Friday, November 28, 2008

Where Are The Nigerian Volunteers?

Where Are The Nigerian Volunteers?


Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States

One Dr. Olajire Idowu, a Nigerian pediatric surgeon, is a graduate of a Nigerian medical school, who has practiced medicine in Oakland Children Hospital and Research Center in California for more than twelve years, he was the subject of a New York Times feature article on November 19, 2003.

He is an accomplished medical doctor in his area of specialization, but the article in The New York Times was about the size of his heart! He has a very big heart! He volunteers his time and money plus personal convenience, for the service of fellow human beings, particularly the Nigeria variety. The New York Times article recounted how Dr. Idowu has spent what amounts to a personal fortune in pursuit of a selfless course, the worthy cause of serving fellow Nigerians!

Dr. Idowu with some friends, namely, Ms. Katie Sabato, Dr. Ziad Saba etc, have during the past couple of years volunteered their medical expertise to Nigeria and Belize, for the betterment of fellow humans, and at no charge, supplying skills, money and equipment to alleviate the suffering of the sick, in addition to teaching local medical teams, innovative procedures for healing the sick and afflicted. Dr. Idowu and his teams surmounted the bureaucratic obstacles of the Customs and the epiletic NEPA, even as he vowed to continue these remarkable efforts, that entails visiting Nigeria with his medical mission, twice a year through his Medical C.A.R.E Corporation.

In the recent past, I have also read about Nigerians at home, who formed active road-repair volunteer networks, that has been providing emergency repairs to damaged roads, performing valuable stop-gap services before the government agencies snail-paced efforts arrives.

Additionally, some Nigerian women organizations, particularly, the one based in Atlanta Georgia, have been active in the award of scholarships to Nigerians in Nigerian schools; Some Nigerian Cultural Associations in the USA are active as well, in these concerted effforts, to uplift our people at home, hence develope and uplift our country.

Engaging in purposeful activities for the benefits of others can be very rewarding, and it is the best measurement of how refined the individual volunteers are, as it is often said that, the best measurement of a progressive and decent society, is found in how such society cares for the less fortunate, the less endowed or simply put, how such society cares for its poor.

Nigeria is a very passionately religious society, from African religions to Islam and Christianity, one would think then, that Nigerians should be passionate in their desire to help others? How then is it, that a country so religious and verging on fanatical religiousity, suffers a dearth of volunteers? It is time we show the abundant goodness in all Nigerians!

Americans are the most prodigiously individualistic society on earth, Americans are also at once, the most enthusiastic and exuberant volunteers one can find! They have support group for everything! They assist one another at time of local or national disasters, natural or man made, from Hurricane to Tornadoes and World Trade Center suicide attacks, Americans thrive in crises! It is actually at such times, that they momentarily forget their color differences, segregation and racism! Their humanity actually shine during crises and I know for a fact, that Nigerians can do better, any conceivable thing, the Americans have ever done!

Exponentially, Nigerian volunteers can change, positively, the lot of the underprivileged in our society; This is not suggesting that the government in Nigeria should be encouraged to abdicate responsibilities for basic governmental functions, instead, the government should set the tone and conducive environment for volunteerism in Nigeria; Nigerian government at local, state and federal levels, should establish honor rolls, honors bestowed on volunteers and not reserved for citizens who has the most money in the bank..... Honors instead, for Police persons, Fire Fighters, Bus Drivers etc, Honors deserving ordinary citizens and this will surely act, as
an additional impetus and inspire more selflessness.

Offering recognition and awards of honors in appreciation of our volunteers, could be one of the ways the government spurs volunteerism. Corporations, public and privately held companies, should also participate actively in encouraging volunteers, by facilitating volunteer efforts with money, material, and other actions that would exemplify volunteerism.

Nigerian retired public office holders, should also look beyond self and family; Think of contribution to society through volunteerism, Jimmy Carter, the erstwhile president of the United States has been a great symbol of volunteerism for many years, the Carter Center, and the Habitat for Humanity are avenue through which this gentle giant, former president has given of himself to the less privileged of America and the world.

Nigerians should not wait for the economy to be buoyant or perfect before engaging in volunteer work, we should not wait until we are well-fed and constipated, before we are willing to share food with those who are hungry and have no food like us, it is public knowledge that the Nigerian economy has been a very depressed and tough environment, it must be acknowledged therefore, that a tough economy is, actually tougher on the less privileged! What better time to help the poor, than in tough times?

All Nigerians are encouraged to practice compassion for others, more particularly, towards fellow Nigerians, after all, charity, they say, begins at home? So, the next time that we encounter a beggar or an Almajiri, a physically or mentaly disabled Nigerian, the visually or hearing impaired or challenged, whether in Abuja, Enugu, Kano or Lagos, we should think of what we can do, to make life for them a little more bearable and less painful, make their lives a lot less wretched, and a lot easier; No more sneering and jeering at the less privileged, we should not be like banks, banks that only give to those who already have! The truth is, when we give, we will feel good and even better, as we give to those who do not have, helping others actually has a cleansing effect that is immediate.

Volunteerism is a demonstration of human refinement in a spectacular sense, engaging in purposeful activities for the benefits of others, is the ultimate in human service! As Nigerians, we should frequently ask ourselves, "what do we want to be written on our tombstones or gravestones? Paul Adujie was rich, ruthless for money, for wealth and fame, cared only for himself or... He cared for all, he sacrificed money, time and personal convenience for the service of others, especially in meeting the needs of the underprivileged in society? We should all crave befitting epitah, such as, here lies the body of...... who gave all, in the service of others. Help others! Be a volunteer!

Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional.

Dec 2003

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