Why I am crowdfunding my fees to New York University -By Caleb Adebayo
Over the past three weeks, my friends and I have flooded social media with fliers, texts and a video asking the public to help get me to New York University. This has in no way been a small task, and I am grateful for all that have been supportive. I thought it necessary to explain why I am doing this.
My story starts in a small neighborhood in Port Harcourt city, where I was born and raised by a preacher father and a teacher mother. While growing up, I witnessed firsthand the ills fossil fuel pollution could do to a city, with Port Harcourt being the hub of oil spills and gas flaring. Worse off, power supply was poor in the city and as such, the hum of numerous generators was the unattractive chorus that was the order of the day. My brother and I suffered respiratory problems in the early years of our life due to the level of pollution the atmosphere in the city held.
Port Harcourt gave me enough reason to want to see people have access to energy without endangering the environment and health of its dwellers. This evolved from a fleeting concern to a driving force that still propels me today. At Obafemi Awolowo University, I participated as a volunteer and member for various environmental projects and with various organisations. I started to understand bit by bit that to fix the energy and environmental challenges in Nigeria, there needed to be a holistic attempt at fixing governance, so I became interested in governance and law and policy making.
In my final year at the University, I took an elective course in environmental law under the tutorship of Prof Mrs. M.T Okorodudu Fubara. In her classes, she showed us videos of the debilitating effects of oil spill and gas flaring in the Nigeria Delta. Seeing those videos, I would ask piercing questions in class about what is being done to change these. Few months after, while writing my final year thesis- which was on environmental law- I felt the need to do something beyond learning about these environmental issues, so I started Earthplus, an environmental nonprofit organization that is focused on solving environmental challenges, particularly influencing positive policy changes in this regards. That was 5 years ago. It is 2020 and Earthplus is still going strong.
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Over the next few years that followed, I spent my time learning about the energy space, researching, reading and writing about it. There is almost no national daily you won’t find my article on energy, environment and the Nigerian society generally. My passion to solve the challenges in the sector and find how clean energy solutions could be scaled led me this far.
In a bid to learn more about the sector and be more effective in solving the legal and policy underpinnings on which the activities in the sector are hinged, I applied to take up a Masters last year. I got into the 4 Universities, all to pursue programs in the Energy and Environment sector – Columbia, Georgetown, UC Berkeley and New York University. New York University and Georgetown both gave me partial scholarships. I eventually went with NYU and its $25, 000 scholarship. Crowdfunding was never a consideration for me, because for most, if not all of my life, I have been the helper, the one people lean on for support. It’s a thing I think I inherited from my father, so coming out to ask the public for help was never on my list. I had hoped on the scholarships, then I had hoped on the loans, but then COVID happened and the organisations giving loans were either not giving them or were requesting loan credit scores that I did not have. And as well-intentioned as my parents are, they cannot even nearly afford to fund me.
This opportunity was about to slip from right under my nose if I did nothing. So I decided to be vulnerable. It is the hardest thing I have done in my life and I certainly won’t forget this period too quickly. So here I am, asking for support to go to school. For those who have asked if this is another “japa” story, it is not. Some have sneered at me for wanting to return to Nigeria, others have outright said it is a silly, unthinking thing to do. Yet, you must understand that my story starts here in Nigeria, and my assignment is equally here. I am going away to return again to fix my country- to ensure that everyone has light, to put an end to poor environmental health, to strengthen energy governance. It is a scary state of affairs, but I am not running- not from my home. It is mine to fix.
So I ask for your support to achieve this dream. We have come a significant way so far, but we have a long way to go- and with your help, we can. #GetCalebtoNYU is not just a hashtag, it is a deposit into the future of Nigeria and the African continent. Any donation this is an investment in the society- this I am confident about.
If you would like to support through donations, publicity or in any other way, please use the Gofundme link: bit.ly/GetCalebtoNYU or donate via the account details on the flier. You may also reach out to me at email@example.com or 08117894029.