office in Kebbi, Kaduna, Kano, Delta, Edo and Lagos States respectively.

How do you get your beneficiaries, and the processes of becoming a beneficiary of MallPai Foundation?

What we usually do is, we have foot soldiers {Brotherhood and Sisterhood}, and they go around and look for people that are in need of serious help. For example, we just built a house for a blind man in Kebbi. We came across him; he has beautiful daughters that people are taking advantage of. He’s blind, and the wife is blind as well but the children have sights. We put those children in school; we bought a land and built a 2 bedroom apartment for him and the family. A parlor, a kitchen for each of his wife, because he has 2 wives. So we make sure that, when you come to us, you are genuine before dealing with you. We have a system of profiling the would be beneficiary of our foundation.

2020 is a different year entirely with the COVID-19 globally. How did MallPai foundation faired in terms of Finance for its humanitarian activities?

You see, it’s the whole crisis everywhere globally. It’s hard; you can’t even say you want food donations to help others. It’s even a problem for those that are giving you donation. It’s a global thing and not only in Nigeria.

What has the foundation done during this COVID-19 period?

Just as what the government has been doing. We have been reaching out to different people. We have been helping a lot of people. We gave them food, cloths while some need cash which we gave.


Is your NGO opened for support and what kind of support MallPai foundation needs?

We solicit for strategic partnership and support.

Do you have a specific project you want support for?

Like I said, we have a center where we train women, especially girls that dropped out of school. We support them to retake their West Africa Examination Council exams, if they have the interest of going to the University, we help them go back. But if they just want to have the certificate, we let them have it.

We like building schools for people, we like building houses for the needy, we like giving water, because there are people that are suffering for water, they will come to us that they need water. A lot of communities need water and we have to get them boreholes. There are places that they need schools, they have schools but are in a state of disrepair and the students are just under the tree sitting down to study and they need shelter for learning. Like an outreach we are doing at the moment, one of the main reason we are doing this outreach is to try to get people to give them toilets and bathrooms. We are trying to get people to build skill acquisition centers, so that they can also use it for their children’s classroom. Our outreach is not like the conventional outreaches where you just go and give people food, but we want to raise money for people to have better lives even if they are in IDP settlement, let them at least have a descent toilet and water. For a woman, every month is difficult without having water to keep herself clean. So if you are living in such an environment, decongestion alone is a problem. So we are trying to see if we can get people to build toilets and bathrooms for those who need them.

Looking back, how many lives numerically, has the foundation touched?

I can’t tell you off hand, but I think in hundreds. Like I said, there are people who don’t want the public to know that they have benefited from our foundation and we decided to respect their privacy, but there are those that are willing to say yes, we’ve benefited from Mallpai Foundation.

As a stakeholder, what is it about the girl education. Is it that they don’t like going to school or there’s no provision?

You know in Africa settings, keeping the men in the front and putting the women behind has been our way of life. Most parents will be more comfortable to send their boys to school than the girls. After all they will say if she completes her education she will eventually end up in someone else’s home. So, this is one of the challenges. So Sometimes if you educate a female child, she will be able to educate that boy you’re sending to school. If you look at it, a mother that is educated, the way she will train her children would be different from the mother that is not educated. When I say education, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the woman must attain master or PhD level.

Wherever the word Northern Nigeria is being spoken, what usually come to mind is the street beggars {almajeris}. Different perceptions about the northerners and their children and begging, what can you say is the core problem of this and what is the solution?

To start with, I won’t say its poverty, nor will I say negligence, but the main reason for children beggars {Almajeris}. You know the almajeri system was working in the past. It’s all about seeking Islamic knowledge. Understand this, begging islamically is not allowed, so when people say it has to do with religion, it’s not true. That aside. People send their children to seek for knowledge and when they send them, that child out, they don’t make provision for them. I always say this, people blame the mallams. I’m not saying they are all perfect. Let’s not put ourselves in a situation where you have 1 to 1,000 children without provision with a mallam that has 2 to 3 wives and 1 to 15 children of his own. Definitely, he has to send them to go get food somewhere, Is he going to leave his children and feed the others, these mallams don’t have salaries, nobody is paying them and the mallam will tell you that he cannot send them away, because in Islam you cannot horde knowledge, you have to spread it and at the same time, Islam did not say you should jam-pack them in one place.

11 years on, are you fulfilled?

Smiles…its been a worthy journey

What is your advice for Amina in Kumasi and Sadiyah in Mali, across Africa and for young people coming up?

Be truthful to yourself, search inside your soul. Do not say because this person is driving a Volvo, I must drive a Mercedes Benz. If you are going to compete with somebody, compete in the right direction. Be respectful and be faithful to yourself and to your people and always put the fear of God in whatever we are doing, it’s very important. With the fear of God and faith, we will be guided through. Let’s disabuse our minds that we have to work in the office. Let’s learn other skills and be empowered. And let us at always pray for our leaders. For us, whenever we abuse or curse our leaders, we are cursing ourselves. This is my advice.

Advice to all mothers in Africa and across the globe?

We should learn to understand our children. Each child is special and different. We should stop creating competition between our children and bring our children close. Let’s listen to them as they talk, then we will guide them so that they will be better than us. Sometimes, we think we know because the world we think we know is different from the one we are living in now. We should learn to stop placing a curse on our children. We should also learn to put our cultures in them. Now, many people are deviating from their cultures and leading the children to cultures that are not theirs.

How do you feel when people appreciate you for contributing to their lives?

When you’re doing something because of God and humanity, you are not expecting anything in return. Like I said, even if it is one person’s life, it’s an achievement. To me, I feel the foundation is getting there. Like you said 5 to 10 years from now, only God in His glory knows where the foundation will be. Not me, not you but only God that can say where He wants us to be. We can only hope for positive things.


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