Sunday, April 27, 2008

Are you living green?

ZZzzzz" All I wanted so much is to get more sleep. The weather is just perfect for that. But I cannot, because I already made some other commitment. One that will improve my life and the life of others- you! April 22nd is Earth day and the April 24th is world malaria day- both issues very connected to mankind and all other kinds. For some days, courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute’s Global Youth Summit, youths from 28 countries have been brainstorming on how best they can work to make the world a better place to keep it livable for this generation and those coming after us. For me, this goes beyond issues around poverty alleviation, and material issues but also eradicating poverty of the mind.
Right now, my room mate and I are preparing for the big day- Disney world’s 10th anniversary celebration in Florida, USA. We will be taking a tour round the wildlife to learn about the animals that are being threatened into extinction by man. Do you know anything about that? Well, I knew very little about it too and to think of it, I never really gave a second thought about it until now I am learning so much about conservation and the importance of nature. Information! What can we do without it?
Are you living green? Do you know enough to help you take care of nature and keep the Earth clean and green? We need to ensure that this generation and the future inherit a living earth, a clean and healthy home for man, animals and plants alike! But with the way things are going- global warming, environmental pollution, poverty etc. it seems we need to work harder to keep our world from falling apart. I will tell you more about all this talk about living green and clean in subsequent articles.... we need to protect the future...we all have a role to play!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cleaning up the mess...

As Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute says, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. And, only if we help, shall all be saved.” A couple of years ago, I met Kunle Oyeyinka, a young man who has a burning passion to clean up the mess in his community. By mess, I do not refer to the glaring garbage on the street of Lagos or the deteriorating state of the drainage system. These are just a fraction of the challenges our world is facing compared the state of some children, the pride of the present and the hope of the future.

What do we teach children these days? Do we still teach them to take care of beautiful things and not model shocking habits of adults who appear a bad example? Well, I am afraid the answer is “yes” and “no”. Yes for those who have someone to teach them how important it is to keep good values and no for those who have never had the opportunity to meet someone to show them the light for them to follow. These are the children locked in the dark of social justice, the out-of-school or never-been-to-school children with no dreams or hopes for the future. These are the ones who in later years may become street urchins, a menace to the society if nothing is done to stop this mess from eroding on the society.

It is in an attempt to mitigate this that Kunle Oyeyinka started up “Help the child foundation”, a community based organization committed to building a learning facility at the grassroots for disadvantaged children. For him, life has not always been a bed of roses. However, the passion to educate the poor children in his community was ignited during one of his visit to the hangout where he patronizes drug dealers. While he was snuffing the cannabis, he got his sense of social justice. For the first time, he seem to notice so many children running around the drug-hood, oblivious of the danger they were exposing themselves to and their parents didn’t know better. “These children ought to be learning something more productive” he thought to himself.

Today, Kunle is done with drugs; he is committed to building the nation for the future. To him, there is more to being youth than doing drugs. And to express himself and passion effectively, he mobilizes some of his friends from university of Lagos to teach these children with limited opportunity to learn about arts or science due to their parents’ financial constraint. A free mini-school is now up and running in the neighborhood and the children are thankful for the opportunity.

In addition to this, Kunle and his friends sometimes organizes special outings/excursions to interesting places like the museum, galleria, cinema, beach etc. Imagine children who have always known only the four walls of the ghetto having such exposure at no cost! For some of them, it is a life changing experience that will get them thinking of how best to position themselves to also be an asset to bring a positive change in other people’s lives. Kunle Oyeyinka and his friends are touching lives and cleaning up the mess around them because they care and believe it is our responsibility to keep our country clean.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jessica Rimington

Today, young people from all over today are benefiting from the One World Youth Project, a unique educational program that allows youth to explore and better understand their own community, while at the same time learning about the community overseas. It is through this process that participants discover friendship across borders, gain empowerment as they recognize the integral role each individual plays in a community, and realize the challenges that face our world. However, this project would have remained just an idea had a young girl not allowed herself to be used as an instrument of change. As we join Jessica to celebrate her birthday- April 13th, I thought it will be nice to share her inspirational story with you- a story that will not only motivate you but also stir you up to “stand” and be counted for change!

