By Gaby Ndongo & Magnificent Mndebele
He was a pain in the ass. In other words, he was as bad as hell and so were his friends – naughty young fellows. They partied and drank alcohol over and over again, but his unquenchable thirst kept on creating an emptiness inside of him which sought to be filled up with a vision and focus of being a selfless individual – a young philanthropist who currently performs wonders and then wonders upon wonders.
Samuel Oken, a 25-year-old who is currently a third-year UJ student, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), more specifically in Lubumbashi. He has made his life an eternal river: a source of hope and strength for the less privileged of Africa’s future – the youth.
He is a person characterised by generosity, love, care, ambition, focus and humility but these qualities would not have been part of him without Claudette Katamba, his mother.
Blessed to be a blesser
Oken’s down-to-earth attitude and humility are the fundamental humanitarian values which made him establish a non-profit organisation in December 2015, called The Oken Samuel Foundation. This is a foundation that is aimed at alleviating poverty while seeking to make education accessible to every child on the African continent.
“It’s purely a charity-work [organisation], helping people by making sure that they live a better life and [ensuring] that at least kids have three meals per day, like what I am doing in Congo,” said Oken cautiously. “When God blesses you, He blesses you to bless other people. When God gives you something, it is not only for you.”
He says his vision of The Oken Samuel Foundation was also impacted by his religious stance, Christianity.
The broader perspective is for the organisation to provide aid not only in South Africa, instead Oken hopes for the foundation to spread its wicks and provide shelter to other citizens of the African continent.
This is why the young benefactor prefers to term it as a Pan-African organisation which receives its vitality from the passion of those leading it, who do so not for money neither fame. “The way my foundation is, I am neither doing it for the money nor publicity, [and] it is the passion that drives me.”
An impactful life bears wonderful fruits
When Oken decided to quit his bustling, youthful life of drinking and partying he had never thought of how impactful his decision would be to the friends who said it was only a sojourn, he will be back to the old life.
Some later on “called me, saying that they have changed and are reading the Bible,” Oken says. “To be honest with you, a lot of people in Congo have also started non-profit organisations because of my organisation.”
As much as his life has become an inspiration to his mates, “what keeps me going is when I see the children we help smiling. It touches my heart because people always remember how you make them feel,” he says with a smile that symbolises that his thoughts are in an imaginative mode, reminiscing smiles of the children his organisation seeks to aid.
Last year October and December, The Oken Samuel Foundation went to help the children in Orlando, Soweto. But what touched him in spirit is that “those kids could pray Our Father who art in Heaven . . . that really touched me because at least they know that God cares about them,” articulates Oken. “That even touched my mother because I went with her to the kids.”
A road to success is rocky And thorny
Oken reasonably does wonders after wonders then wonders after wonders, but the most difficult thing he had ever faced was raising funds “because people always think you want their money [for personal benefits]. And one of the main challenges was to build [the] trust of people.”
One has to be convincing for those whom he seeks financial assistance from to be considerate. He says that at times an individual needs to exhort them by even ensuring them that he is a transparent person and a Christian. Lack of trust is the source of such complication.
Nonetheless, the humanitarian illuminated that one has to be active on social media and maintain a level of trustworthiness based on consistency that will eventually earn the positive thoughts of others towards what he does. “People must see where the money goes . . . because when it comes to money, people have real trust issues.”
He says sometimes when he experiences hurdles such as getting transportation so that the children could get help it makes things worse for him and he feels like giving up, “but with the help of God anything is possible, with faith anything is possible.”
Greediness of people cripples the world
Oken has learned to be selfless and made his life a living sacrifice for God “by living a life that would bring change to the world.” However, there is one thing that detonates his heart into unrepairable pieces, “it is the greediness of people. There is enough money in the world to feed everyone,” he says while manifesting his heart-break by some of the “terrible” things he has seen in Congo.
He wants The Oken Samuel Foundation to continue with the spirit of Pan-Africanism, the spirit of uniting Africa. “I love my country, I’ve always wanted to do something. With my Foundation, I can do a lot of things in Congo. I am planning to go back to inspire young people to become better leaders than our actual leaders,” he optimistically says.
Currently, The Oken Samuel Foundation is doing some charity work in South Africa, Congo and endeavours to expand to Angola, Gabon and other African countries. But how could that be possible because greediness cripples the world and if one is reluctant to impact the youth of the continent by supporting his organisation.
“You are blessed to be a blessing because at the end of the day it is not about you. You are blessed to be a blessing to others”
“I really want to impact people, bring change to the world and leave a legacy so when I die people would remember what I am doing,” this is one of the key reasons Oken do what he does.
When asked to define himself in a single word, the young philanthropist said he is a “focused” person who focuses on things that matter the most of which education is a part of. TOJ
DISCLAIMER: This content is sponsored by The Samuel Oken Foundation, the fundamental aim is to highlight the blocks it has built on pursuit to build the continent for better, to unite us as African people to come together with Ubuntu to collectively shape the future of the continent.