LOUD WHISPERS: Be Better. Do Better.

Happy New Year dear friends. I spent Christmas in our hometown at Isan-Ekiti, Ekiti State. In spite of the many hassles of putting the ‘logistics’ (money, food, gifts and so on) in place for Christmas in the community, I like being at home during the festive season. Amongst other things, it gives me an opportunity to eat pounded yam at last twice in one week instead of once a month, with delicious Egusi soup and assorted meat. Something happened this Christmas that worried me a great deal. About an hour after I arrived home, in the midst of all the people milling around to welcome us, I saw an old man who must have been at least eighty, trying to push his way towards me. I asked him what I could do for him. He said, ‘My daughter, I wanted to go to the market to buy something to cook for Christmas but I don’t have any money. They told me you would be coming home today so I have been waiting since morning’. I asked him about his children or family members. He said they did not come home and the people around him don’t have money either. My heart sank.

When my husband was Governor of Ekiti State (2010-2014) there was a social security scheme in place to take care of the elderly who were paid N5,000 a month. Many people wonder how N5,000 can make any difference to someone living in dire poverty. For most of the elderly who received the monthly allowance, it was a lifeline. It was meant to take care of people like this old man who had no one to provide for him. In addition to the social security scheme, I raised money to fund a Food Bank project which was run by one of the local NGOs for those who were too old or vulnerable to fend for themselves. After a while we discovered that many of the elderly people who got raw foodstuff were unable to cook for themselves. The implementing NGO then mobilized teams of women, mostly widows or women who needed support, and we set up Soup Kitchens in some communities across the State. The Social Security Scheme was stopped after my husband left office. I had initially planned to continue the Food Bank and Soup Kitchens, but the political environment became so toxic, I decided to place my energies elsewhere. Listening to the old man, I wondered for a moment if I had done the right thing. I gave him money and some of the foodstuff we had brought to give out to people during the Christmas period. I also told our aides to watch out for the old man and let him in anytime he comes around, and I sent someone to find out where he lives so we can keep an eye on him.

During the festive season, I like to go around to visit elderly relations and friends to personally drop off a Christmas gift. These are the old people who, like a recent Airtel advert, pray for you non-stop for twenty minutes when they get you on the phone. Some of the people I go to see do not need money or gifts, what they appreciate is simply being honoured with a visit. As I made the rounds visiting my elderly friends, I kept thinking of the old man who had shown up on my doorstep. It is bad enough that we have a crisis with millions of young people unemployed, roaming the streets. What are we doing about the many elderly people who are very poor, hungry and dying of neglect? I thought of my own mother, who insists on maintaining the tradition established by my father when he was alive, of hosting a Christmas party and sending food round the neighborhood. Each year, with the rising costs of food items, this tradition gets more and more expensive to sustain, but I indulge my mother because it is very important to her. What if none of her children are able to feed themselves or her, not to talk of distributing food to an entire neighborhood?

Just as I was trying to figure out the issue of the elderly people living in poverty around us, I saw yet another report about trafficking of Nigerian women and girls. This time the report was not about the familiar destinations of Europe via Libya. It was about taking poor, ignorant girls from Northern Nigeria to Saudi Arabia. So now, we are not only concerned about Boko Haram kidnapping women, girls and boys, some unscrupulous characters are carrying out a brisk trade that is endangering the lives of people whose only sin is that they happen to be poor. I am not going to belabor the reasons why we have so many citizens living in dire poverty, being forced to make poor choices and hard decisions for survival. That will take us into a conversation about the responsibilities of the government to do the right thing at the right time to save the lives of people. I am more concerned about what we can do as ordinary citizens who wish to take a stand against poverty, hunger and misery. I stopped making New Year resolutions a long time ago. Instead, I tell myself ‘Be better, do better’. We can all do better in this new year. There are many things we can do to change someone’s story, here are some examples:

