Sunday, December 27, 2009

Making Information Sharing a habit...

“The delight of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age." Said Benjamin Disraeli (Two-time British Prime Minister). I am an avid reader, I love to read books. At the beginning of this year, I started writing a blog which I simply called ireviewcovertocover on, with the intention of boosting my reading culture and sharing my thoughts about what I read with others.

However, 2009 seems to skid by, leaving me with some books on my priority list waiting to be read. The ones on this list includes: “Ethics for International Business” by John Kline, “Not without Laughter” by Langston Hughes, “Stop running Scared” by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer, “I was told there will be cake” by Sloanne Crosley, “Poetry Matters” by Ralph Fletcher, and “Say You’re One of them” by Akpan Uwem. Meanwhile, I enjoyed reading “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy, “Be Bold” by Echoing Green, “Unbridled” by Jude Dibia, “Every day is for the thief” by Teju Cole, etc. The book selections are poles apart, but as long as it is insightful; it is worth reading and sharing with others.

Talking about sharing, do you know information is one of the best gifts to share with others? Be it in form of constructive advice or tangible data, there is importance in extending it to others to lift them up. Jill Finlayson, in December 8th Social Edge Newsletter, profoundly wrote “Social entrepreneurs recognize the empowering value of sharing information. So if you want to make a difference this holiday season, consider what information you can share, what data you can aggregate, and how you can collaborate.”

It is so easy to take for granted the importance of collaboration in a society that celebrates competition. Thus, pushing us to ignore the value in sharing simple information such as a textbook or tutorial resource to helps a classmate in a difficult course, an exciting medium of communication e.g. TV/Radio Channel, or Internet address; or just any useful link or idea that can help set the success of others in motion.

“You are the same today as you will be five years from now except for two things . . . the people you meet and the books you read.” Charles E. Jones once said. The modern corollary of this quote will add, “…and the information you receive or share.” Who meets people, read books, share information and remains the same? Information shared is the cornerstone of innovation and collaboration. After all, God puts us all in each others lives to impact one another in some way. Don’t burn the bridge of information behind you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One thing to remember this Christmas

There is something important we ought to keep in mind this Yuletide Season, if we focus on two, it might complicate our discourse. When we think about Christmas, we think about spending on decorations, new wear, food, events, etc. The Season comes with an excitement that drives us to spend so much, even more than we earn. Everyone (well almost), including the penny-pinching among men, throw caution to the wind and empty their wallet through generous expenses during this period.

The good thing about Christmas expenses is that a good amount of the money is spent on buying gifts (I’ll like to think). Gift-giving is synonymous to Christmas as heat is to Harmattan. All the Stores with business acumen launch alluring items to match the season. “Buy me” “Buy me” the item scream at us, as we make our way through the busy shopping mall. And so, we dig deep into our wallet and scramble towards the best bargain or better still the ones in vogue.

However, this is not about the excessive spending but the motive behind it. Do we really spend more on others (gifts) than we spend on ourselves every Christmas? It is imperative to keep in mind that Christmas is more about giving. So before we exercise our purchasing power this Christmas, we must ensure that our giving-list is given a higher priority. Spend as much as you want, but carefully, to reach out with gifts to family, friends and strangers with an attitude of gratitude for the grace to give (not everyone can).

Gift-giving is not limited to just material things alone; we can present prayers, time, and/or company to those around us. These are priceless in every sense.

Therefore, it does not matter which way the world has turned for you this Season, there must be at least one reason to still be thankful! Find it and extend the chain of love and glee to others.

Let it be a merry Season

Let this season be a merry one,
put away every trouble,
whatever form they may be on.

Let this season be a merry one,
no matter where you are coming from.
Don't frown at how fast the year has flown,
Don't count your loses but celebrate your blessings.

Let this season be a merry one,
as family and friends from far and near
come together with a smile,
to wish you a merry Christmas.

Let this season be a merry one,
as you celebrate
the very reason for the season,
may your heart be filled with joy.

As you thank God for all the Blessings,
have a very merry season
and share you gift with friends.

(c) Jennifer Ehidiamen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We Grow by Giving

Volunteering sound like a new concept in our society, however, the culture of helping others is not- and these two are the same thing. So many people look at the circumstances around them and growl in despair. They fail to see that such situation is actually an opportunity for them to pour out a portion of themselves and grow by serving- giving their skills or time to ameliorate the condition.

