Cheshire Woman Awards has presented Ijeoma McDougall, a local magistrate, charity owner, and most of all a community hero, their highest honour; the Woman of the Year award.
From the north-east of Nigeria, to the north-west of England, Ije has cemented herself as a game-changer.
She runs the revolutionary Kairos Initiative, utilising her own experiences from a young age and her immense empathy to send aid to those in need in Nigeria, whilst also bridging the gap between donors and recipients.
Furthermore, she serves in the legal system locally as a family court magistrate. At every turn Ije fights for justice, “If we make the effort to just help the person next door or if we’re walking past and we see injustice happening it is for us not to be quiet.”
Her years of outstanding work which sends ripples across two separate countries has earned her Cheshire Woman Award’s highest achievement; Woman of the year for 2023, “I’m very surprised, because never in a million years did I think I would be recognised.” The award has significant history, dating back to 1985, with proceeds donated to the NSPCC.
Despite all of the above, the exact reason why she was not only nominated but was given the award boiled down to another act of her human compassion.
She explained how “everybody seemed to know exactly what they were nominated for [but] I didn’t”. Great things are done by a series of small things brought together, and this occasion was no exception. Ijeoma, using her skills in leadership, was able to rally together aid online after she was approached to fill the cupboards of a post-hospitalised mother of four, “It made me really emotional because it was a small thing.”
Ijeoma serving as a community hero wasn’t just a one-off either. She was placed under pressure once more after speaking to a homeless couple, new to parenthood, and was able to not only earn them a home, but she gathered a band of willing, kind people to completely furnish their new-found safe haven. “I didn’t know the future had this!”
When asked about what she thinks of the future, Ije stated how she plans to use the award to strive to help others and to boost her audience, “I hope that this gives me credibility.”
This really highlights the meaning of such an accolade; it was never solely for reputation and recognition, rather it is to encourage compassion to keep moving, even through the hardest of times, “Just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
As Ije made clear; “You never know who’s watching you. You never know what a small act of kindness could mean.” This award, and many others alike, are a statement. They illuminate what can be done, and inspire us to act instead of surrendering.
Ijeoma is one of many to reinforce its message; Quality, not quantity. The very moment she arrived at Birkenhead Park’s visitor centre, anybody around could see that there was something about her. The core to her success was one simple quality; An empowering sense of self-belief. That is what truly matters when striving to create change.
The author of this piece, Adam Ravenscroft, is a pupil at Calday Grange Grammar School in West Kirby. He is currently on a week-long placement with Birkenhead News.
Image: Ije McDougall with her award at Birkenhead Park. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com