The buzzing excitement of networking at the Dorchester, London was lulled by the rousing words of Reverend Dr. Helen Orisejafor, “Life does not give you what you deserve, but is give you what you decide to take.” The inspiring Dr. Orisejafor was awarded the African Philanthropist of the Year award for 2021 at the African Leadership Magazine Persons of the year award ceremony. The Nigerian businesswoman is a philanthropist, academic leader, and reverend. All of her gifts and talents were showcased at the event on the 26th of February.
Following the keynote speech by Baroness Sandip K. Verma about the importance of investing in where we come from, Dr. Ken Giami and Dr. Orisejafor took to the stage. Dr. Orisejafor began by narrating that she learned the importance of helping others from a young age. Losing her mother at a young age did not hinder her but instead spurred her forward in lending a hand. “My philosophy is to see to the wellbeing of people, especially where I come from,” she responded to a question by Dr Giami, “You cannot put a price on ensuring you can put a smile on someone’s face.”
When asked what inspired her to help women in the business sector, she narrated a story about a woman who came into the bank a year ago asking for a loan with almost nothing. Before the bank rejected assisting her, she called her aside, trusting that the woman had good intentions, “I could see in her eyes she was a woman who had a plan,” she explained. Ten years later, that woman came back and thanked her, showing her how that loan took her beyond and launched her success. “Women like her and stories like these are what drive me. It is all about rendering service to people,” she stated. In her speech, she also expressed her steps to success teaching listeners “Success transfer.” By the end of the event, she left guests educated, intrigued, and looking for pens to note down her wise words of inspiration. Shortly after, she was presented with the award with event-wide applause and congratulatory messages from the organization.
Alongside Rev. Dr. Helen Orisejafor, several other awardees were honored and received their recognition with inspirational speeches about the future of Africa. His Excellency Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi, received the African of the year award, thanking the organization for the hard work they are putting in to create our own African narrative. The keynote speaker also complimented this. Bishop Patricia Sappor, the president of Chartered Institute of Bankers Ghana, also spoke extensively, joining the event virtually.
Overall the event was a success leaving all who were in attendance both virtually and physically inspired and geared for the future. Connections were made, and lessons were learned. The attendees parted with the wise words of Dr. Helen Orisejafor, “A time will come when the west will look to Africa for a solution. Do not allow the environment to decide what you must become; only you much make that choice”.