When Banjo Damilola received her NYSC call-up letter to serve in Cross River state, I’m sure she didn’t know what the state had in stock for her. She had to make the most of her one-year mandatory service. In her own words:
It is impossible to give a vivid description of a place or a people except you have been to the place and lived with the people.
However, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme opened the angle not frequently explored about the people of Cross River state, Calabar precisely. She had fed on the popular portrayal of a people; a situation Chimamanda Adichie described in her TedX Talk titled ‘The danger of single story’, which was mostly derogatory.
Her interaction with the Calabarians has shown that they are nice and friendly people, if not the most hospitable people in Nigeria. Her first day on the streets of Calabar was adventurous and immediately the veil of the Calabar stereotypes began falling off. Her experience taught her that it is a ‘calabar thing’ for cab passengers to exchange brief pleasantries whenever a new passenger gets into the cab. She also got to know that everywhere in Calabar is by somewhere. For example, the bustop of where she worked was ‘Atimbo by Access’. So, when you visit Calabar, be sure to ask “by where?” else they might have to announce a missing person on TV.
Leaving the West where everything food is Amala and Iyan with very limited soups to accompany the morsels. In her words:
In the South, you can conveniently eat eba three times a day, 7 days a week and not get tired. You have different soups to choose from; melon soup, groundnut soup,afang, edikaikong, white soup, all kinds of soup. Eating in Calabar has been an adventurous voyage; there is always more to keep you excited. Just so you know, they have great appetite too.
Away from the food, places and the beautiful people, Miss Banjo Damilola spent over 400,000 Naira to renovate a block of classrooms at the Army Children’s Primary School II in the 13 Brigade, Akim barracks, Calabar and 300,000 Naira to purchase 100 uniforms and 100 sandals for pupils.
She was motivated to give the school a facelift, seeking financial assistance from corporate organisations, individuals and others. She created a Facebook group – Lend a Hand and went to lengths to sway people to help the cause. Damilola changed the roofing of the building, fixed new ceiling sheets, re-painted the building and fixed water installations and carefully selected 100 pupils whose uniform were badly worn out to benefit from this gesture.
In really trying times for the nation’s economy and all, Damilola has proven that the will to do good overcomes every obstacle, even in foreign lands. Though the youth service is just for one year, her legacies will transcend many years. Be like Dami, travel for impact.