Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Olorunwa (Wellington) Sanlola’s Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

TOPIC: ME AND MY LIFE

You might think that the difference you can make is insignificant, I too had that belief some years back. I thought to myself “what can someone like me living in  Igbekebo an area without any economic value with an average financial  means do to make a difference in this world”?

Many years back during my secondary school, though I never gave up schooling, I was doing my bit and also going for fishing with my father and brother after school.

After my secondary school education I wanted to forward my education by getting into a tertiary institution but nobody is ready to assist me because nobody ever believed in me, I remember vividly the statement directed to me by the entire member of my family that “No one would want to invest in bad product”.

The statement got to me angry and I had nobody to discuss it with because I was very young and stubborn.

The fish farming went on for a long time until I became a man that could stand and take responsibility of his actions or inactions.

June 12, 1995 my mother travelled to check up on me and when she was leaving back to Lagos I told her I was going with her; that my heart was no more in the village. After seeing a lot of tears rolling out of my eyes, my mother agreed to take me with her to Lagos.

After spending a month at home, I told my mum that I can’t continue sitting at home that I want to learn something that will forever put smile on my face and food on my table. Mum asked me “What is it that you love to do”? My response was Radionic (Radio and Television repairer).

That same week I was enrolled into an institution where I can learn how to repair Electronic device with the money I saved while in the village some years ago.

I walk a long distance to work because I don’t have money to board a cab for so many years. This hard situation kept on but I was focused, determined and ready to face anything life throws at me because I know it’s just for a moment: “Sorrow may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”.

At a point in time I became the eye of my master because of the faith and trust he had on me, one day he called in his office and said to me, “Wellington, greatness is all over you.” I asked him why he said so, he replied by saying you are honest, patient and hard working, anybody who possesses these qualities will definitely soar high and make difference. This is how my Boss gave me the mantle of leadership and became the general just because I was hardworking and a fast learner. I became the one making all repairs because I had strong belief in what I do.

My patience, hardworking, zeal, tenacity, dedication and honesty to what I believed in made me, an ordinary assistant fisher boy in a remote village of Igbekebo in Ondo State to become an MD/CEO of three leading registered organizations in Nigeria, and mingle with Who and Who in Nigeria. Like the Formal President of Nigeria, Formal Navy Auditor General of Nigeria, Senators e.t.c

In Nigeria today among the three (3) organizations that I am the CEO, Olorunwa Electronic Service is the leading and rated best broadcasting engineering company, that deals in servicing, repairs and sales of all kinds of visual and audio broadcasting equipment. And DeLowatech Nig. LTD. Deals with installation of all kinds of CCTV and solar energy lights.

And OYLESN International Limited deals with automobiles and farming products.

Now it was an ordinary person, a bad product that nobody wants to invest in, that is now the CEO of three (3) Organizations and paying salaries to staff of the organizations and now making a positive difference by bringing long lasting solutions to all form of electronic device and broadcasting equipment in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

As I always remember my late father’s words, “Don’t allow what people say to destroy your life, live your life to be fruitful.”

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Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Sadhana’s Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

Dean and the Doggies

Dean, a man with serious health issues, lives in our neighbourhood.  In spite of his health and finance issues he is the home of last respite for small dogs that have been mistreated or are on their last legs.  Over the years he has provided a loving home for them, and socialised dogs who had not been socialised before.   He lives with limited means but still some how manages to look after the dogs mostly cheerfully.

Dean is an example to the rest of us who have a lot going for them in life and can only look at life as a glass half full.

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Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Gary Forbes’ Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

Let me offer a very local and highly successful story of someone who is making a difference in their community.  In Tucson, we suffer, like many American cities, with shocking stories of senseless violence, where it seems the baser emotions and drug or alcohol-induced reactions seem to prevail at times.  We even had the murder of several staff and the serious wounding of a sitting national US Representative, Gabby Giffords, by a deranged individual several years ago.  She and her husband Mark Kelly are now leaders of an anti-gun advocacy group that claims credit for several key victories in this month’s election.


