Dr. Yolanda George-David is a Neurosurgeon with primary residency in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is also a Clinical & Relational Psychologist, a multiple award winning International Public Speaker and Radio Show Host. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, the founder and servant-in-charge of Aunt Landa’s Bethel Foundation, speaks on why she is passionate about getting people off the streets.
Can you give us brief background information about yourself?
I am the Servant-in-charge of Aunt Landa’s Bethel Foundation. I am a relief merchant. I like to think of myself as the reason someone should think they can beat whatever it is they are faced with. I serve primarily at the foundation as the contact between the communities that we help rescue and the foundation. Of course, the Foundation is run administratively by Ali Baba and the board members; they take care of all the logistics and major planning. I work with the community, rescue offices and I am supported on the outreaches. I also do a lot of businesses. My personal businesses are borne out of the need to support the work I do. Remember that I do not run this charity only in Nigeria but we have clusters of this charity in other countries across the world so I have babies everywhere and the need to fund them is the reason I am a serial entrepreneur. My love for education is the reason I am always getting a certification. I am a wife and mother. I have been a mother for a long time but during my time of waiting, I tilted a bit from my concentration on sexual abuse and prostitute and drug rehabilitation to empowering women who were going through fertility issues because my primary residency was originally in Gynaecology before I went on to Obstetrics. I am a passionate lover, a very private person, I don’t go to parties.
What informed your choice of career?
As a child, I wanted to be a lawyer but the thing is I am not confrontational. You shout at me, I cry. You exert yourself; I disappear because I am originally an introvert. I am a semi confident introvert with a lot of anti-social tendencies. So, I would have found it difficult to defend people in court according to my counsellors and parents because the reason I wanted to do Law was to fight for the right of people. So they said if you want to help people why not Medicine? So, I was kind of forced to go to Medical School and that was why I got a second degree in Software Engineering because I love writing software and over time, I fell in love with medicine because I discovered that I could help people, and treat them for free. And with the help of my software engineering, I write software, raise money to help people. I think my desire to help people is responsible for what I am doing today.
What price did you pay to get to where you are today?
I think the price I paid was that I did not have a childhood. When I was young, I used to think that it was a bad thing because at the time when my mates were trying to discover who they were, being fashion sensitive, discovering boyfriends and all, I was being forced by my parents to get an education. I was in Bible school at 12. While I was in school, I was the youth pastor. Then I was sick and had to had surgeries and treatments. Then I was focusing on helping people so the little time that I had I was investing it in people who sometimes didn’t appreciate me. I was stabbed several times when I was trying to force drug addicts to change without getting the real understanding and rudiments of how to rehabilitate them. All of the processes were tradeoffs. Yes I never got to date. The benefit of that was that, I got married to my best friend and the first and only boyfriend. I never had the privilege of having friends. The people in my lives now are my school mates, colleagues or people I met on my journey as a missionary. I have no social life. I am just learning social interaction now. The only life I know is helping people. I traded off a lot of luxuries to help people. No matter how much I love a pair of shoes, somewhere in my head, the bags of rice that money can buy.
What will you say is the most defining moment of your career?
I came to this town, working so hard and trying to break into the community. I used to ask myself and my late friend that are we doing the right thing when we were reaching out to people? Then we were stuck in traffic, some guys were robbing people from car to car and one of them recognised me. Apparently I had helped him and his family before and he escorted me all the way to Gbagada from Third Mainland Bridge and told me continue to do what I am doing. It made me feel I was doing something and reaching out to people. Also, I go to places and people I don’t expect to recognise but they will recognise me and they will say you built this and that for us. We don’t have money to advertise yet people get to hear about us through words of mouth and refer people that need help to us. Also when I see the relief on people’s faces and their smiles, it hits me that I am doing something right.
You are a woman of many parts. What motivates you?
I am just grateful that I am just called crazy not someone with multiple personality disorder. I think needs of people have forced me to have to duplicate myself in many ways. My motivation is the fact that I had always been sick and I know what pain is. As I struggled through pains, I knew what it means to be a suicidal teenager. There were times I felt the pains were too much, I should just die. And there are times I looked at people and I became worried that people assume that everybody needs money. I am struggling and fighting to ensure that anyone I meet does not have to go through the pains alone. We cannot always alleviate the pains but we can assist them. For instance, we can’t help a rape victim who got pregnant to erase what has happened to her but we can offer her a shoulder to cry on and also help her take care of her baby if she doesn’t want it. My motivation is to transform the lives of people who come to us no matter how horrific their past experiences were.
What informed your decision to start Aunt Landa’s Bethel Foundation?
I had been doing this without a structure from my teenage years and eventually I needed a structure and real ways to reach real people. We had to search for a name and it was originally just to rehabilitate sexually abused, physically and emotionally abused teenagers but working with them, we discovered broken children are products of broken homes so we had to work with parents. We also rescue prostitutes in dangerous areas for rehabilitation, rescue sexually abused girls and boys, fight for the oppressed, give shelter to the abandoned, feed thousands and cover educational and surgical fees among other life changing initiatives. Aunt Landa works with a team of passionate volunteers and together they have helped redefine and add purpose to over 1 million registered and non-registered members with different need in the Foundation’s over 200 centers.
How did you feel when you were made the 2018 brand ambassador of Vlisco in Nigeria?
It was somehow unexpected because I am not a public person. The whole summary of what being Vlisco ambassador entails was the fact that I was told that I will be needed to motivate young people and that Vlisco wants to work with me to reach out to more women, and inspire young women across board so, it just keyed into what I am doing. Vlisco is about modesty, decency, achieving your goals and making young women to know that nothing is impossible. Impossible is just an idea, almost same thing Aunt Landa is about. All I have to do now is that instead of wearing Khaki and Tee Shirt, I have to wear, Vlisco dresses but I will still be rescuing prostitutes. It was interesting that an anti-social person like me will be considered to be the face of a fashion brand but if you look at it closely what we do is related, it is easy for me right now to just adopt this new duty.