The flood that changed everything

Oluwatoyosi Bakare white background

I had never imagined a situation where I would not have an apartment. Here I was, more than one thousand miles from home without a place to live, my only possession being a box of clothes I could salvage and my credentials before my apartment got submerged underwater.

Here are a few background details about me, I am from Lagos state in Nigeria, I was posted to Asaba in Delta State in the South-South geo-political zone to complete NYSC (National Youth Service Corps).

The National Youth Service Corps is a scheme created by the Nigerian Government in 1973 to foster selfless service to the community in young people.

During the year-long program, you will gain work experience and complete a community development project to improve the host community.

In addition to learning customer service skills working as a customer service officer, my year in Asaba also enabled me to fulfil my civic duty of providing free medical services to underrepresented members of the community.

This was going great as I was opportune to relate with different cultures and food until the flood that submerged my home happened.

The first feeling I had was dread, I did not know anyone other than my friend, who was homeless too due to the flood. As we stood beside the road watching people try to save furniture, our thoughts turned to where we would sleep that night.

I can point to other events that have driven me to continue educating people about environmental issues and how to build resilience but being homeless in a foreign state brought me more clarity on my journey.

A single event can spur you into action, this one was not one I watched on TV, nor did the people there represent mere statistics. These were people who welcomed me into the community when I moved in, neighbours whose children I knew, people with whom I had built a relationship.

I knew I had the option of always going back to my parents’ house ( I was not going to exceed my one year stay in Asaba anyway) I was worried about those that had built their lives and family in that area.

I could not stop asking myself these questions :

 What were they going to do?

Who were they going to turn to?

The answers to these questions were hard to come by, as most people were uncertain about the next step. I used this experience to compel me to work with communities concerning how we might use localised solutions to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Before I could begin working on the project, I needed to prepare myself as much as possible, which included studying for a Masters degree in environmental and public health.

Even though the journey was not an easy one, I believe it is safe to say I have not given up and am still committed to working with communities in developing the networks needed to build climate resilience.

The beautiful part of this journey is the fantastic people I get to work with to make this happen.

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