But I’d like to raise up a different individual, Jeannette Mare, who started Tucson’s “Ben’s Bells” about 10 years ago after the death of her toddler son.  She did it to respond to her deep grief and wanted to highlight all the goodness and kindness in our community.  Each week in the daily newspaper an individual is recognized with a picture, along with their nominator, and a brief write-up of why they were being recognized.  It reaches down into all the various organizations, schools, religious groups, and other approaches where individuals are acting out their care and concern for their local community, especially the individuals who are in need of such care and concern.  The mission of Ben'[s Bells is to “inspire people to understand that the practice of kindness is a lifetime endeavor.”  Other communities are following suit in this community-wide, non-partisan, non-religious approach.   Further information can be found at bensbells.org.

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Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: the Wakefield Grannies Story from Rosemary Cairns

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

The Wakefield Grannies have been supporting grandmothers in one South African township since 2002. Wakefield is a small, historic village of about 4,000 people located in western Quebec just half an hour’s drive from the Canadian capital city, Ottawa. It began in 1830 as a village of immigrants – from Ireland, Scotland and England – and while its focus is now tourism and art, rather than timber, its well-traveled residents know they live in an interdependent world. Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson, whose invention of international peacekeeping in 1956 found a creative way to resolve world conflicts, is buried in the village. Like him, Wakefield’s grandmothers know that changing the world begins with small steps.

The story of how they developed a strong friendship with 40 South African grandmothers living in a crowded township near the South African capital of Johannesburg began with film-makers Brenda and Robert Rooney, who had worked with the Canadian International Development Agency and Vision TV in 2002 to make a documentary film entitled Condoms Fish and Circus Tricks. Shot in Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia, the film offered an intimate look at the people who are dying, those who are caring for them and why AIDS has had such a devastating impact on African society. They screened the film at Wakefield’s United Church and raised $1,000 for the church’s AIDS campaign.

In the audience was Thomas Minde, a doctor at Wakefield’s hospital, whose parents had just returned from a year in South Africa. His mother, Nina, a child psychologist, had volunteered at a children’s mental health clinic in Alexandra township, a tightly packed ghetto that is home to nearly 340,000 people. Shocked to see more and more children being brought to the clinic by their grandmothers because their parents were dead or dying from AIDS, and herself a grandmother, Nina offered to run a support group with clinic head nurse Rose Letwaba.

While not much attention was being paid to grandparents in 2002, Rose saw them as the silent victims of AIDS. She invited three grannies to a meeting and they told their stories and everyone cried a lot. The next week, there were five, and then there were 10 and there was no more room in Rose’s office. The grannies said they needed help in getting over the loss of their daughters and raising their grandchildren, who were often sad and angry; many of them had been plunged back into poverty. But as they met, and became more confident in their own abilities and shared their knowledge, they started to blossom and become more joyful.

Thomas told the story to minister Gisele Gilfillen, who invited Nina to speak at a morning service. She showed pictures of the East Bank Clinic and told the congregation about Rose, who soon would be attending a conference in Canada. Nina promised to bring Rose to Wakefield. And so, one Saturday night in October 2004, Rose painted a picture of a whole generation of South Africans lost to AIDS and grieving mothers left to carry the burden of raising their grandchildren to be healthy, educated, socially responsible adults. Rose described the 40 Grannies who were meeting at her clinic for sewing classes, gardening and moral support. An impromptu collection raised about $900, but that didn’t seem enough to 81-year-old Norma Geggie. She wanted to do more.

When Norma happened to meet Nina and Rose the next day, she asked “what if a group of women in Wakefield were to partner with these women?” They exchanged e-mail addresses, and Norma began making phone calls. When the Wakefield Grannies met for the first time in November 2004, each drew the name of an Alex Gogo – the Zulu word for grandmother – from a jar. It was the start of a relationship that was both personal, and collective.

The whole community was behind the grannies. They supported fundraising events, sent cheques, and businesses donated money, which was sent to Rose, who decided how it should be spent – for food, sewing equipment, winter blankets and track suits for HIV positive children who are highly susceptible to cold, and occasionally, overnight and weekend breaks for gogos and Alex teens who were heads of their households.

Knowing that grannies on the other side of the world cared so much about them gave the Alex Gogos tremendous hope, and helped dissolve the stigma that often affects such families. Within a year, as people heard about the Wakefield Grannies, other granny groups began in Canada and the United States. In the spring of 2006, the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched a Grandmother to Grandmother campaign that inspired the creation of hundreds of granny groups across Canada, and Lewis came to meet the Wakefield Grannies.

