Celebrating Children's Day

On May 27, we celebrated Children's Day here in Nigeria. Though it's idealistic, if it were up to me, every day would be Children's Day. For one day out of the year, our children are brought to the forefront. Local newspapers featured disheartening topics reflecting the plight of the average Nigerian child. These ranged from child labor and abuse to education and general welfare. But all too quickly, the hoopla surrounding the future of our children ended. A day later, everything went back to the way it was until next year.

Still, at Hope4Girls, we celebrate our kids, and we wouldn't be left out of the festivities. A few weeks back, I was asked by the Nigerian Bottling Company to speak at its Defining Tomorrow Project, which is aimed at kids in public schools. I was more than happy to participate. In addition to being an advocate for girls, I'd like to consider myself a role model, transcending my sport and gender. I was part of an accomplished panel that included an actress, a medical student, and a banker. As we shared our stories of failure, success, hard work, and education, I couldn't help but notice the bleak depiction of life most of these kids have.

The kids asked questions that really signified the battle they face. Many raised issues about the lack of financial and emotional resources in their lives, the lack of family support, and even a lack of school support. These are strong functions of our society that are failing our kids, and it is definitely heart breaking. Their frustrations were clear, and it was our job as role models to motivate and inspire them. No success story is without its challenges and sacrifices. The fight must continue for a bright future in the midst of darkness.

After a great morning with more than 100 children, I hit the courts with our newest sister school, Garki Government Junior Secondary School. Getting anything done in Nigeria is not without its challenges and setbacks. Many times I just want to scream, and I do (though not in front of the kids). Our letter of approval from the government came barely three days before our event, after weeks of chasing it down. As a result, we were limited in how many girls we could invite, and how many schools could participate.

The tennis court we wanted to use at 1 p.m. was blocked off by soldiers, who told us we could not enter till 4 p.m. Not surprisingly, the girls would not be deterred. They stuck it out, and we had a great time. Their excitement and enthusiasm made it all worthwhile. And there's nothing like getting big thank you's and even bigger hugs. Thanks to Stella Ajike, who donated books to all the girls, and to coach Emmanuel Odah and the FCT Girls Club team that came to support the girls in their community. It's H4G for kids, 24-7-365!