“Kids need people willing to fight for them”
Her arms move wildly, the arch of her body, the brightness in her eyes, excitement radiates from her entire being. As a member of her audience, you cannot but be swept up in her deep passion for the subject she speaks about; thoroughly evident even in her speech for an audience of three, maybe four young women at the entrance of her college dormitory. Long before the awards and the international recognition, certain things were evident; her understanding of what she was on earth to do, summed up in these words, “My purpose in life is reaching out to people.”
I first knew her as my classmate’s sister and had the opportunity to be a member of that audience of three, maybe four young women at the entrance of her dormitory back in college. Wadi Ben-Hirki, a twenty-two-year-old Nigerian woman from Northern Nigeria who strongly believed in the certainty that stories will be told about the heroes of our generation, and she hoped to be one of them.
“Most people only talk and point accusing fingers at others when they themselves can actually do something about the problem”
At the early age of seventeen, she had begun her humanitarian work. She established her foundation, the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation in 2015, when she turned eighteen, the legal age when one could officially launch an enterprise in Nigeria. She maintains, “the fact that a lot of people out there are suffering from little or no love and care from others stirred me to start my humanitarian work.” Her foundation, based in Nigeria aims at helping the less privileged, disabled, and victimized populations in Nigeria, especially children. This work is guided by her mantra, “Every child is your child.” Her foundation takes on five major projects. The first project is LITMOW (love in the midst of war), aimed at reaching out to the internally displaced in North-East Nigeria gravely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. The foundation’s second project, Girls not Wives, aims to stop child-bride marriages which are very popular in Northern Nigeria. The third project, Street to School, takes children involved in hawking and puts them in schools, while also providing vocation opportunities for them. The fourth project, Rescue Makoko, aims to provide educational opportunities to children living in Makoko, a waterlogged and hard to reach the community in Lagos State. With the understanding of the need for some autonomy for her foundation, the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation established its fifth project, Sapphire, which raises funds through the sales of merchandise.
“I fight discouragement almost every single day of my life. I am gradually getting to understand why only very few people are great, successful, and influential in this world”
Wadi Ben-Hirki’s humanitarian efforts have resulted in many accolades, winning the 2015 and 2016 Teen Choice Awards for Philanthropist of the year, being a ONE Champion in 2017, and maintaining a membership with the Association of Women’s Rights in Development.
“If I had the power to solve one problem in the world, I would restore love and peace because a lack thereof, is the major cause of the world’s problems”
Wadi understands that conflicts deny millions of children an education. Violence caused by conflicts harms physically, psychologically, and in so many other ways. Keeping children in education during conflicts is a life-saving priority for such kids and their families. This is why the LITMOW initiative by the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation is dearest to my heart. Having lived most of my life in Northern Nigeria, having experienced my own share of breaks in school activities because of crises, I understand clearly the importance of having a stable, uninterrupted education system for kids. Wadi believes, “If we don’t do the right things and help these children, the IDPs today will be the insurgents tomorrow.” I do believe so also.