...The other side of poverty
I have been reluctant to begin blogging because of the kind of schedule I have been keeping lately but I am committing to do this at least once every month. As you probably know, I am now a resident physician training in Internal Medicine and it has been such an arduous experience working 80 hour weeks and having to take responsibility for the well being of patients. It has been an incredible honor but also an honor I would never take for granted.
In this first blog post, I would like to paint a picture in your mind, a picture that will give you a window into my mind. I want you to understand why I have chosen to go this path to help educate disenfranchised kids. Why did I choose to do this as opposed to building wells for instance, or feeding the hungry, or assisting kids who are victims of child trafficking?
I was chatting with a dear friend who has been a interventional cardiologist in Knoxville TN for at least 20 years and I mentioned that the average parent or would be parents treats a new baby born here in the U.S. a lot different than the average parent in West Africa. A lot of planning is put into the arrival of the baby. Months before the baby arrives a room is already being prepared, the baby's name has been picked out, people are already hosting baby parties or showers. Contrast that with how I was brought up; I remember not even having a bed until I was 6 or 7 years old. Truly, I enjoyed the full, untarnished love from my parents, but this love had a slender leg that usually broke to soon. There are no rooms decorated for the average kid born in Nigeria. You pretty much are born into a home that already probably lives on a couple dollars a day. Sometimes, the kids aren't even wanted.
One of our child scholars' dad abandoned his family when he found out his wife had delivered twins. He felt like there was no way he could provide for two additional kids and so he absconded. We found this deserted mum sleeping under a busy bridge in the suburbs of Lagos. She was in severe depression and had no other options but to deploy her kids to sell petty items on the side of the road. We approached her and offered to begin sponsoring her kids. But I will save such stories for a different day.
Most of us view poverty as a problem with finances. We easily associate it with the absence of financial resources. We look at poverty from a perspective of sickness or disease. All this definitions while correct are incomplete at best. Having had a first hand experience of poverty in Nigeria, I have a different perspective I want to present to you. I submit to you that the worst form of poverty an individual can experience is poverty of the mind. I remember growing up in a town where the kids didn't go to school like they do here in America, where kids ages 5,6,7 years old would have to support their family by selling petty items in the streets. The other much darker and much more dangerous side of poverty affects the minds of kids, youths, and even young adults in many developing nations. They have potentials but are unable to harness them because they are oblivious to what lies out there; they lack basic ideas about how the universe works. They become 25-year old adults but still have the mind of 2-year olds, still unable to tap into their inner talents. Basically, their minds have stayed impoverished.
These kids become adults who loiter the streets. In Nigeria, they call them "Agberos,” they extort money and become nuisances to their communities. They become armed robbers, kidnappers, and most unfortunately, some ultimately end up as terrorists; all of these because their minds were never cultivated.
Some of you may have been on mission trips where you met kids with impoverished minds. They just stare at you. They are curious but don't even know how to tap into that curiosity. Some of us mistaken them for being sweet and gentle but I can tell you many suffer from this intellectual poverty. Interestingly, the problem is made worse because quality education isn't readily accessible to many. As opposed to many developed countries where education is relatively free and even a right, there are at least 15 million kids in Nigeria today without access to education. Yes, it is the country with the highest number of out of school kids in Africa - 15 million!-- in a country of 190 million people. I was so fortunate to get through with the help of some really special sponsors. Today, I am a physician in one of the greatest countries on earth.
So, our dream is to help cure this poverty of the mind. It is not a dream we can actualize alone. We need your support. We want children to learn to read, to write, to dream. To better fulfill this as well as some of our other long term goals, including e-learning, we started building a school. We would like to have it totally completed in the next year. We have many kids we are currently actively educating and sponsoring and it has been a tremendous success. We actually have a few young adults who secured admission to universities in Nigeria after we helped support them through high school at other partner schools. It has been so rewarding!
Finally, I would like to say thank you to our board and to our monthly donors who continue to be part of this huge vision -- helping our child scholars maximize their potentials. And for those of you reading this and saying to yourself "I am so moved by Emmanuel's testimony and would like to be part of this call," I would love for you to join us by subscribing on this website. I will be sure to call you personally and thank you for your support. We have so much planned for the near future including mission trips and health clinic projects, and I am so excited you can be a part of it.