Sunday Ehigiator writes that for Omobolanle Bankola, a former drug seller and user, the skill and acquisition program by Kinabuti Fashion Initiative proffered a new beginning
Having lived on the streets and even dabbled into drugs, Omobolanle Bankola, was certainly on the fast lane with no recourse for redemption. That narrative has however since changed. Today, though the hand of fellowship extended by Kinabuti Fashion Initiative, she has acquired skills and has gone on to inspire others. Ironically, it took one man, who likely had all the excuse in the world to have taken advantage of her, instead helped her through rehabilitation to get her life back on track.
According to her story shared on Kinabuti, before she was discovered and given a chance for rehabilitation, Bankola was already on the fast road leading to nowhere. Raised in a household where her mother was the only income provider, it was necessary for her to drop out of school because there was no money to pay for her education. Leaving school introduced her to a new kind of life that was counterproductive; a life on the streets with drugs; even with mixture of it, and abuse of alcohol. She wasn’t just a drug user, but became a drug seller as well. She continued this way until a simple conversation with a social worker gave her a new lease on life.
One day, while smoking on the streets with her friends, a social worker asked about her employment status and she told him she was unemployed. He told her that enrollment was on-going for a skill acquisition program and emphasised that he wanted her to be a part of it.
Well; while growing up, Omobolanle always had passion for food and cooking in general so for her, the encounter with the social worker was like a sign from the heavens. “I could do this” she said as the officer’s words woke a dormant dream; a dream she could pursue and achieve.
The program was her lifesaver. The empowerment program is organised by Kinabuti Fashion Initiative; and Equal Health and Rights Access Advocacy Initiative (EHRAAI) in Nigeria as well as, Time for Africa in Italy and they likewise receive Funding from Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy. This was how she met destiny.
The young woman was accepted into the catering class and took up intercontinental cooking, something she had been interested in but never had the opportunity to learn. Her instructors found her enthusiasm and attention delightful. Her passion marked her as one of the favourites in the program. It was clear to see that having been given a chance to achieve her dreams, she was going after this doggedly. After she was done, she went on to establish her business.
Currently, Omobolanle has two customers who find her catering so satisfying that they engage her on a weekly basis where she makes good profit. Still, she is not resting on her oars and intends to scale up her business as she recognises that there is a huge market for what she does.
There are millions of Nigerians are still tied under the influence of drug abuse. In fact, Nigeria is in the throes of a major public health emergency. The first ever nationwide survey on drug use in Nigeria as published by THISDAY on February 13, 2019, revealed that there is a “gross abuse of drug substances, particularly by those in the age bracket of 15 and 64. Even more worrying, close to three million of these are drug-dependent but cannot access help due to lack of health facilities”.
According to the report conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics and funded by the European Union, some 14.3 million people, about 14 per cent of the population abused drugs in the past one year, a figure more than twice the world’s average of 5.6 per cent. The report said 10.6 million Nigerians abused cannabis in 2018 while others abused opioids, cough syrups and other street drugs.”
There is much that can still be done by all of us to help victims of drug abuse through rehabilitation and refer them to skills acquisition organisations like Kinabuti Fashion Initiative; who love to make positive impact on the youths with visible results.