ashainitiative®. 2018

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SOGUNRO: Through My Eyes

July 3, 2016

 

I had spent the best part of my life in a bubble. I had always believed that I have seen it all. I had grown up in a fast changing Nigeria with its numerous highs and few lows. School had shown me the different facet of life and living. What is new under the Sun?

 

Then, my bubble was pricked. Magnificently, I must add.

 

By my selfless act of being a volunteer for humanity!

 

10th June, 2016 was like every other day. The Sun was out in all its glory and I had my usual breakfast. I had penciled this day as a gift to humanity. Some weeks earlier, I had concretized my budding volunteerism by getting in touch with Project ASHA.

 

 

The 10th of June was the first stop of a planned 3-states (Lagos, Delta and, Kaduna) of the Access Bank’s sponsored ‘Step-Down Obstetric Fistula’. The implementation partner was ASHA Empowerment & Development Initiative.

 

Obstetric Fistula is a daunting affliction that bedevils women and girls after prolonged labour. Access Bank and Project ASHA deemed it necessary to intervene via out-reaches, talks and consultation.

 

I had left my bed quite early; it was my first volunteer endeavour and as a greenhorn, I wanted my preparation to be flawless.

 

My adage, ‘She who asks questions never misses her way’ never fails as I inquired my way -serpentine by all intent and purpose- to the staging area for volunteers.

 

To get to the rendezvous, Baale Abraham Mesu Tofa’s abode, one can either come through Waterside (boats and water) or through Ajoke Bridge (automobiles and land).

 

I elected for Ajoke Bridge; a small shock was in store for my choice.

 

Sogunro Community is an underserved and seemingly forgotten settlement that is bordered by the University of Lagos’ High-Rise, Third Mainland Bridge, Yaba LCDA and...! Actually, all those borders are far; Sogunro is surrounded by water. Brackish water. Unlike its highbrow cousins, Sogunro has no government investment that I noted.

 

 

 

My small shock was not government absence as par infrastructure or palpable investments. No. My small shock was that Ajoke Bridge, the link between Sogunro and Yaba LCDA was no longer in existence. She had been sundered by a Heavy Duty Vehicle that was said to have dredged the surrounds.

 

What remained of the splintered ‘bridge’ acted as part guide and part anchor. A makeshift rope-and-canoe ride was rigged to the bridge’s hulk.

 

On the ‘make shift boat’, the ‘captain’ would hold a rope tied to pillars at the canal banks and pull the boat to whatever direction his passengers were headed.

 

The ride was smooth.

 

And, I was in Sogunro.

 

After I alighted, my guide pointed me to the direction of the Baale’s house and I made my way through the narrowest paths I have ever encountered in the city of Lagos. It will be impossible for any automobile bar motorcycle to manoeuvre in this community. Yet, this un-modernity did not appear a burden to the inhabitants.

 

A joyfulness that is infectious abounds, and although, Sogunro appears to be far from civilization and forgotten by the government, its children –like their parents- are happy, running half-naked with hot “puff puff” they had bought.

 

Getting to the Baale’s place, I met other team members and a while later, we headed to the event’s venue.

 

Pre-events hitches here and there sorted, we started.

 

As we begin, young mothers perhaps aged from 14-17 troops to the venue, with puzzled faces and questions on their mind. Once -or twice- (perhaps thrice), I would see that adoring look a mother would only give to her child and I would realise that although these ones were immature, they sure are ‘mothers’.

 

 

 

And when the doctor began her lecture you could see as these young-mothers-turned-adults listen with rapt attention as they contemplated and comprehended everything said.

 

My friend pointed a young mother of twin to me and as she listened, she breastfed her children and I could not help wonder the rigorous pain she must have felt at child birth or perhaps it was seamless.

 

As the event progressed, I discovered that these people, although short-changed by certain circumstances are a very happy and contented people. We could see through their smiles and dance how happy they are to host us. My friend and I would periodically return to the canal bank during the event to direct invited guests to the venue and we would feast our eyes on the livelihood of the people: there were children fishermen, craftsmen and, ferrymen.

 

 

 

The children who attend school go by boat, and they row the boat themselves! This leaves me awed and, of course, concerned, for their wellbeing.

 

Towards the end of the programme, I interacted with the women as regards Project ASHA and Access Bank’s campaign and how the intent is to continue the relationship with them; physically, materially, and in whatever way possible.

 

I was so excited to realize that my expectation concerning the day was exceeded. How a people who were practically forgotten as regards infrastructure and basic amenities could turn their inconvenience to business. And as I left Sogunro, I realise that I have become a better me and that a hunger to touch these lives is quite potent.

 

Towards the end of the programme, I interacted with the women as regards Project ASHA and Access Bank’s campaign and how the intent is to continue the relationship with them; physically, materially, and in whatever way possible.

 

I was so excited to realize that my expectation concerning the day was exceeded. How a people who were practically forgotten as regards infrastructure and basic amenities could turn their inconvenience to business. And as I left Sogunro, I realise that I have become a better me and that a hunger to touch these lives is quite potent.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Lydia Okorie is a 300 Level student of English at the University of Lagos. She is an aspiring social entrepreneur passionate about the health and well being of children, Lydia lends her voice to women, girls and children's development by volunteering regularly with Project ASHA.

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