Blog(s)Ville Interview

Our first interview of the year features a blogger Yinka Taiwo-Peters who spent summer 2010 doing something interesting and productive. A lot of people in diaspora dream of going back home to give back and this is a perfect example that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.

Tell us what your project was about?

The goal of Water Awareness Project (WAPNigeria) 2010 was to create awareness among Nigerian youths about the role of water in good sanitation habits, while emphasizing water conservation practices. In June, I gave talks on the role of water in sanitation and water conservation practices in twenty-schools in Central Abuja. In July, I installed a water tank that employs a rainwater harvesting system of Abro Hallmark International School, located in Mpape, a rural settlement deficient of water supply. A plumber was hired and the school kids also helped with the construction.

How did you come up with the idea?
I have always been interested in Public health, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria. Also, I wanted to do a project that would be beneficial to an under-privileged academic community. So, the lack of water in Mpape was really obvious and the WAPNigeria idea was born in May, 2010.

How did you get funded?
I got a Rauch grant that I applied for from my University. Without that financial support and the guidance by my faculty advisor in the States, WAPNigeria 2010 would not have been taken place.

How long did the project last?
The project was for a total of nine weeks, from the last week of May till the end of July, 2010.

Did you experience any road blocks in implementing the project?
Relative to my expectation, the implementation went smoothly but the only major issue was explaining the relevance of my project to my fellow Nigerians.
I was questioned many times about why I spent my precious summertime working on a project that I wasn’t benefiting from directly. I will blame this on the fact that the concept of non-governmental community-service or any form of giving back to the community is somewhat elusive in Nigeria. This is not to say that such activities are not welcomed in Nigeria but they are often received with some sort of speculation.

What were the fun parts of working on this and being in Nigeria?
It was a very fun project because I was working with Nigerian kids that constantly reminded of my younger years. I also had the support of friends and I met a good number of people that were intrigued by my project too. I met up with two bloggers, through this project. One of them, ~B~ from Butterfly is indeed God-sent; she was very supportive and actually helped with getting around and I really appreciated that I had someone around who knew the relevance of this project.
I cannot forget to mention that the mesmerizing Nigerian sunshine was a blissful addition. The social atmosphere in Abuja was oozing with so many activities. So, I had many outlets to cool off the stress of the project.

What did u learn about your self while doing this?
WAPNigeria really showed me that despite my love for competition, I’m a capable independent worker. I’m pro-team but sometimes you just have to take control because only you can handle your responsibility. I was in charge of all aspects of the project and worked solely on the first half. Also, it dawned on me that I should further my studies in Public Health, after my first degree and contribute to the Nigerian Health sector.

Do you have any advice you have for anyone interested in going back home to do something like this?
Do it. Be open-minded to any kind of feedback, criticism, support and hesitance that you will face when you get to Nigeria. Be ready to do lots of work than you expected because my dear, it’s not as easy as it seems when planned out on paper. Lastly, talk to people because connection is the #1 tool in Nigeria. Knowing someone that knows that someone can make your project go faster and better.

From your stay in Nigeria, what other areas do you think people can come back and help with?
Extra-curriculars!!! Education goes way beyond the classroom. Sadly, majority of the schools in Nigeria pay little to no attention to this aspect. Interested individuals or groups can definitely set up pet projects, like book/cloth drives, organize crash courses on etiquette for kids, start after-school dance classes, conduct soccer matches and any other empowerment program. These projects do not have to be capital-intensive to be effective.
Talking large scale, there is a need for more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria. This is a very vacant, yet much needed, niche in Nigeria, where the government cannot do everything. People coming back should look into joining existing ones or starting a new one. Don’t be discouraged that it is a non-profit sector because it is actually funded, mostly by grants and has paid positions. Remember a nation can only be wealthy, when she is healthy.

What is the future of WAPNigeria?
I plan to continue this project or start a like-minded one in summer 2011. Keep in mind that this is not an NGO but a pet project that I want to carry out, as determining factors permit. Please check out the blog, regularly for more details.

How can anyone who is interested in getting involved with something of this nature help?
If you are a student abroad, going to Nigeria for the holidays and you’re interested, please contact me. We can brainstorm on ideas and carry out a project next summer.
If you are based in Nigeria, the same comment applies to you and I believe you will come up with projects that you know will be immediately beneficial
To every one, every project needs money $$$$ to get anywhere. Please, try to show moral, physical and financial to non-profit projects and organizations.