A Journey through the eye of a Needle.
I sincerely want to thank every single friend who has been a part of my life in 2012. Knowing that your contribution made a great impact. This story is just a brief extract from my book which will soon be published and It comes as an answer to so many questions from people who want to know how the journey started and where it is leading. The twist and turns, the little secrets to such great impact within a short time and also to inspire and encourage other young people who still feel challenged to leave their comfort zone.
By: Otto Orondaam.
It was the first day of January, 2012. The dry wind of the harmattan blew across my windows. I could hear some birds whistling from afar. The lusty cry of a cock about to be slaughtered woke me up from my beautiful sleep. I drew my duvet higher to shield myself from the piercing cold. I could hardly get up from my bed and get set for church. It was my first New Year away from home. I felt quite sad. There was no mum to cook, no granny to gossip with and no much celebration as usual. I was the only one away from home and it was because I had to go to work the next day. Luckily for me, my friend who cooked better than many ladies was around. Yeah, Tafa was one of my close friends in camp and I wondered why he never started a Culinary CDS group. He prepared multiple delicacies that I can not begin to describe-fish grilled with lime and vodka… I think you can imagine how nice that tastes. We all ate and forgot we were not at our homes. Many friends wanted to come around but I wanted a quiet day-having some personal reflection on the past year and planning for the next year.
The first call I got in the New Year was from my dad. He called at 5:05 a.m. I missed that. I wondered what he was doing awake at such an odd time. My dad seems strange to me. He could wake up five times at night to ensure that everyone is okay. He used to be an Army Officer and I think he still has the values of alertness and safety in him. My mum called much later. It was a litany of prayers and endless advice. She had prepared a sermon on three pages of the calendar. I tried to listen to every bit of her sermon even though I knew that most of what she said were things I already knew. I think that could pass for the Church Service which I was preparing for.
I gradually got up and began to draw up my Final Goals for the year. Yeah, I was serving my fatherland far away from home so I didn’t have a total control of my life. Fortunately, I was posted to a bank so I already had an idea of what I didn’t want in 2012. A popular saying goes thus, ‘the best way to know what you want is by knowing what you don’t want’.
My days within those walls were terrific. I felt like a fish dropped in the desert to explore its potentials. I struggled and no matter how much I tried to do my best, things never seemed right. I had many friends amongst the customers and tried to be friendly. I learnt a lot and loved the professional environment but I still knew that something wasn’t right.
I am not a fan of New Year resolutions owing to my spontaneous nature. This time, I made two new goals which I needed to achieve by the end of 2013. They seemed so impossible. I really didn’t have a strategy or clear plan in place, all I had was Passion.
I asked myself five critical questions which helped me set those two goals.
- If I die today, will my actions on earth inspire others positively?
- If money doesn’t exist, what will I derive joy doing for free?
- What can I do to leave the world better than I met it and make people happier than I found them?
- What will I do to bring heaven down to earth?
- What is the biggest social problem in my country that I can be a part of the solution?
As cliché as they might sound, these questions helped me gain a clearer view of the next 5 years. I still didn’t have a clear plan of what exactly I was going to do, how I was going to start, where I was going to begin or whom I would contact. I just knew that I was ready to give out myself selflessly.
I shared my goals with family, friends and several folks. ‘You aren’t Jesus young boy, focus on your life and help yourself before you think of others’. That was one advice I got from a much respected mentor, it got me so confused that I had to rethink my plans. Family members felt worried and friends were more confused. I knew that it was stupid but I needed a YES to those five questions before the year ended.
I decided that I was going to quit my job in the bank. It was one of the best paying jobs for corps members. I knew It wasn’t the best of decisions. I thought thoroughly everyday. The more I thought, the more complicated the situation got. The more people I asked, the more confused I became. I made up my mind and in February I wrote to resign.
‘Are you Ok?’ My colleague asked me when she saw the letter on the screen of my office computer. I hadn’t yet printed it. She called others and the debate began. I sat on my desk after work for two more hours thinking of my next line of action. I was just a click away from the printer and a door away from my Manager’s Office. I finally left the office that evening and got back home dissatisfied.
The next day, I was ready for the music. I dressed up in my best suit and knotted my red tie with a white pocket square. I smiled confidently; I did not feel that confident though.