“How do we make service learning the common experience of every young person around the world?" was the theme of the International Volunteer Day Symposium organized by Peace Corps International, to celebrate this year’s International Volunteers Day- December 5th.

The day which is set aside to celebrate volunteers all over the world for their valuable contribution towards economic and social development is also aimed at inspiring other people to imbibe the culture of volunteerism, take action and make a positive difference in their local communities.

As I sat in the hall listening to Aaron S. Williams, the Director of Peace Corps, give his opening remark, I learn how much potential is in this sector. We cannot underestimate the relevance of volunteerism in shaping the human condition for good. Not only do people who volunteer transform the pace and nature of development by contributing their time, skills and energy towards peace and development, the impact they make also have a rippling effect on them because their skills are enhanced as they grow by giving.

“Service should be as easy as going to school” asserted Williams, and I stand to agree with him. There should be room for active engagement for every young person . It is true that young people need mentors, training and resources to help them easily transit into adulthood. Young people also need motivation and opportunity to volunteer in order to prepare them for the workforce in adulthood.

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) currently serves as a relevant tool that fosters the spirit of volunteerism. However, service-learning can also be incorporated into our school curriculum so that young people right from primary and secondary school-age will have an opportunity to learn how to be active citizens at a young age.

The trend of volunteering stem from altruistic service in non-profit organizations, academic institutions, religious organization, corporate groups and government agency, it can be individualistic or collaborative in nature.
While, the current challenges facing the volunteer sector include the lack of a well structured volunteering system, the capacity to manage the volunteers, the avenue to keep them motivated and a good policy framework and infrastructure for sustainability. However, in spite of these challenges, volunteers are still thriving in different countries and contributing to social and economic growth. Learn more, visit

(hands holding seedling picture culled from google image/ (c)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Falling in love …with Snow

“Snow. Snow. Snow! Temperature is expected to drop 27 degrees tonight. Goodbye Fall, welcome Snow! It is my second time of seeing snow first-hand, so pardon my inexplicable excitement.” That was the message alert I sent to my friends last weekend when the sky opened up to usher in the first Snow of the season in Washington D.C.

Oh! the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Skimming along.
(-Thomas J. Watson)

God is good. That is one of the thoughts that race through mind as I watched the early morning raindrops form into snowflakes. Slowly, softly and beautifully, one after another, they made their way gracefully to cover the bare earth with their essence. “To appreciate the beauty of a snow flake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” And yes, off to the street I went to see the Snowflakes hanging on bare trees, to see the streets glow with the radiance of Snow. How can I explain the excitement that filled my heart as I took a long walk through the streets to bask (not literally) in the beauty and splendor of God’s creation?

Winter season here is Harmattan season in the part of the world where I grew up. And Harmattan is not snow, cold and slippery streets but morning dew, afternoon heat and dusty streets. As the writer, Vladimir Nabokov, once pointed out "Genius is an African who dreams up snow." The closest most people from the part of Africa I grew up in have ever seen of Snow is on Television, or the pictures published in Newspapers/Magazines, or the novels we read, or by the words of mouth of people who have seen it first hand. It is like a mystery. Well, it was a mystery to me until I got the opportunity to feel the ice wash over my face. And oh! It is so white, so soft and so sweet (excuse my exaggeration here).

Long after it has stopped snowing, the flakes form different shapes where they accumulated during their sojourn to mother earth- on trees, flowers, grasses, driveway or any objects they met. Until the weather warms up a little to melt them away, they stick by satisfied that they have accomplished something significant- one the human mind have no intellectual capacity to control.

However, I share the above experience with much caution, keeping in mind that as there are two sides to every coin, so are there two sides of Snowfall experience. There at times the Snow comes in mildly or with a storm, depending on the magnitude of its impact. For example, while it snowed all calmly in the Capital city, what was described as a powerful snowstorm swept across the West, causing snarled traffic and delay in school resumption.

Does this take away the beauty of snowfall? Maybe not, because to an African seeing Snow for the first time, there will always be a moment of awe for God and the way He fathomed out the diversity in our world and weather. Some of us hope to take the cold it brings on so well, we will bundle up, drink hot chocolate and stay in love with the Season. Let it snow!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A mind divided

I’m staring at this blank sheet in front of me, totally lost for words on what to write on “Dis Generation”. Do not get me wrong, we have not exhausted the issues facing us. However, the rate at which these issues are increasing is what seems overwhelming tonight.

