Many years ago, a young man had approached me seeking help to locate a street just by neighborhood. The street in question simply did not feature in my brain goggle map.
Instead of sending the young man off the wrong way or pretending I know so much about the geographic mapping of my neighborhood, I apologized and told him am of no help.
That encounter left me with nagging thoughts about how much I know about my neighbours and the neighborhood. Something told me as I walked back home that the street was in the neighborhood and very well known, yet I have no time to familiarise myself with happenings around me, consequently failing to truly answer the familiar global spiritual question of “ who is my neighbor”?
Months after that encounter, I passed through same area and discovered to my surprise, that the exact spot where I met with the young man, indeed was the same street he sought my assistance to locate.
I had stood at the spot like in eternity, confounded and shellshocked, exposed to my ignorance yet thankful not to had sent the young fellow to a lonely search for an address in Samaria yet on same spot.
From that day, I swore to keep the determination to know landmarks and possible faces of neighbours and happenings around me.
Though am no busy body and can be annoyingly an introvert, my worldview revolves around meeting people and making good friends. I have incourse of this tendency, made thousands of journey across the 36 states of nigeria and flew across the globe, sharing in beauty of people, nations and the diversity of humanity.
As a global cultural tourism ambassador, l had seen the very good and sad sides of humanity, our love, pretence, segregation and telling ignorance of other cultures, ego driven religiousity and certainly effusive outpouring of love for the weak, the poor and disabled.
This indeed connected and form the gist of my encounter with GOLDCREST FAMILY CENTER, a non governmental community service outreach founded by Mrs Agatha Chukwura about 16 years ago.
From providing for indigent widows and children, Goldcrest also noteably intervenes in the educational and medical needs of the poor and the disabled, with multi purpose agenda to reach the unreached, helping to tell their stories to corporate food processing organizations and pharmaceutical companies.
From Lagos to Ogun states, Goldcrest family center has built up a community of persons who were once on the threshold of lack and despair into a blosoomed achievers and socioeconomic game changers.
So how did I get to become a volunteer? Chika Balogun, the elegant and cerebral immediate past Director General National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies ( NIHOTOUR) connected the initiative.
Chika is indeed a source of great admiration and selfless commitment to humanity. She is kind and responsive and unlike many people who once held critical positions in our tourism industry, she never forgets friends.
Since she progressively served out her first tenure and by God grace, waiting for a recall to put finishing touches to what she had benchmarked with effective presence at the government tourism training organization, Chika Balogun has kept busy doing good.
As the lockdown bites and with the attendant rage, dislocating families, particularly the very poor widows and children, the very concern of this multitude formed the tissue of our chat which had become very frequent of a recent.
Just last week, Chika in her usual unassuming and kind thoughtfulness requested if I could help bring succour to the needy around Surulere. As the chairman of my middle class resident association, I know that are families, particularly widows around us, and to which I gratefully accepted to serve through Goldcrest family center to which Chika Balogun is a frontline member, even though she lives in Abuja.
And that with prospect in sight and having noticed that both Lagos State and Federal governments palliatives had no presence around my neighbourhood, I mobilized my family to reach out to anyone who may need assistance and care. My friend and associate, Hafeez Balogun of Kenya Airways who also doubles as financial secretary of our resident association joined me to serve.
The initial fifty cartoons of frozen plantain and yam flakes with ten mini packs in each carton served out to over 150 people. The healthy food products are made by Sympli Nigeria limited. We were encouraged by the smiles and prayers from the beneficiaries.
We were literally mobbed but we endured and wondered why Lagos State and Federal governments are finding it difficult to reach those in need of critical palliatives. Strategically, Hafeez Balogun and I decided to document our volunteerism and sent same to chika Balogun and Goldcrest founder, Mrs Agatha Chukwura.
Possibly surprised by our modest impact and guided by the verifiable documentation, Goldcrest foundation requested us to expand the effort to Aguda, Ijesha, Itire and Ikate suburbs of old Surulere.
These areas have certain history of neglect and dislocations and the prospect of being mistaken for government legmen frightening. Hafeez Balogun and I mapped out the areas and mobilized my street neighborhood security taskforce and the growing number of volunteers who wished to join us the second expedition.
Early hours of Saturday last week, we visited Goldcrest Maryland Lagos office and with about one hundred cartoons of sympli frozen foods and certain additional Soya maize cereal from Ota, Ogun state based AACE food processing company, we headed to the areas aforementioned.
The crowd as we had earlier envisaged was more than massive. I was afarid of likely attack or unrulyness from the crowd. We had earlier purchased hand gloves and face masks for the volunteer team.
We did ikate, some parts of Aguda and ijesha. We stopped by at security check points to reach out to police women who left family to Wade off criminals and those with intent to cause trouble. I can’t possibly capture their gratitude and prayers in words.
The men in uniform also benefited on second thought since they have families and wives. Indeed, our target were women, old and young.
It was telling experience, an opportunity to witness first hand the critical gap between the rich and the poor, the sufferings of our people and the many lies the politicians tell about rural development and the so called welfare interventions.
Inside me, remains the deep pains of our people, the expectations of promises of palliatives by government unfulfilled and gap between the rulers and the ruled.
As we made to leave, one old woman who came late to the point of distribution, lamenting what becomes of her situation, brought tears to my eyes. I really can’t remember when and how I emptied my pockets to buy her food stuffs at a nearby grocery store and also left her with some money to take care of herself.
It was certainly a great opportunity to serve the people and I appreciate Goldcrest family center, Mrs chika Balogun, my brother, Hafeez Balogun ( not a relation of chika), and the volunteers who sacrificed their time to join me on this outreach program.
However, the media community looms large on next possible effort and I have registered my concern with both Chika Balogun and Mummy Agatha Chukwura. May God bless Goldcrest supporting organizations and companies and Nigeria at Large. We shall overcome this scourge if only we look out for those in need. Be your brothers keeper, please.