Here it goes: In the summer of 2002, Jessica was one of two U.S. students chosen to represent the Jane Goodall Institute and the United States at the Children’s Earth Summit. The summit brought together over 100 young people from around the world to discuss a path toward a more sustainable future. But, half way through the summit conflict emerged. One night Jessica was woken up at 2 am by some of the South African students. “Quick! Hurry! You have to come to the hall,” they said. “Some people want to vote the United States out of the Summit !!” She was perplexed.
When Jessica walked into the hall, she felt as though she was entering a secret meeting. There were about 40 students present, all sitting by country groups. After listening to the discussion, she quickly realized that it had nothing to do with her as a person. Instead she was a target because of what she “represented”- the United States. Although they were able to work through the conflict that night, the experience changed Jessica’s life.
In a world increasingly impacted by globalization, it is ironic that in many ways so many misperceptions about different cultures still exist. This is part of what got Jessica thinking: What if there was a program that facilitated cultural understanding, but at the same time taught youth leadership and empowered young people to take action on an issue and make a difference? While attending the United Nations for World Environment Day in June 2004, all steps needed for actualization of the vision became clearer as she watched Young people from different cultures sitting next to each other and sharing ideas. Everyone was excited for the future. “I decided to take a gap-year before attending Georgetown University in order to pursue the dream of creating the project. Many people told me I was crazy. They said it was impossible for an 18 year old with no money to found a non-profit and get it up and running in the two months before the new school year. But, they were wrong”.
Today, the One World Youth Project remains a leading global youth network. “I think now, more than ever, cultural exchange is extremely important. If we want to effect change, if we want to build a better future, we must first understand each other” says Jessica, the 2005 Brower Youth Award recipient. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Jessica, and May God Bless you richly!


Some of our ardent readers have shared some valueable opinions, ones that I cannot help but share with you too. Hope it challenges you and get you thinking deeply like it did to me. Cheers.
RE: The left alone generation
I stand right in the middle of two generations, one behind and the other right before me. What do I see? I have staring me right in the face one that has been denied of the values that impacts a viable structure system and another is allowed by the prevailing circumstantial situations to rape them of the morals their parents could afford, but the society is not to be blamed for denying them of parental presence like the former.

Like your latest article, Barack Obama’s fundraising speech sinks so deep into my flesh like a dog’s carnivorous teeth. Obama declared that one of the things he would effect into the American society is to really see parents giving their children breakfast; making sure they do not only do their home works, but that they get them a reading table in the house and personally teach them and if they can’t, to call on their teachers; ensure that the TV is shut down, the games are locked up at appropriate time; and to make sure the kids are kept off the streets. Does that not speak of a re-calibration of parental role in child raising?

Vices are all we get when children are denied of their parents girding presence, the place no teacher or long arm of the law will ever fail to occupy. The society will be filled with such social vices and like Asa would sing “there is fire on the mountain, and no one seems to be on the run”. TV programmes, home videos (no matter how instrumental they might be), computers, games, peer groups and the likes can impact like parents will.

Parents seem to forget that the best legacy they can leave for their children, who they claim would take after them in their absence, is not houses, cars, money or other materialism they so much struggle to acquire. Rather, it is the lasting values that would outlive their so called acquired wealth. I advocate for positive values to be engraved into this generation. It is what will emanate peace, joy and a sane society. Parenting denied of this have no other option for their children than make them government children in remand homes or worse places and this will finally will contribute to having a recycled life of contesting vices and crises.
- Paul Mbagwu, Lagos Nigeria

Saturday, April 05, 2008


If you wake up every morning to have breakfast with your parents and have the opportunity to talk about life’s important issues, your fears and your aspirations and in turn allow them give you their godly counsel, then you have so much to be grateful for because not every child has such opportunity…for their parents have long left home!
Where are all the parents gone? They are out in “ Broad Street ”, caught up in the rat race of trying to make ends meet. Daddy’s pay check is no longer enough, so mummy has to leave her full-time-stay-at-home duty for one that gives monetary reward to support the family. Now we are left to blame the poor economy system!
Unlike in the past, in most homes today both parents work full time- from dawn to dusk, thus, creating a yawning vacuum in parent-child relationship. It is difficult to build an intimate relationship with parents whom one barely knows and vice-versa, so parents become money-making-strangers to their children with no idea of how much is happening in the lives of these little ones God has placed in their care. House-helps have taken over the role of mothers and in cases where the parents cannot afford such luxury, an older relation such as Aunt or Uncle is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the children- a type of care that eventually leads to the child molestation and other acts of abuse!
In a city like Lagos , most parents are literarily forced to leave home as early as 5:30am to beat the traffic jam and they do not return home until about 9.00pm to due to road congestion. Thus, their children wake-up and go to bed without seeing their parents or an opportunity to have a decent conversation with them. Think for a few minutes what this means to these children, their growing up and for us.
It means more babies going to school (day care: a school where students- babies don’t wear uniform). It also means children growing up without consistent support of parents, leaving them to become independent at a too-early age. It means children becoming distrustful and resentful of the system or country that is allowing their parents burn out so much energy to make a living which in turn deny them of proper parental care. It means more children turning to their peers for counsel about issues parents would have been in a better position to give a right answer. It means more children growing up into youths with angry behaviour and its likes which breed rebels and juvenile delinquents.
The family is the bedrock of every Nation. The decline of strong family-ties will sure have a negative impact in a Nation’s development. This article is neither pointed towards judging parents for shirking their responsibilities nor is it written to console the children who find themselves left alone unintentionally by their working parents. However, it is written to question the dysfunctional nature of parental responsibility that is prevalence in today’s society and largely contributing to the decadence of family values.
It is an undisputed fact that this generation is becoming the most left alone generation in all aspect. But should we accept this with reasoned impartiality as something we must get use to?