Samuel is a YHP One Young World Scholar and Ambassador and founder of the Founder of the Food and Genes Initiative in Nigeria.
When I was in my final year in school my father died from diabetes – a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD).
I carried out research to discover the factors responsible for the high rate of NCDs and the risk factors associated with them and found the World Health Organisation was working on risk factors such as drug abuse, tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits. I decided to join their cause and reduce these factors in my own country and especially within young people.
I had already been planning to start the Food and Genes Initiative but the death of my father really pushed me to get started and I launched it in 2018. The Initiative aims to improve the wellbeing and lifestyle of Africans through improving their eating habits and helping them to live longer and more productive lives.
I never thought I would be recognised for doing something I loved doing but I was proved wrong when I got an email from One Young World (OYW) saying that I had been selected to receive a scholarship from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme (YHP) and become one of the 2,000 youth leaders to take part in the OYW global summit in London.
This was a game changer for my life and my organisation. I got to learn from great leaders such as Paul Poulman and Richard Branson. The YHP training workshop increased my knowledge on how to carry out advocacy and social media awareness and One Young World also gave me the opportunity to network and collaborate with other youth leaders.
When I was there I met Steve Stowel, another Young Health Programme scholar from Kenya and the founder of Stowelink Inc., and we are now working together on the 365 DAYS campaign on NCDs in Nigeria. I also met Pierre Cooke, another YHP scholar and a One Young World Ambassador, who suggested that I affiliate my organisation to the NCD Alliance. When Drug-Free World, USA heard that I was working on drug abuse in Nigeria they sent me materials to facilitate secondary school sensitisation. My scholarship opened many doors.
In 2019, I formed a team of 7 members and 500 volunteers to start the first and longest campaign on substance abuse called “365 DAYS (Drug Abuse Youth Sensitisation)”. The campaign was mainly focused on creating awareness on the effects of substance abuse on the body system, family, community and the economy at large. Our direct target was young people, but we also focused on engaging religious leaders, parents, school counsellors, guardians and government agencies. We partnered with 16 other NGOs who engaged more than 100,000 youths that created millions of impressions across social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We also organized physical programmes such as community outreach, secondary school campaigns and street conferences.
The Drug-Free World materials helped us to reach more than 30 schools in Lagos, Nigeria impacting more than 15,000 students. As members of the NCD Alliance we had the privilege of taking part in programmes such as World Cancer Day 2020 and World Obesity Day 2020 in Nigeria – and I am now part of the One Young World Healthcare team working on providing health interventions globally that will help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 and Universal Health Coverage by 2030. We have come a huge distance in a very short time helped by the connections and friends that I have made.
The advice I would give to young people like me is this: “the time for us to rise up and start creating innovative and sustainable solutions to problems affecting the world is NOW”. Various crises are arising daily such as pandemics, climate change, unemployment, increase in poverty and the likes. We must strive to put an end to all these in our communities.
We should leverage opportunities given by organizations like the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme Scholarship, One Young World etc. and use them to make the change we desire in our lives and the world. Most importantly, ensure you maintain a good and healthy lifestyle.
Don’t forget, “Health is Wealth”.