VOLUNTEER NIGERIA INITIATIVE – Debbie Bolanle Motilewa inspires Nigerian youths to make an impact

I met Debbie for the first time in February 2012, in Aberdeen, Scotland when I went for a friend’s brithday.  A vibrant and pretty young lady with many talents. Beneath the pretty face and gorgeous looks is a strong woman with a passion to make a positive impact in her environment and country at large. Debbie recently started an initiative called VOLUNTEER NIGERIA to inspire youths to come together to help charity organisations. Debbie contacted LynnVille about this initiative and being so inspired by her works, it was a pleasure to have an in-depth discussion with Debbie about this and her passion to embark on this mission.

Hi Debbie, can you give us a brief info about yourself?
My name is Deborah Bolanle Motilewa, I turned 21 on the 19th of June 2013. My dad is from Kogi State, my mum is from Anambra state. I was born in Jos, Plateau state, later moved to Lagos with my parents. I attended Chrisland Primary School Ikeja, and Chrisland College Idimu. I have a BA(hons) in Accounting and Finance from Dublin Business School, Ireland (2011) and an MSC(Econs) International Business, Energy and Petroleum from the University of Aberdeen, UK (2012). I am currently doing my NYSC in Abuja in an Electrical Engineering and Supply firm (Trust NYSC to post a Petroleum Economist to an Electrical Engineering Firm).

Thanks for that brief info. So, what is Volunteer Nigeria?
Volunteer Nigeria is created to be a support to other existing charity organizations. It is aimed at bringing youths together once every three months to assist in a charity of our choice. Volunteer Nigeria creates public awareness to the spirit of volunteering. After talking to a few friends about the initiative, I realized most Nigerians do not have the spirit of volunteering. We were not brought up that way; I entered an orphanage for the first time the day I went to seek permission for Volunteer Nigeria. We have not been taught the need to give back, the need to volunteer. You know how a child lights up a place? How regardless of a child’s surrounding, he/she is ready to play once they find a playmate or play toy? I love kids; they are so innocent and mostly cute. I believe if most adults have the playfulness, joy and inner happiness of children, the world will definitely be a better place. It is my love for children that led me to dedicate a huge part of Volunteer Nigeria to orphanages.

What inspired you to start the initiative?
A week after moving back to Nigeria in January, I was having fun (the usual seeing friends you haven’t seen in years, long lost family members, trying out all the
Shawarma and Suya joints in Abuja). In February, I took a mini tour round Nigeria, I went to see friends in Lagos, my sister in Ile-Ife, extended family in Kogi State. I went to NYSC camp in March; made friends, participated in as many activities as I could. I was the secretary of my platoon. I started working in April, started having a routine (I don’t do so well with routines). And then I started feeling empty. I felt like I had done it all, like I was just living the normal “youth life” I wasn’t doing anything different. Deep down I knew I was better than that. I have always thrived to be different since as far back as I can remember. I always did that “little” extra thing. During my undergraduate studies in Dublin, I was a member of various charity organisations; I formed the dance society in my college (not like I can dance oo). My school was just lacking a dance society, and I took the task upon myself. When I went for my masters program, I taught myself to sew: watched numerous YouTube videos. Shout out to Tglashen, her YouTube videos ROCK. I participated in fashion shows. My clothing line “Debbie’s” was on three runway shows in Aberdeen. (Read about it on her blog HERE). I wrote short plays for magazines, blogs e.t.c. 

Lets just say I have always done something extra. I don’t feel comfortable doing the minimum. I can’t count how many businesses I started; I made homemade toothpaste and glitter lip-glosses in primary four and was selling it in my neighborhood. The moment I feel I am doing nothing, that empty feeling comes in. This time, I wasn’t pushed to start a bus. iness; I was moved to be a better person, to develop something to help my immediate community. As they say, charity begins at home. I began having numerous discussions with like-minded friends, after most conversations I had with these friends, I always ended with “I don’t want to be stuck doing the minimum. I want to be someone’s mentor.” Three months into this thought process, Volunteer Nigeria came into being.

