Doing what makes you happy, gives a flavor way better than your favorite food. I am part of a team of over 5,500 staff, tackling the world’s toughest challenges to help people build better and stronger lives. I believe that a better world is possible and can deliver sustainable change, and with each day comes a tasty tingly satisfaction for me. It creates an idea of a rhythm one I cannot help but long to dance to.
Being the first person to go to the University in my family despite being the last born of a family of six children, my mother wanted me to become a Banker, make money and make my family proud.
Money, however, is not my motivation; I wanted to help people. As an undergraduate, I started reaching out to young people within the community where I schooled, providing free life skills training and psycho-social counselling. This made me feel whole and, in those moments, I guess I just discovered my rhythm. When I was done with my first degree, I continued to help. I organized a summer coaching class for students in my neighbourhood at no cost. I got some of my friends to teach for free and supported with life skills training in addition to the Mathematics, English, and Sciences being taught.
I never stopped at just discovery, I kept pushing and searching for new sounds of this newly found rhythm. I took this search to my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year. During this time, I was reaching a larger number of young people; organizing seminars, school outreaches, prison outreaches and then I wrote my first book! All the while, I was dancing to the rhythm of my passion.
One key thing I noticed as I danced was that those around me did not see the reason for the things I was doing. It seemed like I was wasting my time and resources (which I did not have so much of…) but I knew I wanted to live for something bigger than me. I was willing to step out of my comfort zone to reach others. I was committed to make my world a better place than I found it. While at this, I got my first job with a leading Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that works with young people in Ibadan!
When I got married, I had to relocate to the city of Abuja and was out of a job for some time. During this period, I visited the bank and met a young adolescent girl with a child begging. I left the bank feeling very sad. I started thinking of how I can help other married/divorced adolescent girls without skills in the same situation. Again, I organized some of my friends and we started providing free vocational skills training to about 1,000 married adolescent girls in Nasarawa state while supporting them with psycho-social skills. While at it, I got my second job with another leading national NGO that provided women with reproductive health and family planning services and then after some years, I got another job with an International NGO, with a presence in over 43 countries!
On one of my trips, I visited a community called Gbagalape in Abuja. The roads leading to Gbagalape, an Abuja suburb, are marred with several erosion gullies that have paralyzed day-to-day economic activities and make movement difficult. Motorists are either forced to park their vehicles and continue the journey by foot or are subjected to several unnecessary diversions in search of alternative routes. A first-time visitor to Gbagalape during the rainy season would not desire a second visit to this squalor settlement.
In this deteriorated location, I discovered a ray of happiness. I got to see some adolescent girls swinging their waist to the Gbagyi tunes during an open community meeting. They were relishing their achievements and sharing testimonials of how education changed their lives, narrating how the financial inclusion facilitated by the project has created access to economic empowerment and how their families and community stakeholders now perceive them positively and support them to thrive.
These marginalized girls are a few of the 18,000 girls supported by the project I lead. A project designed to help young girls to re-enter/complete formal or informal education and receive interventions that support their livelihoods, and ultimately transform their lives.
As I stood to watch these girls, I could totally relate their experience with mine. I grew up in a suburb of the ancient city of Ibadan, where clustered houses with rusted roofs mixed with bad roads. From time to time, some of the adults popularly called ‘aunties’ in my neighbourhood will gather all the children together in a sort of dancing competition. I never got to win any of those competitions because I was not a good dancer. What was clear, however, was my early recognition of my passion which I danced to – in my heart. I wanted to help others; even as a child.
I wanted to help in my little way, put a smile on someone’s face, support a fellow child with her chores or help an adult with various tasks. Supporting others was at the core of my being but at this time I did not know where it would lead me or that I could make a career of this passion to help. But today, I am in a good state of fulfilment and I look forward with much excitement to what tomorrow brings.
To dance to the rhythm of your passion is to pursue what you love to do, not focusing on the immediate gain or profit. You need to connect with people that are doing similar things/projects, as well as get coaching and mentorship. Research your area of interest and be extra – go the extra mile. The world is tired of mediocrity.