Former human trafficking victim spearheads fund-raiser for kids school supplies

A local woman who once was a human trafficking victim is hosting a fund-raiser to help shelter kids get a good start for the upcoming school year.

 Bukola Oriola, proprietor of Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply in Spring Lake Park, is hosting her first-ever back to school fund-raiser at Coon Rapids Dam Park to benefit children staying at Alexandra House. Photo by Elyse Kaner
Bukola Oriola, proprietor of Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply in Spring Lake Park, is hosting her first-ever back to school fund-raiser at Coon Rapids Dam Park to benefit children staying at Alexandra House. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Bukola Oriola, proprietor of Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply in Spring Lake Park, is hosting the first-ever event “Back To School Fundraiser for Alexandra House.”

The event, which will be held at Coon Rapids Dam Park, will serve as a hub to collect donated school supplies for children staying in the Anoka County shelter.

The free event will be held rain or shine, Sunday Aug. 26, 2 to 7 p.m. in the park’s Pavilion No. 2. The park entrance is on Egret Boulevard near Coon Rapids Boulevard. A $5 parking fee applies inside the park, but street parking will be available at no charge.

A day of fun

Oriola invites people to join her in what she hopes will become an annual fund-raiser. A day of fun, community, barbecue and drinks will be served until supplies run out.

Kids will have a space to play. Oriola will offer a single-braiding or feather-braiding session for interested guests. Resource tables from local businesses and Alexandra House, a local shelter for battered woman and children, will be set up.

Admission to the event is free, but Oriola seeks donations of glue sticks, high lighters, calculators, backpacks without wheels, crayons, colored pencils and more. She also welcomes cash donations, with the proceeds going to Alexandra House to purchase school supplies. Donations are tax deductible.

Oriola encourages people to check in their homes for school supply items they might have that they can donate.

“Even one pen would make a difference,” Oriola said. “Little drops of water form an ocean.”

Families staying at Alexandra House oftentimes are struggling financially, said Amy Highness, community education coordinator at the shelter. We want to ensure kids have the necessary supplies, such as folders and pencils.

“We want them to have everything for a successful start to the first day of school,” Highness said.

A chance to start over

Oriola, a former award-winning journalist from Nigeria, came to America September 2005.

Unknowingly, she became a victim of human trafficking. She had come here to marry, but the marriage soon soured when her husband turned abusive.

He imprisoned her in their home and put her to work braiding hair. He kept the money. She was raped and denied food. Her clothing was ill-fitting, according to Oriola. (Oriola details her story in a book she wrote titled “Imprisoned: The Travails of a Human Trafficked Victim.”)

Oriola, with her one-year-old son, Samuel, in her arms, fled to the Alexandra House. The shelter gave her a much needed chance to start over and helped her bridge her way to success.

Today, she owns Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply in Spring Lake Park (She started in a smaller shop in Anoka). She hosts a monthly cable TV show called “Imprisoned” focusing on human trafficking. The show’s crew recently won a North Metro TV 2012 VIP award for Crew of the Year. And Oriola has emerged as a major advocate and resource point for victims of abuse and human trafficking, especially among immigrants.

Although now on her own and doing well, Oriola still calls the Alexandra House her “family house” because of all the help she received from the shelter and because her family remains in Nigeria.

The idea for the fund-raiser came to Oriola a few weeks ago when she read a book on supporting non-profits. She thought back to her time at the shelter, when she had no food, clothes or money. She was concerned that Samuel wouldn’t have a good start in life.

She also recalled the moms in the shelter worried, because of lack of funds, that their kids wouldn’t have the necessary tools to start school and be successful.

“I thought, ‘Wow! Those kids don’t have a safe home,’” Oriola said. “It’s going to be insult upon injury. More stress. Not good for these kids. With all the challenges they’re facing, they should be hopeful that going to school will give them a better future.”

Donations needed

This is Oriola’s first time heading a fund-raiser. So far, about five businesses have stepped forward with donations of mostly school supplies. Oriola continues to seek donations of food and bottled water for the event. A deejay, willing to donate services, is also on her list.

Oriola welcomes everyone in the community to attend the back-to-school fund-raiser. Families. Singles. “Because anybody can be in that situation,” she said of the battered and homeless.

Ultimately, it is Oriola’s goal to take Bukola Braiding Back to School Fundraiser statewide and then nationally. She would align with a variety of recipients in the future, she said.

In her indomitably spirited manner, Oriola continues to focus on helping mankind, touching lives. It fulfills her, energizes her, she says. This time around the spotlight is on school children.

“In my inner mind, I see smiles on the faces of kids who felt hopeless because they were homeless,” she said.

One hundred years from now, Oriola would like to be remembered as one immigrant who didn’t know anything about the United States when she first came, but, nevertheless, started what has become a long-standing fund-raiser with an emphasis on helping kids, she said.

For more information on Oriola, visit her website at For more information on the back-to-school event, e-mail Oriola at [email protected] or call 763- 516-4359. She may also be found on Facebook. If unable to attend the event, and you wish to donate, send a check made out to Alexandra House with the words “school supplies” in the memo line. Send the check to Alexandra House, P.O. Box 490039, Blaine, MN 55449.

Back to School Fundraiser for Alexandra House

Hosted by Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply

Sunday, Aug. 26, 2 – 7 p.m., free, rain or shine

Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Pavilion No. 2

Free parking outside of park, $5 parking fee inside park


School supplies donation list:

Glue sticks


Five inch scissors

Spiral bound notebooks

1½ or 2 inch three-ring binders

Backpacks (without wheels)


Sharpie markers (black)

Felt-tip washable markers

Colored construction paper

Non-marking gym shoes

Pens (black, blue and red)

#2 pencils

Colored pencils


Book covers

Two-pocket folders


USB flash drives

For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call 763-516-4359.

 To learn more about Bukola Oriola, read our 2010 ABC Newspaper story on her life at

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]