From Nigeria to No. 10: My journey as a ONE Youth Ambassador

From Nigeria to No. 10: My journey as a ONE Youth Ambassador

Our guest blogger today is Sasaeniapaul Oluwabunmi, a ONE Youth Ambassador in the UK.  Keep track of what our European Youth Ambassadors are getting up to on our live social media feed.

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The clouds were grey and they did all they could to keep the rays of the sun from shining through. The wind was cold, I shivered and pulled my jacket closer around me.  I was delighted when I saw my destination. I gratefully succumbed to the warmth of the interior while escaping the ferocity of the elements.

It was December in London, and although there was no snow; it was still very cold for an African who was just some ‘few months old’ in Europe.

I sat in the lobby of the headquarters of one of the ‘big three consulting firms’ waiting for my final interview with five other students from top universities in the world which was to start in an hour’s time. Hanging conspicuously on the wall was a map of the world; my eyes immediately made out the shape of the African continent.  I remembered how rough the journey had been and the resulting indelible marks etched on my personality because there and then in Africa my story began.

Rewind to a little over a decade ago. It was midnight; a young boy sat studying at a desk with light from a kerosene lantern because there was no electric power supply. The young boy kept glancing at the clock ticking away because he needed to sleep early, so he could commence daily chores of fetching water from a well nearby to have his bath before going to school.

That young boy was me and I was studying hard so I could pass the entrance exams to Nigeria’s best university.

I was one of the lucky ‘African kids’ because I grew up in an upper-middle class home and my parents, who were well educated, were ready to go any length to support my ambitions despite the rough economic terrain.

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Sasaeniapaul and the other UK Youth Ambassadors visit No. 10 Downling Street, home of the Prime Minister, at the launch of the ONE VOTE 2014 campaign in London. Photo: ONE

I’ve always had very big dreams like every child.  But unlike every child, my dreams met opportunity and I was able to achieve a large part of my aspirations.

As I sat in the lobby that December, with my eyes still fixed on the shape of the African continent, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the millions of African children with much bigger dreams than I had, who could have been sitting in that lobby with me but had no opportunity.

I thought of the millions with the ‘brains of Einstein’ who would never know what they were capable of achieving, who would remain illiterate because of extreme poverty. I thought of the millions dying from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; I thought of the millions of African mothers burying their children before their first birthday because of inadequate healthcare; I thought about the 7 out of 10 Africans living in sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity; I thought of the thousands of children dying every day from severe diarrhea spread through poor sanitation and unclean water; I thought of my beloved Africa, so damn rich and ironically, yet so poor.

I made up my mind that day that I would do all I can to help beat the drums of hope as loud as I can – with all my might and strength for as long as I can – to help reduce extreme poverty in the world and particularly in Africa.

I have no doubt that someday, there will be more Africans who will take their seat in that lobby, staring at the map of the world, and eyes fixed on the African continent. Not crying but smiling, because the wide chasm between Africa and the West will have been bridged.

I became a ONE Youth Ambassador in order to join over 3.5 million people beating the drums of hope aimed at eradicating extreme poverty in the world by 2030. Join ONE and help beat that drum with me today.

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