 You studied in UK for a while before returning to Nigeria for NYSC, what were your views about Nigeria before you left and now that you’re back?
Thank you. I had been out of Nigeria for about five years gaining two degrees, , I felt I had seen what “the white man had to offer me”. Coming back to Nigeria was to see the Nigerian economy from the eyes of a mature Debbie, I came back to test the waters, to compare countries. When I left Nigeria I was 16, I was under mummy and Daddy’s roof, I was in boarding school for most of my teenage years, and just like most Nigerian parents, I was hardly allowed to leave the house on school breaks. On returning back to Nigeria, it was a totally different scenario. Yes, I was still under mummy and daddy’s roof but I was more sensitive to my surroundings, I had a salary and was expected to some extent be responsible for myself. At this point my eyes were open to the unruly behaviour of some of us Nigerians – the bad customer service, the uneducated professionals. I think nothing annoys me more than calling my phone data service provider (airtel) when my data is having issues, and hearing the girl/guy on the other end tell me stories over and over again, then finally saying “I’ll direct your issue to the technicians”.  Lo and behold my data is not fixed and I never hear back from the so-called technicians. I have come to understand that the issues with Nigeria do not lie with just the government or the people. It lies with the lawmakers. There is almost no incentive in abiding by the law, the only benefit is a clear conscience. People do what they want, how they want to and when they want to because there is no emphasis on right or wrong.

You’ve made quite a few observations about Nigeria. At your age you’re making a difference in your own little way, what advise will you give to other Nigerian youths/youths in diaspora?
 I haven’t made a difference YET. This to me is just the beginning. I am really just starting. In fact this is what you’ll call a prototype. My advice not just to Nigerians, not just to Nigerians in Diaspora, but to everyone is; don’t wait till you feel empty. Don’t wait till you feel the need to do more. Start doing more now. Don’t just live a basic life, volunteer in one way or the other; no volunteering is too small or too big. Look for a way of touching someone’s life. Aim to be a mentor. The question is when you depart, what shall you be remembered for?

Finally what should we be expecting from Volunteer Nigeria?
Volunteer Nigeria by God’s grace will cover all areas of charity. The first edition was aimed at kids in orphanages (Mother Theresa Orphanage in Abuja), the second edition although not concretely concluded will be aimed at kids in orphanages again. We hope to go into Woman empowerment next; we are looking at shelter homes for battered women, the woman empowerment program will cut across young girls in secondary schools. We are hoping to have a summer camp in Summer 2014 for teenage girls in secondary schools. It’ll be a fun filled summer for learning and creating the need to stand firm regardless of your sex. The summer camp program is going to be huge. I can feel it in my spirit. I am still working on the background, when I have everything well planned, you’ll be the first to know Lynda.

Great plans you’ve got, I will be most glad to know and be part of it. Thank you for sharing your passion and goals with LynnVille.
Thank you Lynda, the pleasure is mine and you’ll definitely hear more news. 

Below is a recap of the Volunteer Nigeria visit to Mother Theresa Orphanage, Gwarimpa, Abuja. They did not just visit, they held a party for the kids.

It was a great experience, the first I had engineered, I basically learnt a lot from the experience, the kids had so much fun, we started the day with face painting

Then moved to dance, dance, dance

then games, we had different games in line for the kids; Simon says, musical chairs amongst others.

After that the kids had to have their lunch, so the adults took over the game floor; a short game of musical chairs brought out the children in us. It felt so good to play musical chairs after about ten years of not playing it.

We later moved on to drawing; cardboards, pencils and crayons were provided to see the artistic side of the kids. They were asked to draw Barney, well I must say I saw different representations of Barney.

There was a “mummy/daddy dance for me” competition, were the kids picked adults to dance for them in a bid to win one of our many prizes.

The afternoon ended with a raffle draw for a chance to win two golf sets, which were to be donated to the orphanage. The turnout was quite satisfying. There was a total of 32 guests, which I think is a great number, considering it was the first edition. 

Debbie with the kids

There were loads of donations, and everyone definitely looked happy; both the kids and adults. The best part of the day was knowing that the visit to the orphanage that day was the first visit to any orphanage by about 10 of the invited guests. Which is one of the aims of the program: creating the spirit of volunteering in the hearts of youths.

From the pictures, it is obvious that both kids and adults had fun. Giving back to our community is very imperative but rare especially in this age and time where most people stretch out their hands to “oga, anything for the boys”. We should have the attitude of doing something without expecting money in return; something that will make a positive impact in someone’s life. This time it will be “oga, something from the boys”. 

Anyone can be a part of the November edition of Volunteer Nigeria by:     
  • Creating Awareness: tell people you know to tell people they know to tell people the people they know, know about the initiative; newspapers, blogs, magazines, radio, tv, etc.
  • Be present in Abuja for the November edition
For more pictures of the event, visit the Voluteer Nigeria Initiative Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerNigeriaInitiative

About the Author

There's more to Lynn than meets the eye; visit "ABOUT ME" page for more details. I hope you enjoyed the article.

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