Rebecca Olatunji from Nigeria is OD Young Person of the Month for April 2020!
Welcome to April!
Our Young Person of the Month is Rebecca Olatunji from Nigeria! Rebecca is a social entrepreneur, sign language interpreter/ tutor and a former classroom teacher. She is the Founder of CODAH Enterprise, where she works to promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community, promote their culture, and foster their inclusion in the society.
Rebecca holds a National Diploma in Textile Technology from Yaba College of Technology, Yaba; and she is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Community and Public Health at The University of the People, USA. Rebecca emerged the second place winner of the 2019 Opportunity Desk Impact Challenge!
Read her story below and be inspired!
Rebecca Olatunji is a social entrepreneur, sign language interpreter/ tutor and former classroom teacher. Her life goal has been about making positive impact and promoting sign language in her local community. Rebecca is the Founder of CODAH Enterprise where she works to promote the linguistic identity of the Deaf community, promote their culture and foster their inclusion in the society.
She was a classroom teacher for six years before she ventured into volunteering with Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), for one year and eventually started CODAH enterprise. She is also an Alumni of the Knowles Educational and Charitable Trust for International Leadership (Kectil), USA. Rebecca holds a National Diploma in Textile Technology and she is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Community and Public Health at the University of the People, USA, where she was awarded a certificate of superior performance.
On How She Began CODAH Enterprises
Rebecca grew up seeing the everyday struggles of a deaf person, which was usually accompanied by high level of social stigma, and this is because she is a CODA (Child of the Deaf Adult). Both her parents are Deaf and she has a younger sister who became deaf due to early complications and a late detection. Rebecca learnt the Sign language as a child from her parents and she grew up helping to bridge the communication gap most of the times for her parents. She wasn’t always proud of using the Sign language especially in open spaces or at social functions. This was due to the stares and the pitiful look she would normally get from passerby’s or people around. This really affected her relationship with her sister, until the day she confronted her and asked, why she was embarrassed of her and their parents? Her many questions shaped Rebecca’s life, and from that day Rebecca made up her mind to change the “Why”.
CODAH Enterprise became a reality right after Rebecca’s volunteering journey with Voluntary Service Overseas and ever since, creating a world where being Deaf is no longer seen as a limitation but rather as a different kind of culture has been her number one life goal.
On Her Successes and Future Plans
Through their online and offline platforms, CODAH Enterprise has been able to train over 300 people on the Sign Language. They have trained 12 volunteers who are now trainers of the Sign language. They currently train pupils in schools on the basics of Sign language through their ‘I CAN SIGN’ Project. They have trained a total number of 22 individuals and 230 students in different schools on Deaf culture and the basics of Sign language. They are currently running a 4weeks training for parents of the Deaf pupils at a Deaf school in Lagos state on social inclusion, Deaf culture and the Sign language. They have a total of 30 parents who have participated so far and can now make simple conversations using the Sign language.
CODAH Enterprise has also partnered with other organizations to raise awareness on sensitive social issues surrounding the Deaf community, and they were able to partner with the Deaf community for their own development. Through the “I CAN SIGN” Project they were able to partner with Deaf individuals and have them volunteer with CODAH as trainers and facilitator of their own culture and language.
As they expand and get more funding, Rebecca is hopeful that CODAH Enterprise will do more projects that will focus on deaf literacy, career development for deaf girls, Deaf women empowerment programs, job linkage program for deaf individuals and employ more Deaf persons to work in their organization, this is in pursuit of one of their goals to create equal opportunities.
In five years, Rebecca hopes to have the Nigerian Sign Language as one of the language option offered in all schools in Lagos and neighboring states, and as well making a big advancement in creating an officially recognized and documented Sign language for Nigeria.
On Her Obstacles
When CODAH began in 2018, Rebecca couldn’t run any major programs due to lack of funding. She recalls reaching out to schools to run their free Sign language program for their students, but none of them responded or reached out to her. She had the opportunity to meet with the head teacher of one of the schools, and she said to her, “The idea is very good but you have no record or profile; come back when you have done quite a good number of programs.”
Rebecca was discouraged, anyone in her shoes would have been; but she couldn’t give up as she has had to resign from her paying job so she could invest more time into this dream of hers. Rebecca therefore began her first outreach as an online program, which gave her a good number of followers and publicity and boom! She got 3 schools to run their first free summer Sign language program.
Other organizations began reaching out for partnerships and they were able to run other projects with personal funding and support from families and friends. And thanks to Opportunity Desk, she says, they got their first official funding this year which they are currently using to fund their “I CAN SIGN PROJECT”.
Her Word of Advice to the Youth
“Track records are very important so pursue your goal with or without funding, as there are still a lot you can do without the money. But as you do, keep track, they will speak for you later.”
Who will be the Next Young Person of the Month?
You can be the next Opportunity Desk Young Person of the Month! All you have to do is get a friend to recommend your work or fill out the nomination form here. We want to use the platform to recognize and celebrate the efforts of amazing young people around the world. Oh! And you must be an active Opportunity Desk member, either as a fan, reader or subscriber!