Not All Heroes Wear Capes. Some make a choice to do something and aid humanity. This month on the #NAHWC series, we are telling the stories of young people who did something this Christmas to put smiles on faces and love in hearts.
Last week we began with Nissi Peter and the Salted Peoples Campaign and today we read the story of Oluyinka Alli-Balogun and SPARKS.
Sarauta Magazines Nenkinan Deshi interviewed Olayinka and there is so much to learn from here. Enjoy the read.
Q. Hello Olayinka. Please briefly tell us about yourself?
R. Hello, my name is Olayinka Alli-balogun. I am 24years old. I am a nurse by profession. I graduated in the year 2016 from Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) Ado Ekiti. I reside in Lagos and also work in Lagos. I pursue my passion and volunteer at my local church in Lagos.
Q. What led to the formation of SPARKS? What was the root idea and how did it grow to become the awesome NGO it is?
R. Well, SPARKS as a word was coined from the heart of this organization which is, SUPPORT FOR AFRICAN KIDS. The state of the African child has grown worse since we last read of her in the popular novels. Africa has not enjoyed leadership since and her child likewise has not- though she inherits an enormous responsibility, she must survive first before she can grow to take the baton. The previous statement and so many more led to the formation of SPARKS. SPARKS is a non-governmental organization set out to provide support services of healthcare, education and welfare to children and adolescents. We still believe them to be Africa’s future.
Q. What Is the mode of operation of SPARKS. What exactly do you do?
R. The vision behind our inspiration is to support the African child, fulfilling the African dream.
More precisely, SPARKS is all about supporting and may not always directly provide its 3-fold support outreaches but through other non-profit organizations like itself, what really matters is a child’s wellbeing. We provide the following:
- Healthcare Services
- Educational services
- Welfare services
Q. How was the journey? How did you assemble your army of volunteers? And what challenges did you face in mobilization?
R. Since 2014, SPARKS has extended her colors to three African Nations, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa. But nothing more colorful than our annual Christmas project “COLORFUL CHRISTMAS”. So far in Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria, we hope to expand our reach in the nearest future.
We mostly get our volunteers off social media posts and referrals. People help us get the word out and call other people to join the noble cause.
Mobilization so far hasn’t been a challenge, because I would say we have the best set of volunteers who would travel miles to support and be there for our projects. We however help with transportation and accommodation but mobilization has always been a breeze. We hope it remains like that.
Q. How do you raise funds? What is the response of people to your calls for support?
R. Our sponsorship and fund raising has been based on personal funding and volunteerism thus far but we crave support of other individuals and corporate bodies, in kind and in cash terms.
However, the response so far has been encouraging, we are grateful for the people we have.
Q. How much work do you think needs to be done as regards children, pregnant women and nursing mothers care in Nigeria?
R. A whole lot of work, it’s like the passage of the scriptures that says “the harvest is many but laborers are few”… There are a lot of places left untouched and people really need help. The work cannot rest on a person or a body’s shoulder, it requires everyone putting our hands together and doing the “dirty job” of making our Nation and world at large clean. We have to come together!
Q. I believe lack of proper education is one of the problems affecting maternity in Nigeria and why Nigeria was recently tagged the worst country to give birth in. What can you say about that?
R. Lack of proper education is a major part of the problem because this is not just affecting us on the lower levels but even in the high levels and important sectors. Quacks and half-baked professionals are being employed on a daily and these are the people we are to entrust our children’s lives to. It’s a big shame. We need standards, not just for the well-to-do in our society but also for the low class, we need a standard that cuts across every class in our society. Standard that avail every individual to a good life, irrespective of your rank in the societal hierarchy. Proper education can provide that standard for everyone, not expensive education… Proper education!
Q. Nigeria is also known for having malnutured kids’ majority of whom don’t have access to proper health care. What can you say about this?
R. This is absolutely true, with the little I have seen, I know for a fact that there’s still so much to do in that aspect. Healthcare as I know and believe should be accessible, affordable and accommodating. With the number of health facilities we have around, people should not have the problem of health but it still remains one of our major problems because it hasn’t been made accessible, affordable and accommodating enough for everyone, especially the children.
Q. What do you think the following groups can do about these problems:
R. Government: The government should focus on the important things, constructions and impossible promises haven’t gotten us anywhere so far. We need to realize that the little things actually make the most difference. Children are our future, let’s leave the glamorous things and focus on the little ones, providing them the best life has to offer in each state of the country. Let’s indulge in that for one tenure and see how much difference it makes for us as a nation. Government should hand out projects and oversee them closely and personally, we can’t entrust our children in the hands of corrupt people. Government should support more noble causes and non-governmental organizations, we understand that they are too busy minding the national business which really isn’t an excuse but when people who see the needs of the society rise up and make plans to address them, the best the government can do is to support them and collaborate with them in making the projects succeed. It makes good publicity for campaigns if you ask me… Maybe the government can keep their eyes on what’s below them for a moment and see that the reason we are stuck is because nothing is actually moving.
Private Individuals: Private individuals should be set up solely for the progress of the communities they are in. We cannot be all about ourselves and personal families if we really desire to see change. Private individuals should do more charity works, attend to the pressing needs of the communities around them instead of exploiting people of what they have.
Q. Can you tell us about your last project? How was it? What was the target audience? And what did it reveal to you?
R. The last Christmas project was a huge success! We had a COLORFUL CHRISTMAS at Lafiaji, Eti-osa, in Lagos. Our target audience was mainly the children, pregnant women and nursing mothers and the teenagers. The feedback was amazing considering the fact that we didn’t have the time to do a lot of publicity but the turnout was huge!
It revealed to us that even in developed cities in Lagos where you have most of the big industries and organizations, there is still a void that’s unmet and it’s not looking good. A lot of work still needs to be done.
Q. What is your vision for the SPARKS? How soon will you be having another outreach?
R. The African child is the reason for SPARKS… The possibility of a future and a life that is void of the necessary support required irrespective of obvious limitations is bleak but we trust God to provide.
SPARKS would be visiting hospitals soon to help out with bills for some random less privileged person, school fees would be paid also this year. Jamb forms would be bought for some in certain locations where it is really needed.
Q. What advice would you give young Nigerians out there who only whine and complain when there are worthy causes like SPARKS to join and be involved with?
R. Hmm… I think it’s more of a calling. I believe people can help in different capacities as we are all unique beings with different abilities. The idea is not to dim your light when you’re required to shine. It’s okay to be different but stand for what is good and of good report even in our individual differences. Yours might not be to join a cause like SPARKS but look around you, there’s a void that only you can fill…
Q. Please supply your contact details in case anybody wants to contact or make a contribution towards the great cause you champion.
Thank you for reading. And God bless Oluyinka and her team for rising up to the task. Watch out for more stories of heroes who don’t wear capes.