The discussion I had with a gentleman in the D.C. subway sounds like a topical issue. This young man decided to stay off the Nigerian shores because he was told by one of his teachers that the only way to succeed in Nigeria is to be “corrupt”. He does not have that drive he says, so he has decided to remain in Diaspora until he hears that a revolution has taken place to “purge” Nigeria of that spirit. In his words “until the corrupt leaders in all the sectors are killed, Nigeria will not change”. I wonder if he means that literally. No time to confirm. The train stops and he alights at his destination, leaving me to mull over his words.

I received some alarming messages from an acquaintance back home, some are prayers, and some are wishes. “Is President Yar’adua dead?” I asked. “Not yet” is his blunt reply. “Okay, I will join you in the prayer”. I mean, the prayer for our President to get well soon. It amazes me how sometimes we criticize our government leaders, without putting into cognizance the complexity of the country that wear out their good intentions. I am not supporting our President’s slow progress but checking on the nature of our “public complaints commission” that is geared towards finding a quick-fixer. Even President Obama will testify to the difficulty in serving a complex Nation- he has grown some grey hair within this short period of being President of the acclaimed number one country in the world.

Meanwhile, there is a call to all Africans in diaspora to act constructively by contributing their quota towards re-building the continent. No country must be left behind. While Nigerian-born Junior Kanu is championing different campaigns for his “Solving Africa” movement in USA, my colleague, Abdu Mohamed in Tanzania broadcasts his message, “I’m now working hard to start a new organization called “WAKE UP AFRICA”, which will work to help African youth and other People to sustain and appreciate their cultures and Value and not think western cultures are the best.”

I feel dissatisfied with this entry tonight. What I intended writing is on the importance of “Volunteering” for development. Some say the Nigerian education system sucks because it doesn’t equip students with life skills to give them a competitive advantage. And I say, why not explore volunteerism/Internship as a platform to sharpen the limited knowledge acquired in the Ivory Tower, until the much anticipated education reform is implemented?

Source of blank sheet of paper photo: Mark78_xp on flickr

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lagos Vs. New York

(Pix of Island, Lagos)

This is Lagos! No, it is not. It is New York City. Two cities, so much alike! What do they share in common? Densely populated, litter on the street here and there, the hustling and bustling, the high cost of living and yet the lingering nostalgia it leaves on people who visit once making them want to visit again.

In the song “Lagos vs. New York”, Keziah Jones didn’t fail in his attempt to draw the parallels between the two cities. The track from the album “Nigerian wood” depicts the reality in both cities- busy streets that breeds money. Well, they also have a “Broad” in common- in New York, Broadway is the spot for relaxation or amusement and in Lagos Broadstreet is the centre for business activities, just like New York’s Wall Street. In a nutshell, as Jones’ lyrics highlights, in New York and Lagos, amidst the hustling and bustling to make money, you will find things that will amuse you (or depress you). Will it be right to say the two cities are like a theater mixed with amusement and business?

I really thought Lagos was the City that never sleeps until I “met” New York. Twilight and dawn are almost the same here. Shops are open 24hrs, vehicles honking through the streets all round the clock. Okay I admit, you can tell the difference between the two cities at night. While the former bustles in the dark, with stars shinning brightly in the sky, it does go to bed a few hours past midnight. The later comes alive so bright at night and its light so well complements the lively city.

The streets of New York City and Lagos are not paved with gold. People who live there walk with their feet touching the floor. The streets are not filled with terror. For Lagos context, Lagosians (people who live in Lagos) smile and embrace life with a positive attitude despite the harsh and corrupt political climate that trickles from the nook and cranny of the Nigerian government. There are no trees on the streets where people collect money; you will have to work hard to earn good income in both cities.

Did you read/watch the interview of Akin Akinola on CNN? He is a young Nigerian who left his New York-based Investment Banking job to return to Lagos to enhance his career. I bet he settled for Lagos because he knows that the two cities have a lot in common. Okay, maybe Lagos still needs a little facelift to match up with the organized bustling in New York City. I love Lagos. I love New York City too. They are two wild cities that look and feel so much alike, yet in every sense so different.

(I dedicate this article to AJ, whose contagious love for New York City somehow rubbed off on me, prompting me to look at the City through an open mind, thus inspiring this article. I also dedicate this article to all Lagosians living in New York, and to all New Yorkers living in Lagos.)

Source of photo of New York: or images by googleimage search