Robert Rooney had been filming the story from the start and soon realized it was a story about women, not about AIDS. In 2006, the Rooneys travelled to South Africa to film the Alex Gogos and then filmed several Wakefield Grannies at the Grandmother to Grandmother gathering. The story came full circle when Rose and three of the Alex gogos visited Wakefield on August 15, 2006. The resulting 80-minute documentary, The Great Granny Revolution, fittingly, had its world premiere in Wakefield on May 5, 2007.

This work is inspiring many younger people. Says one: “If grey-haired old women believe they can impact a change in the world, then why can’t our generation?” Near the end of the film, Rose Letwaba is speaking at the Wakefield United Church. “If everyone was like the people of Wakefield,” she says, “the world would be a better place to live in.”

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Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Kathy McGrane’s Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

I would like to tell a story about Jim, my 83-year-old brother in law, married to my oldest sister.  He is the father of six children and many grandchildren.  He has always worked hard to support his family and everyone else can count on him to listen if you need a listener. He is a good man!

Since his retirement he has taken over the pick-up, upkeep and training for his local food shelf. He actually built the shelving, organized the way food is stored, obtained freezers and brings forth volunteers. He is like the great leader and organizer of the food shelf and volunteers.

He personally visited local stores to get food that would otherwise have been sent to landfills. It reached the point that the stores would call him when they had food to be picked up. It was not always food — sometimes there were clothing and other items that had been returned to the stores or the seasonal change items that families might need.

This of course meant many hours sorting food, stocking shelves, obtaining boxes and bags for the food shelf clients. He also spent times in the food shelf assisting the clients. One of his daughters and her husband have picked up some of the work that Jim used to do. Yes, he has slowed down, so he has trained someone to take over.

You know the expiration dates on food? Well in most cases those are dates that it is best to sell the product by. Most products have a shelf life well beyond those dates. He made sure that no food was left without being used. There is a trailer court community not far from his home. Most of the people living there are Hispanic immigrants and low income or no income families. Jim made sure that if the food shelf had dented cans or food that would not be picked up by food shelf clients and to eliminate it from becoming garbage, he personally delivered it to the trailer court community with no questions asked. The food always disappeared.

Jim is not so healthy anymore. He actually has some severe heart problems. We will find out more about his health this week. He is big hearted, kind and caring about the world around him. He has definitely worked to help his local community. I just want to acknowledge this good man for all of his good work.

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Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Ashleigh Norment’s Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

My strongest impressions of ordinary people making a difference come from my life in Portland, Oregon as a senior citizen and as a lesbian woman.  Three years ago my partner and I decided it was time to move to a condo.  We were thrilled to find just the right unit – all on one level, perfect amount of space, great area.  Little did we know we were buying into a real community with a core group of people committed to making life better for each other.  We share monthly potlucks, meet together at the pool at 4pm during the season to share exercise, story-telling and laughter, and actively practice appreciating each other’s differences.

As winter approaches, I made a decision to try to become a bit of a gym rat during this period when it’s hard to be outside.  I attend senior fitness classes 3 times a week at our local gym and am so impressed with how many seniors are taking advantage of this benefit of our insurance policies.  It’s a diverse group of people, one man with Parkinson’s, some with fairly serious arthritis, but people truly help each other to put our aging bodies in perspective, to just do our best and accept what is happening to us.  Our very young instructor is so respectful of who we are and has an awesome playlist – our favorite tunes from our formative years.

The Queer Center here in Portland is a bustling locus of activities that respond to the needs and interests of our diverse community – writing groups, yoga classes, holiday dinners, coffee klatsches, dance classes of many genres, holiday dinners, structured conversations on race, on death and dying, etc.

It’s good to be alive and participate in this abundance.

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Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference: Alister Linton’s Story

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

My hero my mother Eudora Linton.

When I was growing up in Trinidad, she showed kindness for all people regardless of their ethnic background, colour, religion, character or their circumstances.  She had an incredible capacity for loving, teaching, serving others; also a deep sense of purpose to uplift and empower those around her.

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