Why Poverty Stops Here?

I was fortunate enough to immigrate to the United States (from Nigeria) for college a year after I graduated from high school in Nigeria. The year was 2000, I was 16, and as far as I was concerned, achieving every facet of the American dream was my ultimate goal. I attended Fisk University (a small liberal arts college in Nashville, Tennessee) for three years with a partial scholarship (the only possible way my family could afford my American education).

After my junior year at Fisk, I was fortunate to get a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University to complete my education for the next two years. The year was 2005, I was 21, and felt so much closer to attaining my ultimate goal, still the American dream.

After graduating from Vanderbilt University, I began work as an applications engineer for National Instruments (a tech company based in Austin, Texas) earning quite a lot by my standards, a twenty one year old Nigerian immigrant in the US. After working for two years, I had saved up enough money to purchase a very expensive luxury car. The year was 2007, I was 23, and I was inches away from the American dream I left home for seven years ago.

"Coincidentally", as I contemplated the purchase of this luxury car, I also began reading books on development economics. These books exposed me to a world of extreme poverty that I knew existed, but never took seriously. Having grown up in Nigeria, I was exposed to street children, handicapped beggars, and debilitating poverty but I had become so desensitized by these issues that at 23 all I could think about improving my standard of living (which was above average even by American standards) in a world marred by so much suffering. This was when things began to change for me. The year was 2008, I was 24, and my idea of the American dream began to fade... with absolutely no regrets. And I began to embrace another kind of dream.

This new dream, to provide basic necessities like clean water and sanitation for people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria instantly captivated me and began to redefine different areas in my life. In 2008, I spoke with a few friends and we decided to fund the construction of a hand pump well for the people of Balogun Village in Osun State located in Southwest Nigeria. People who typically had to walk for miles in order to fetch unsafe water now had access to pipe borne water at their disposal. After the successful implementation of this project, we got ambitious and began thinking of other ways we could help the world's poorest - and Poverty Stops Here (PSH) was born. Since then, we have been working with people living in villages without the very basic resources necessary to have a good chance at survival, much less spur economic growth.

We live in a world filled with different ideologies and beliefs, but the one fact that is indisputable is the intense suffering of the poor and less fortunate in our world. Christian, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic alike will agree that citizens of our world are needlessly suffering and ultimately dying every single day as a result of extreme poverty. Our motivation at Poverty Stops Here is rooted in the Christian belief that our lives must be marked by serving and loving others due to the undeserved grace we have received through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We're under no delusions: poverty has been around for a long time and will likely continue long after we leave this earth. But let's put aside the enormity of the issue and embrace the small. One grain grinder. One well. One small business loan. One hygiene training session. We are capable of changing at least 1 life. And then another. And another, and another...

Efosa Ojomo
May 18 2009