I first saw Tony in December 2018 at Her Network Woman of the Year Award in Lagos where she was nominated for an award. And fast forward to October 2022, I finally got the chance to visit Tony and her social enterprise, Durian Nigeria at Imafon, Ondo State in Nigeria.
My plan was to visit for 2 to 3 days and go off, but just wow! I ended up eating amala and ewedu for the first time in Imafon. I visited Ikogosi Warm Springs in the next state (Ekiti) then played mortal combat in Tony’s house while she constantly beat me. And when it was time to leave, I flew back home (I stopped by Owerri first to attend SMFest Owerri) with a small sac of garri, 1 new custom-made shirt from Durian, several customized handmade wristbands and keychains (to gift people), several containers of black soap, lip balm and some body cream — all made at Durian by the beautiful and industrious women there.
Actually, I ended up staying for about a week in Akure.
To cut right to the chase, here are 4 amazing things I learned and observed from Tony.
But first, who is Tony Joy?
At 16, Tony developed a wave of inner anger against marginalization, discrimination and bias within society and as a result of her experiences, she never wanted to see people being treated without value because of their social background or because they come from rural communities. Her passion and quest to support women in rural communities drove her to begin Durian Nigeria, a non-governmental organization that gives rural women the knowledge and skills they need to turn their local waste into reusable items and a source of income.
4 life lessons from Tony Joy’s life
1. Take care of the streets and the streets will take care of you.
That is literally what she said to me, word for word. It means that if you take care of your neighbourhood, the people around you, the street boys and gyals; if you look out for them, be good to them and assist them in good ways that you can, there’ll be a time when they’ll also look out for you and have your back. I saw Tony do this a lot and every time we drove or went past people, she would stop and greet people, from traders to sellers. You would think she knew the entire town.
2. Be resilient, stay positive, move in the right direction and be deliberate about your actions.
Tony’s life story is an inspiration and you should read about it yourself. Sometimes past experiences can lead us to take darker paths, but she went ahead to turn her well of pain into a well of blessings for others. And she’s deliberate about her growth as well as the growth of others around her.
3. There are many problems to solve but research and solve the right ones.
Remember the Pareto Principle of 80:20. 20% of your actions will give you 80% of the results you’re looking for. Tony’s always deliberate about what next she’ll be doing at Durian and reading the right books. One thing also is that she seems very much in touch with her community and with her team, so there’s always a good flow of communication on what issues actually exist to be solved. Feedback is important as it helps to create solutions to the right issues rather than solving non-existent problems.
4. Stay fit.
This is self-explanatory. Stay fit. Keep fit, exercise your body and your mind. If you visit Tony’s Instagram page, you’ll notice her fitness videos. She was one of the people who also kept pushing me to start exercising until I went to join a nearby Taekwondo club. As of the moment writing this, I’m now a yellow belter.
“The first wealth is health”Ralph Waldo Emerson
These are some of the cool things you’ll learn from Tony.