In our arrangement of letters from African columnists, author and essayist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani takes a gander at how an adolescent is changing the lives of a city’s road youngsters.
James Okina is very open about his tearaway high school days: Shoplifting; taking from colleagues; bunking off.
“I was,” he unreservedly concedes, “blending with the wrong group.”
It is a shockingly genuine admission – particularly when you realize that Okina, still only a youngster, is denoting his third year heading a philanthropy helping the scores of kids who live in the city of Calabar, capital of Cross River State, in southern Nigeria.
It is a change he acknowledges two individuals for: Firstly, a cousin, and besides, a pitifully dressed 13-year-old he met at a football coordinate the year he completed optional school.
‘I needed to accomplish more’
The kid’s name was Frederick and he was one of many youngsters attempting to get by without anyone else in Calabar.
Numerous originate from the adjacent camps which house individuals who fled their homes after Nigeria surrendered their oil-rich land in Bakassi to neighboring Cameroon, following a decision by the International Court of Justice.
Others have been marked witches, and have been deserted by their families – a typical marvel in adjacent Akwa Ibom state.
In any case, Frederick did, truth be told, have a family: He imparted a space to his mom. Be that as it may, she had left eight months sooner, and he was fighting for himself.
“He looked worn out yet I was astounded by how clever he sounded,” Okina reviewed.
James is additionally examining business administration at college
In the same way as other road kids, Frederick and his companion Kelvin made due by asking amid the day. At that point, in the nighttimes, the 13-year-old companions would perform trapeze artistry to engage individuals in bars around evening time.
Okina started going to them day by day, bringing snacks.
“The security we shared, it was extremely about the discussion we had yet not about the nourishment and the cash,” he said. “The more we talked, the more I felt a weight that I need to accomplish more.”
Be that as it may, Okina did not have much. At the time, he was working in a form shop to win some stash cash while sitting tight for college affirmation. His fantasy was to wind up noticeably a business person, to one day be known as a land tycoon.
Be that as it may, he knew these young men required help, so he moved toward Inyang Edem, a man in his congregation, who consented to give the charges and different necessities for Frederick’s and Kelvin’s training.
“After I recovered these two children to class, I couldn’t keep away from it. I got myself more trapped,” he said.
Okina got to know some road youngsters who hung out at an intersection close to his home, putting in hours daily visiting with them. One day, as he swung to leave, a kid got his hand.
Okina accepted the kid needed to request cash.
“Be that as it may, rather, he stated: ‘Uncle, please return once more’,” Okina reviewed.
‘No one needs to appoint you’
There and afterward, Okina decided to do significantly more for the youngsters. Realizing that having a structure would empower him to pull in more help and to be better sorted out, he framed Street Priests Inc.
“In a period when individuals tend to consider the administration or the pastorate in charge of progress in the public arena, you can help with what you have from where you are.
“No one needs to appoint you. That is the reason we are called Street Priests,” he clarified.
Utilizing Facebook and his different systems, Okina sourced reserves for the instruction of the following group of 15 youngsters.
He kept going to road kids in different parts of Calabar and, in time, he turned out to be so prominent among them that they would surge energetically towards any transport or taxi when they spotted him inside, regularly making different travelers obviously awkward.
‘Not yet solidified’
After three years, now a business administration understudy at the University of Calabar, 18-year-old Okina has crowdsourced reserves for the instruction of 215 youngsters, and he has a system of around 50 volunteers.
“I don’t mean to go searching for an occupation,” he said. “Be that as it may, I will fabricate my vocation around this reason.”