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Posted: April 16, 2013 8:46 p.m.

Passionate on giving back to Nigeria

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In recent times, supplying aid to Africa has been a special interest of American citizens. Everyday, we watch TV segments or hear the stories of the starving children who cannot attend school and immediately want to help. In many cases, we give money, but what we do not see is where that aid and money go. Oxford College sophomore Arome Obende understands that there is a lot more that needs to be done for Africa than just donating money.

Obende, a native to Nigeria, moved to the U.S. when she was 4 for a life of better opportunities. Her family felt that it was still important to stay immersed in her Nigerian culture, so she visited Nigeria often while growing up.
Obende said she is thankful for the trips back to her home country because it helped her understand how lucky she was to be in the U.S.

“It’s completely different. Every time I go there, I understand that there is actually a third-world.”

One of the things that struck Obende the most about Nigeria was the amount of the population living in poverty.

“It’s really inspirational when I go because poverty is so much more visible. I think in America, you can be in a bubble if you want to be. If you do not want to see people in the streets who are poor, you do not have to. In Nigeria, they are everywhere. Even in the nicest neighborhoods, you can turn the corner and you are already in a bad neighborhood.”

“How do I have the right to complain when I am guaranteed food and water? Some people do not have that. It gives me perspective every time I go.”

Obende said she wants to use her knowledge of her native culture and people and use what she has learned in America to give back to Nigeria.

Obende, a pre-med student, wants to return to Nigeria after she graduates from Emory University in 2015 so she can volunteer with the National Youth Service Corps.

The National Youth Service Corps is an organization set up by the Nigerian government that uses the country’s graduate students to help with the development of the country.

A major problem Obende saw was how the schools’ aid was being handled in Nigeria. If able, many students attend boarding school in Nigeria. These schools, especially the government-run institutions, are given food and other aid to help the students. Many of the students never see these things though due to the corrupt leaders and local politicians who tend to keep it all for themselves.

 

“That kills me because I have cousins who go off to boarding school and when they come back, you don’t recognize them. They do not look well because they were deprived of food and things during their schooling,” Obende said.She went on to say how she thinks it is wrong that the Nigerian people have come to terms with this outcome. The students’ fate is now embedded in the culture and it is seen as a way to ‘toughen them out.’

“I don’t believe a child should toughen up by depriving them of food,” Obende said.

Obende said that the politics of Nigeria is certainly a crucial part of this problem.

“In Nigeria, people go into politics knowing its a corrupt game and they come in just trying to get money. It’s crazy to think about.”

“I think it is such a raw country. This is who we are, this is what we do, this is Nigeria. It is very blunt. Everyone knows about the corruption.”

However, despite the corruption, Obende is still proud to be a Nigerian because of its strong diversity. “Nigeria represents a different type of diversity. I like how Nigeria is a collection of different things — different people, languages, backgrounds and values.”

Her experiences in Nigeria have definitely helped shaped her passions.Obende said, “I am so passionate about helping Nigeria because it is my country. No matter how long I live here, I consider myself a dual citizen. On paper, I am considered an American, but there is something about being from Nigeria that really speaks to me.”

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