When I told people that I was going to Nigeria, I got all the typical responses, "Isn't that where the e-mail scams are generated?" "I heard they don't have a sewer system and the electricity goes on and off." "It's really hot there and they have malaria." "What will you eat?" "I hear you can't drink the water." While a number of friends and neighbors were supportive, many wouldn't believe that I'd want to go, much less be excited about going.
After a week in Benin City, I can say with authority that while some of the concerns above are true, they are hardly representative of this country. Benin City pulses with energy from early morning to late evening. It's culture is vibrant with both the traditional and more modern trappings. The dress is colorful, the food served with just the right amount of spice, and the hospitality second to none. The over one million people of Benin are warm, polite and excited to see people from the U.S.
There is tremendous need! It's surprising how much needs to be done to improve the life of the average Nigerian, but it is equally amazing how little it takes to enhance their current quality of life - a pair of shoes, a little love, a few more nairas (the currency). The adults and children I met were sustained by their faith and committed to working, especially as entrepreneurs. They were committed to helping their own people. All they needed was a little training and support. We asked for 30 volunteers on Sunday, and they showed up on Tuesday AND Wednesday to work with hundreds of children!
In conclusion, following Andrew Lovedale's lead has impacted me personally. Talk about a learning experience! I will never forget the people of Nigeria. I want to come back! If you have an opportunity to come here with Samaritan's Feet, jump on it - you will be better for it. And try a Nigerian breakfast of plantain porridge with spicy chicken or corned beef on wonderful white bread and pineapple juice. It and the work will sustain you.
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