It’s independence day in Nigeria and even though a lot seems to be upside down, I’m choosing to share the story of an inspiring, beautiful and amazing 26-year-old medical doctor who deserves to be celebrated. Her story and what she has achieved is so inspiring and is a much-needed ray of hope in this season.
The objective of this piece is not
only to bemoan the state of the economy or quality of governance, especially at the local government level. The objective is to celebrate a woman I consider to be much better than I. Her name is Oluwatomi Adeoti (Tomi Adeoti) a 26-year-old medical doctor and she is an NYSC Batch B 2015 Youth Corper, posted to Gombe State. She studied medicine at the University of Ibadan.
For readers who don’t know what NYSC is, it is the National Youth Service Corps, a compulsory one-year service scheme to the government of Nigeria for Nigerian graduates. The objective is to encourage national integration, as corpers are posted to different parts of the country, and also to promote development. See more here.
I’m very quick to admit that Tomi is a Shero for staying in Gombe state and choosing to be a change agent there because Gombe state is a high-risk state due to security challenges. Tomi had the option to be disillusioned and angry and question what Nigeria has ever done for her. Instead, she chose to identify the needs in her community and sought to provide solutions. Her story warms my heart. Hers is a story of selfless giving and it gives me hope that maybe my generation may change things yet.
I think you need to read from Tomi, to understand her passion and drive and how a youth corper who earns 19,800 Naira a month was able to raise over 500,000 Naira to improve the quality of life in a community of approximately 500 people.
Please give us a background to your project.
I was posted to Gombe state in Northern Nigeria. When I resumed my duties at my place of primary assignment (PPA) I began to interact with the locals and I saw the gross need for intervention in the areas of health education, water supply and nutrition. During the NYSC orientation camp, all corpers were encouraged to identify the needs of their host community and endeavour to meet those needs. I identified certain needs in Unguwar-Alheri village and I decided to meet those needs as my personal community development service project (CDS).
Unguwar-Alheri is a settlement of over 500 people located close to my PPA. The people are mostly farmers, cattle herders and fishermen. They buy water at an average cost of 300 Naira per day, for a family of 7. Children are often seen pushing carts of water kegs around in search of water. The lack of water affects the hygiene of the people and invariably, their health, as they minimise their use of water due to the cost. In addition to this, grossly underweight and malnourished children frequently visit the clinic where I work, often to obtain treatment for diseases like malaria, pneumonia and acute diarrheal diseases. I observed that the frequency of clinic visits could be reduced if the people are taught ways to improve nutrition and basic principles of personal hygiene.
I decided to conduct the following projects:
1. Drilling of a borehole to meet the need for portable water in Unguwar-Alheri;
2. Medical Outreach: Health education on good nutrition and basic personal hygiene techniques like hand washing;
3. Donation of fortified protein meals (Grandvita Protein Cereal Meal) to improve the health of malnourished children under the age of 5; and
4. Donation of stationery to school-age children in Unguwar-Alheri.
How did you feel when you saw your posting letter?
Well, I was amused, but then, my plan was to apply for redeployment to a state in the South West at the NYSC orientation camp on grounds of insecurity so, I was not alarmed or perturbed. Looking back now, I can say that God had other plans for me and I am glad that I followed Him through to the end. It has been a fulfilling and wonderful experience.
What motivated you to undertake the project?
The people. I saw the need for the various aspects of the project and wanted to meet it.
Were you discouraged at any point?
Yes. Working alone to raise over 500,000 Naira within two to three months at a time when most people in Nigeria were experiencing financial constraints was difficult. Also, corporate bodies that I approached for help were unwilling to release funds to an individual that they knew little about. Apart from that, my PPA was changed by NYSC just as I was about to start the execution of the project. I was moved to another part of Gombe State, a town that is about two and a half hours from the place where most of the work was done. Anyway, it all turned out well eventually, as I was able to do some more work in the town that I was re-posted to.
What was your most rewarding moment during this project?
The look on the face of the people as they started fetching the water after the borehole project was commissioned. They were happy.
How did you source for funds?
Mostly through an online platform, where I shared the reason for the project. I sent the link to several friends and family through emails, Whatsapp, BBM and Facebook. You can check out my blogpost here. I also met a few people one-on-one to solicit for funds.
What are your plans for the future?
I finish my NYSC in November 2016 and I am currently looking for opportunities in NGOs or organisations that promote public health, so please hook me up!
I’m looking forward to having a career in public health that will enable me push for more of the kind of help I was able to offer the beneficiaries of my project. A career that will help me promote disease prevention rather than waiting for the disease to afflict one in the first place. A career dedicated to empowering people with the knowledge that they need to stay alive and healthy.
On Nigerian People
One important thing I learnt during this project is that Nigerians have the heart to give. Nigerians are not bad but our government has made us lose trust. There are still people willing to make a difference. Most of the donations I got were from individuals who believed in what I was doing. Corporate sponsorship was not forthcoming. I have a renewed belief in the Nigerian people.
Any advice for young people?
To keep helping wherever and whenever they can. Change is the only thing that is constant in life and that can make a difference. Do not wait for someone else to do it. Be the change that you want to see. The impossible is the untried.
In an ideal world where government at all levels is efficient, Tomi Adeoti should not be the one providing these items and infrastructure. We at Maytermorphorsis are super proud of this Shero, while we remain hopeful that in the near future, Nigeria’s development story will be worth speaking about. This independence day, I encourage you not to be disillusioned. Let Tomi Adeoti’s story encourage you to be the change you want to see, as we learn hard lessons on how to keep government accountable and efficient.
Happy independence Nigerians. Make sure you eat a big bowl of Jollof rice and ruin your diet!
Please share this article everywhere. Let’s celebrate Tomi and also encourage her efforts!