Four takeaways from Humans of New York visit to Nigeria

Humans of New York, or HONY, began as a photography project in 2010 with an aim to catalogue those living in New York City. Since then, Brandon Stanton, the man behind the camera, has turned HONY into a visual storytelling platform by interviewing his subjects and asking them to share their stories.

Some stories inspire readers to make a change in their lives while others invite them to reflect on their past. Regardless of the various takeaways, it’s clear that people (they have 8.2 million Instagram followers) value these intimate glimpses into the lives of strangers.

With a growing global audience, Stanton has taken his project abroad. He has now featured stories from all over the world, including Uganda, Vietnam and Jordan. Recently, Stanton took HONY to Lagos, Nigeria and the individuals he’s met so far tell stories of triumph, activism, hope and so much more. Here are four stories that will inspire you to be the change you want to see in the world!

 

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“My mother won the visa lottery, so when I was young my family relocated to Minnesota. I think I’m the only one of my siblings who always viewed Nigeria as home. I participated in Model UN. I studied international political science. I admired Nelson Mandela. So I always knew I’d go back to Africa one day. After graduation I interned with an NGO in Northern Nigeria. During that trip I witnessed a breached birth in a village. There was no C-Section available, so the baby died. I knew then that not only would I be coming home to Nigeria, but I’d be doing something in healthcare. I’ve been home for six years now. I’ve chosen to work on the country’s blood distribution problem. Every year tens of thousands of people die while waiting for blood. Meanwhile there are blood banks discarding unused inventory. My company LifeBank is trying to close that gap. Most blood banks in Lagos are participating in our program. Every morning we take an inventory. And when blood is urgently needed, we use bikes to deliver. It’s not easy. Imagine New York City without the infrastructure and no subway system. That’s Lagos. Yet LifeBank has delivered over 10,000 bags of blood within 55 minutes. Blood shortage is a global problem. And if we can do it in Lagos, we can do it anywhere. In December we’re expanding to two new cities. But I see us all over the world.” (Lagos, Nigeria)

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After witnessing a breached birth in a Nigerian village where  C-sections were not possible, this woman decided that she would come back to Nigeria and work in the healthcare field because she knew she could make an impact. After graduating from a university in the United States, she now made the move and is working towards solving Nigeria’s blood distribution problem by launching an innovative company called LifeBank.

 

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“My uncle was an engineer. He’s the one that exposed me to reading. He’d get a book, finish it, and give it to me. By the time I was twenty I’d read over one thousand books. I learned how to live from the characters I encountered. The first book I ever read was The Passport of Malam Illia, and to this day it’s the reason I never take vengeance. And there’s plenty to be angry about around here. Most of my friends are poor. When we were growing up, police would come to the slum in the evening, pick up my friends, and beat them for no reason. It made me so angry. But books also taught me that we have the power to change things. We can fight for lower fuel prices. We can fight for better medical facilities. I’m actually heading to a protest right now. We haven’t had electricity in this slum for ten days. Why? Because last month we protested and now they’re trying to punish us. But we won’t sit down. Too many poor people don’t realize their own power because they’ve been subjugated for too long. They’re like the chickens I keep in my house. Every time I whistle, the chickens come. Even when I don’t have food in my hand. And that’s how people think. They believe that only government has the power to give. But anything the government has power to give, we have the power to take for ourselves.” (Lagos, Nigeria)

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This man learned many life lessons by reading books gifted to him in his youth from his uncle. One important message that stuck with him was that everyone has the power to make change. This inspired him to protest the conditions he refused to accept, such as police violence and poor medical facilities.

 

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“You can’t just use Beyoncé to sell products in Nigeria. Well, maybe Beyoncé is a bad example. Beyoncé can sell anywhere. But most of the time you need to adapt your advertising to local tastes. So I help international companies create marketing campaigns for Nigeria. A few years ago I started my own company. I’d gotten tired of working for someone else. I was doing all the work on some projects, and I’d only walk away with peanuts. So I took the leap. My goal was to win a single bid that first year. I just needed one big name to risk a little money on me. Because a little money to them was a lot of money to me. I knew I had the technical experience. I had the ‘know how.’ I just didn’t have an office, or a staff, or a big name. But that became my pitch. I argued that bigger agencies take their clients for granted. I told companies: ‘I’m not relaxed like that. I’m hungry. I’m going to give you more juice.’ My first client ended up being Coca Cola. Maybe I didn’t have things quite as figured out as I allowed them to believe. But hey, that’s advertising. And I delivered.” (Lagos, Nigeria)

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This woman helped international companies create marketing campaigns for Nigeria before taking the leap to start her own advertising company. It took believing in herself and her regional expertise first before she got others to believe in her too. In fact, Coca Cola was her first client! Talk about being a boss lady.

 

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“I used to walk 12 kilometers to school. And every day along the side of the road, there’d be an old woman who was so sick that she couldn’t move. The sun would beat her. The rain would beat her. And nobody would help. I was only seven years old. I couldn’t stand it. But my parents wouldn’t agree to bring a total stranger into our house. How are we OK with people dying like chickens on the side of the road? Millions of people in this country haven’t even taken a single meal today. I can’t stand it. I’m thirty now and I’m struggling. But I’m still trying to help even though I don’t have money. I taught myself to treat diabetes with herbs. I’ve treated ten people so far who can’t afford the hospital. But I want to do more. I’ve given myself a timeframe. I’ve been working at this conservation center for three years now, and I’ve learned a lot. In a few years I’m going to open my own center. I can use the profits to build houses for people who have no place to stay. Each person can stay for a year. Maybe if they can just rest their head for a month, they’ll find a way to feed themselves. And if they eat for a week, they’ll start to reason like a human being. At the very least they’ll see that it’s possible to be loved by someone. And maybe they’ll realize that God loves them too.” (Lagos, Nigeria)

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After witnessing a woman struggle on the side of the road during his walks to school, this man found ways to serve others, even with financial issues of his own. He started off by teaching himself how to treat diabetes with herbs and helping those who couldn’t afford a hospital visit. In the future, he hopes to open his own center to help build houses for people.

You too can be the change you want to see in the world! Join the movement to fight against extreme poverty today.

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