When I first went into the service of humanity, Gafar Ajao
04 October 1999
by Gafar Ajao.

In 1990 when I first went into the service of humanity, I first saw it as a brief idea and no big deal whatsoever. At Dutse where we were taken to there was no food and the water was a bit unhygienic, this made the organizer to import food and water from a neighboring state; Kano. After the camping we were put to work for no fee at all but my friends and some of my close relatives discouraged this and ask me often time that "Are you crazy"? and I remember I was always answering "No, I am not crazy".

My late mother (she died on the 20th of June 1999 at the age of 70 year, may her soul rest in perfect peace) who herself, her late mother, Victoria Omotonike alias Iya Dosu, were volunteers but in the local presentation and because of their own rich background people believed they were just generous besides, nobody knew what volunteering supposed to mean then. There was no any linkages to what Volunteering is. In short they could not have imagined it but they do because they all participated in voluntary services either in the mosques, churches, community development and so on and so forth.

There was this system of volunteering in the17th, 18th, even 19th century whereby people around you will build your house the moment you purchase a piece of land without you asking them. They do it as their own contribution and support for their fellow. All you need to do is to provide entertainment for them and everybody is happy.

Later, I joined a traveling theatre where there is no remuneration for your toil but nobody complained but in the real sense of it we were the crusader, we were like prophets telling people the right path to go and we never disappointed anybody.

In 1991 I was invited by the British council, Kano Office to come and be part of the new theatre company set up by the then director, Mr. David Feiller as a charity organization. I was there for three years and I started my own theatre organization(voluntary) called A-BAS the thespian realm. Our major voluntary services include a drama packaged for secondary school pupils in seven states of the northern part of Nigeria we did not charge any money.

Reason: there are many theatre companies in kano state and they are profit making organization and many times they put up shows only for them to perform for empty chairs. We did not want this to happen to us, we put heads together myself and my friend Eze Eze Ogali then a youth corper serving in kano, what we came up with was the idea of a developmental drama that will help the youths and adults, concentrating more and creating awareness for the importance of education for a Nigerian child in the northern part of Nigeria.

My mother provided us with logistics including food and little money and we tasked ourselves because we wanted to be unique and at the end of the tour the British council acting director called me and asked me to write a short play on child labour, abuse and educational development. I wrote the play and it became difficult to get it on stage due to the insufficient budget of the British Council for the arts at the time, but we had the preview at the Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan in 1997, and there were talents exhibition of the younger actors between ages of 10- 12.

I moved on to Orsu-Obodo, Ihiala, Mbaise, Mgbidi, Izombe, Awo-Mmanma, Oguta, Onitsha, Agbor, Asaba etc in the eastern part in search of more young volunteers, unfortunately nobody volunteered but i was able to show them ways of starting a developmental project and getting it done without involving physical cash. To the southern part I went to Ile-Ife, Iwo, Ibadan, Oyo, Ijebu-Ode, Benin, Ewohimi, Eruwa etc, and I was able to get more encouragement.

I was the best volunteer for the year 1998 and I was just been the awarded the Volunteer of the millennium by the students' union government of the polytechnic of ibadan.

I currently work as a volunteer with Educare Trust Exhibition Centre with N2000 allowance every month.

Gafar Ajao.

This page can found at: http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org/news-views/volunteer-stories/doc/when-i-first-went.html