That day’s encounter with my Manager will linger in my mind. She was a good boss; willing to support whenever you had an issue. She was also strict, disciplined and result driven. But on this day, she did not seem to understand me. ‘Are you ok, Orondaam? I just spoke with the HR and we were planning to move you to the Head Office’. That seemed like some elevation. I had already made up my mind. I forgot to say, I was made the Class Governor during our Training School for corps members posted to the bank. I knew most of my colleagues posted across the state and I really loved the support we gave ourselves amidst the pressure. Many of them never expected me to resign and it came as a shock to them. The Human Resources Staff questioned me and set up panels to find out if I had personal issues that prompted my decisions. Eventually, I politely made them understand my reasons and I was finally let to go.
Have you ever felt in a world of your own? At that point, I had so much fear within myself, criticism from friends and lots of uncertainty about the future. I tried to brace up and reassure myself but it didn’t come easy. I wrote down those five Critical Success Points at 5 places where I could read it every time.
The days came along and I was still alive. My fears were only fears. Challenges started finding solutions and life really went well. I finally discovered that my greatest achievement in 2012 was the fact that I could take such a risk-to resign from a fair paying job in a city where I didn’t have family to support me, a home of my own, so much bills to attend to and no alternative source of income. Moreover the difficulties that came with reposting and possible disciplinary action that I could have faced and extension of service. The challenges were obviously numerous.
Many thanks to everyone who understood me at that point and helped in the transition. I finally got reposted-thanks to certain understanding NYSC officials who had the belief in me and could see the passion through my eyes.
All my life, I always said that success wouldn’t be a measure of the wealth and riches I acquire, but the lives of people I am able to transform positively.
I didn’t have all the money to start with other than my little savings. I knew I had a voice to speak and some friends who also shared the passion and I started the journey. My first visit into one of the slums left me with so much shock. I almost got mobbed by some touts, but the look on the faces of some little children left a scar in my heart that is yet to be healed. I still remember the hut where a lady shared a plate of white rice for six children. They all attacked the food, leaving the plate to fall off the stool. I could see hunger in their veins and rejection in their eyes. I couldn’t help but buy little biscuits and some drinks as I shared amongst them. We ate together and I took pictures excitedly. They all smiled and waved me bye as I walked down the path. That day, I was alone. Many friends were so scared to come along with me and told me of the notorious things that could happen. So I put up pictures and shared the experience with others who also felt the pain.
Many people indicated interest to come along, but still had some doubts. I started the campaign for Health and Education, Clean Water and Sanitation and I really appreciate Ann and Kevin who joined me on the second visit. They were just the two who came amongst 23 friends who made promises to join that Sunday. It seemed to be scarier than the first visit, with a heavy rainfall that left us soaked in one of the Lagoon Houses. I felt guilty for bringing them along, but they seemed to be having a great time-taking pictures and asking questions. Today, we have grown so large-up to a thousand volunteers have been part of the projects.
In the course of the journey a couple of corps members felt inspired actions and also resigned from the bank during and after the service year to get answers to these 5 questions. Several other young people who I was privileged to mentor started
Social Development Projects.
Several recognitions and awards started rolling in, like the Lagos State Honors Award as the Most Outstanding Corps member in my batch of about 9100 corps members, The Future Awards for Innovation in Education, The Nigerian CSR Awards [SERA], Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Young Achievers Award/ Global Foundation, A scholarship to study at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London and about 9 other prestigious awards and recognitions to myself and the team.
These came with several job offers that seemed amazing. I had calls from multinationals and reputable organizations to work with them or head a Project Team. I could not accept them because they weren’t aligned with my goals and would affect the work we had already started (even though I needed the money so much…Lol).At this point it was no longer about me, but about a cause that’s greater than me.
I know that the journey still seems unclear and challenging, but you never know what lies ahead if you don’t persevere to see for yourself. We always need to stay focused, on our course, avoid side attractions and distractions, believe in our dreams and follow our passion.
2013 for you can only be better than 2012, but you must learn to Live for Others.
That was my second goal, and I did achieve it. Think beyond yourself. Life isn’t all about you. You are actually insignificant when you place significance on yourself. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care about them.
We all need to work together in one accord, support ourselves and build our society. We need to stop complaining and start acting. Talk is Cheap. Action Speaks Louder.
I sincerely want to thank every single friend who has been a part of my life in 2012. I promise to write about many of them in my yet to be published book and how much difference they have made. I really appreciate you and I know that you feel proud being part of this journey. We will indeed do more in 2013 and all our individual aspirations shall be realized. To everyone who has supported our cause and been a volunteer in anyway, we really appreciate you and look forward to greater opportunities to make our society better.
Thanks to the Slum 2 School & Net A Child Volunteer Teams and every other project support group.