Giving to humanity by well-meaning people, philanthropists and corporate organizations is the norm, a kind of customary situation particularly in this part of the world – Africa and in Nigeria. It is done with a lot of media hype and publicity blitz. And over time it is no longer newsworthy to the media. Just as the pithy saying that when a dog bites man it is no news but when man bites dog it is a headline news with big banners.
This is also true of a teenage girl still in high school in the United States of America. 16-year-old Michelle Ayomide Soneye, driven by the passion to invest in the lives of the needy, most of who are children, taxed her allowance, pocketbook and other financial gifts. This time around the giving is not just for children but children who are visually-impaired. She came on vacation and took her parents by storm when she embark on a stealth visit to Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted Children, Surulere, Lagos.
The school is a primary school and a rehabilitation programme for teenagers that got blind in secondary schools. It is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos under the proprietorship of His Grace, the Archbishop of Lagos, the Most Rev. Adewale Martins
In a philanthropic spirit, Michelle gave her mite first thing in the new year. She had packed some clothes which she bought and collected from several clothes drive in addition to the savings from occasional gifts and pocket money and handed over the items to the school.
Unlike donations and cash gifts by high profile philanthropists and nobles done in the full glare of TV cameramen and journalists, Michelle’s donation worth thousands of naira was devoid of any media attention.
To Sister Brigid Paschal, who received the donation, it is that of joy, amazement and pleasant surprise coming from a girl of that age. All the same, she expressed surprise at the extraordinariness.
Sister Paschal says she is touched by the act of kindness coming from a 16-year-old all the way from America.
“We have over 140 students here all blind and these gifts from Michelle will go a long way”. I am really touched by this gesture and pray for God’s blessings for her, ‘’ she said.
“Pacelli school is privately run and we depend on donations like these to continue to help the students.’’
On what stirred her philanthropic gesture, she said:“Why I started this clothes donation is because I saw many children who were without clothes and other necessities, the first time I came to Nigeria about three years ago.
“ It was uppermost in my mind to help out and do something to make a child in need smile and feel special.
I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to go to Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted Children to make my contribution, said Michelle who currently attends Elizabeth Seton High School in the State of Maryland in United States of America.
She is a BEST DELEGATE graduate of the Model United Nations Institute, MUN, a United Institution that trains teenagers to develop deeper understanding into current world issues.
Does God commands giving to charity? Here is the God’s perspective. Both in the Holy Bible and Quran, God commands humans to look for the poor and needy and give to them.
Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed’’ and in Deuteronomy 15:11, the Bible says “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying you shall freely open you hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’’
In Holy Quran Chapter 2 Surah Baqarah verse 274 says“Those who spend of their goods (in charity) by night and by day in secret and in public shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. And this is corroborated by the Bible in Prov. 19:17 — “He who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.
I leave you with this catchphrase by Pacelli School: “If you fail to see the person, but only the disability, then who is blind?’’ Let us open our eyes to see who needs our help no matter how little.