Saturday, June 25, 2005

Beyond the Realm of Fantasy

This is a continuation of an earlier post, see: The Trailblazers, the Fantasizers and the Quitters: where do you belong?

Earlier this year, I was invited to a fund raising luncheon organized by a NGO called Books for Africa. What I heard that afternoon was inspiring for I had been contemplating initiating a program fashioned after the Mano a Mano Medical Resources: a NGO that serves about 150,000 people in rural Bolivia. Although, these two organizations have different niches, their modus operandi is comparable; Books for Africa and Mano a Mano have perfected the means to recycle books and medical supplies in developing countries, respectively.

I have to admit, and not without shame, that I have not been able to translate my thoughts into realities yet, but there are many Nigerians that have been more successful! These individuals despite their limited resources, absence of well-oiled logistic machinery, and the notorious bureaucratic bottleneck in Nigeria, have secured useful collaborations, are willing to explore and seize windows of opportunity in Nigeria, and are serving as catalyst of change through the creative use of their resources in the Diaspora. I am proud and pleased to state that they may have initiated a subtle PARADIGM-SHIFT in Nigeria. Louis Ebodaghe is a poster child for this group of Nigerians.

HopeShare Foundation Inc, a NGO founded and managed by Louis Ebodaghe, identifies and cultivates resources that help restore hope and meaning to the lives of individuals and groups, that lack access to functional education and medical opportunities in Edo State, Nigeria. He has no office or a website yet; he operates from his basement and garage in Atlanta. According to Louis, who is fondly referred to as the "Duke of Esan Land" by his cronies:

"Through the support and collaborative efforts within our communities, NGOs, and the generous contributions of St Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta's Russell Bellman Library since 2004, current medical journals and textbooks have been donated to the Ambrose Alli University Medical School, at Ekpoma, Edo State (his native state in Nigeria). This effort has helped sustain the accreditation status of the Medical school, as well as enabled the students to gain access to and acquire valuable knowledge on current information in the study and practice of Medicine. One of our long term goals is to provide the same level of support to other Universities across the nation, based on available resources."

Louis hopes to go into collaboration with Zuma Memorial Hospital in Irrua, Edo State, to assess the current health needs of the community, by developing a community outreach program to facilitate the delivery of healthcare services to those in need. He stated that the HopeShare Foundation has adopted the Zuma Orphanage to help support the program and to draw attention to the plight and needs of Orphaned children in his society. He stressed that the Zuma Memorial Hospital has successfully provided nursing training programs to some of the children who were in the Zuma Orphanage. He believes that these graduates are a positive testimonial that through our collective efforts, we can empower our citizens as stakeholders, to build a better community that they can be proud of.

I'm in absolute concordance with him. Also, could the noble acts of Louis and others initiate a cascade of similar ventures by Diaspora Nigerians? Absolutely, in fact I hope many can learn some valuable lessons from him. I doff my hat to the many Louis Ebodaghes out there, who despite competing priorities and the discouraging news emanating from Nigeria by the hour, have accepted and have found ways to serve as catalysts of change.

I conclude with this statement extracted from a comment left by one of the readers, "Hope4U":

"...educate the masses and you transform your society. The masses deserve the opportunity to make informed choices, and this is only achieved through education - formal and informal, that creates a deep reservoir of knowledge necessary to effect change. Education must influence positive values, which creates that engine for change..."

* Louis is married to Abby, and they're blessed with two children- Bibi and Brandon. They all live in Marrietta, in the state of Georgia, USA.