‘The Humanitarian’ is what i am known as. Growing up was absolutely normal to me. We had three square meals, good shelter, and a peaceful and loving family. There was the stern watchful eyes of my parents that ensured my siblings and I had minimal or no fun. Largely because we lived in poor and violence-prone areas. My life and times with my parents is undoubtedly the most influential of all encounters that has shaped me. The way my father sacrifices for the family and my mother’s unrivalled kindness to neighbours and total strangers, were all the necessary ingredients for the path I am on.
I still like to think that Mushin is not exactly as violent as people paint it, because my family and me never really witnessed any violence. I only heard tales. However Mushin was and is still rugged. Living near the railway for close to 15 years exposed me to poverty. It surrounded and choked me.
“There was not a day that I wasn’t faced with needy eyes. Everyone was hungry – the kind of hunger food alone could not suppress. Families lived and still live in small wooden shelters by the rail. People defecated on the rail tracks, openly and you almost couldn’t challenge them. Everyday I yawned to help these people. As a child, I would imagine I had all the money in the world, so they did not have to suffer.”
Being a social entrepreneur is far from glamorous and this reality did not even hit properly until I quit my job shortly after NYSC. Humanitarian work found me. It’s been three years and three months and i have not looked back. We have metamorphosed but our goal remains to touch lives. Nifemi Brown Foundation started in August, 2015 as Nifemi Brown Initiatives; Unilag for Humanity being the first project.
Our first project was a visit to Dustbin Estate slum in Ajegunle. In 2016, we visited three schools in Fadeyi, where we renovated and painted the school buildings, donating stationery to over 1,000 pupils. The February of 2017, we visited Modupe Cole Memorial with reliefs items, celebrating valentine. In 2018, we visited three public primary schools in Mushin. We donated a toilet facility, renovated the school’s entrance, painted a school and donated stationery to close to 2000 pupils. December of 2018, we reached out to the elderly in Ojuwoye market, provided all the necessary food items and relief materials the home lacked. Our outreach is to underprivileged homes and public schools in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of Quality Education.
Our primary challenge remains funding. It is the second most tedious of all we have to do. It has become a greater problem because most people are hesitant about donating to rebuilding schools, or funding education. Most are of the opinion that it should be solely government’s responsibility but we are Nigerians and by experience, we should by now know that we cannot wait on those we have elected to do the needful.
“For us at NBF, we believe strongly that getting education right is getting other sectors right, in the long run. Education is the magic that can actually rewrite the African narrative. It is The Humanitarian way.”
Another challenge is getting approvals from necessary boards to execute projects. They mostly treat us like intruders. We have to wait weeks to get approvals, we are often subjected to unnecessary protocols.
Personally, I am often unable to explore other areas of interest because running a NGO is full time work and equally tasking but I am learning and unlearning where necessary.
People say I’m able to achieve this feat because i am female. I remember one instance: It was days after our first outreach in 2015, one of the popular male students who had a penchant for organizing successful parties approached me to publicize his upcoming party – this is due to the success of the outreach and my overnight recognition in Unilag, even though prior to that, I had my hands in PR and politics. I agreed to help, I mean, why not?
“The turning point in the conversation was when he ascribed my success to my gender, expressly saying that I got all the help and results because I am female. In a flash, all the toils, thorough planning, late nights, one-on-one and word of mouth publicity and so on, came to mind in a flash. It was disheartening. In that moment, I better understood feminism and why backing out or resting on my oasis is not an option.”
According to Universal Basic Education (UBEC), Nigeria now has 13.2million out of school children. This number has placed us as the country with the highest number of children out of school in the world. Individuals and NGOs need to step in. Let’s put more kids in school.
Let’s ensure those in public schools get good education and learn under conducive environment. Encourage these children when it’s needed.
I hope to see more NGOs spring up to rescue our education.To see more collaborations and more importantly, I hope organizations and individuals begin to find this an equally worthy course to support.
Furthermore, i look forward to a Nigeria where quality education and conducive learning environment is enjoyed by both public and primary school pupils.
I dream of a world where people live and breathe kindness. The Humanitarian nature must surpass the Animalistic side.