  • ‘Adopt’ an elderly person who needs help
  • Pay the school fees of someone who is not one of your wards
  • Offer to cover the rent of someone where necessary
  • Give someone capital to start a business
  • Sponsor someone to learn a trade
  • If you are a professional such as a Lawyer or Accountant, offer pro bono services to someone who needs your help or to a small NGO.
  • Buy up the merchandise of an old woman, pregnant woman or girl who is hawking. For example, locust beans, oranges, bananas, groundnuts, etc.
  • Pay for the nomination form of a woman or young person contesting an election
  • Do something nice and unexpected for someone who does not expect anything from you.
  • Turn down one Aso Ebi and use the money to support a good cause
  • Join your Alumni association if you have not already done so and be an active participant
  • Get involved in a development project in your community
  • Register to vote and keep your voter’s card safe

If we all undertake to do at least two of these things this year, someone’s life will hopefully be made a lot better and easier. We cannot wait for the government to bail us out, the government itself, especially at State level is looking for ‘bail outs’! Governments come and go. The Office of the Citizen will remain. Which of these challenges do you want to take on? Can you think of others? Happy New Year!

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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16 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Be Better. Do Better.

  1. Evelyn Otabor January 2, 2018 at 11:20 am

    What a beautiful way to start the year. I’m nudged to do better and be better. I will also do two on this least and share my story. Happy New Year Mama.

    Reply
  2. Teminiyi January 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I stopped the resolutions thing a long time too. People are going through a lot and all we can do is stretch a helping hand to them. Happy New Year ma and to the Team

    Reply
  3. Chioma George January 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I am blessed by this. We see a lot of people around us and we choose to turn a blind eye because we feel we don’t have enough to share but when we do share, the blessings go a long way. I just arrived from the village too and the prayers are countless!

    Reply
  4. Bisola Cole January 2, 2018 at 11:25 am

    There’s a way gist spread like fire o. I got the gist that Mama was home, because my mum lives there too but We couldn’t go home during Christmas but went to celebrate the new year with her and she said a lot things. God will keep blessing you and your family In Jesus Name.

    Reply
  5. omilola Adeleke. January 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Blessings upon Blessings shall be your portion this year. You will live long and live healthy with your husband. You are blessing ma and my 2017 change isn’t complete without you. This column, this site, Your Loud Whispers book made me a better person and I look forward to greater things this year.

    Reply
  6. Victor Udoh January 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

    What more can one ask for? The charge to be better with evident proofs. That’s one thing I like about, You just don’t write, You write what you have done, experienced and seen. You live your stories. God will keep blessing you and know this, I pray for you everytime and also for this great media group. You guys are awesome and made 2017 fun for us.

    Reply
  7. Olakunle Olajide January 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    This is what i am talking about. Be better and do better. Enough of just the mere words we hear without actions. I got a thank you note for what i did years back to a friend and that made my 2017 a memorable one. I love you ma for the truth you write out every Monday and i pray your desires for Ekiti and Nigeria as a whole be made manifested. Happy New year Ma’am and to every one at Abovewhispers.

    Reply
  8. Femi Diipo January 3, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Yeah; Be better, Do better sounds just right for everyday resolution. Happy new year ma’am, and kudos for all the good works you’re doing in our state

    Reply
  9. Dom Dom January 3, 2018 at 12:39 am

    The level of poverty and under development in this country is still really pathetic, we all have to do our best in making things better. Happy new year

    Reply
  10. DSEED January 3, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Well said ma. This is such an amazing article to start a new year.

    Reply
  11. veronica Imaseun January 4, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    When I see the way things are, I really understand that we don’t have to wait for the government to get things done in this nation. The little drops we put in will make in a mighty landmark. Thank you for your ever inspiring writeups. God bless you and have a happy New Year.

    Reply
  12. Bisi Alawode January 4, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    You inspire a lot more than you can fathom ma. Your book has changed my marriage. In fact, This site has made me a better person. Thanks a lot ma’am. God will keep you!

    Reply
  13. Laura Dameson January 5, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Happy New Year ma. God bless you and bless your team.

    Reply
  14. Elaine Nwosu January 5, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Well done ma’am. To be better is the hard work that we work towards, we must try to concentrate on things that will make us do better and be impart the world around us. Well done ma, I also want to ask if there’s a student scheme for mentorship.

    Reply
  15. Olajumoke James January 5, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for imparting lives. You inspire me alot.

    Reply
  16. Eric Onuoha January 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Happy New Year Ma. Thank you for sharing your holiday experience with us. I really like the phrase you used: Do Better; Be Better. Simple and short.
    Everyone can be of assistance to someone else in a way.

    Reply

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