Their excitement was exceptional that Saturday morning on 6 July 2019. It was an overflowing river of joy and gratitude they could not contain, pumping from their hearts. The students and staff of Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired, Surulere, Lagos had a good reason to be ecstatic.
The Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan – First Bank of Nigeria Limited – and a team of volunteers from the nation’s premier financial institution visited the school to demonstrate acts of random kindness. Provisions (Food supplies, drinks, toiletries) and educational materials were given to the school to cater for the hundreds of children under the care of Mr. Kehinde Alimi, Principal of Wesley School 1.
The visit to Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired was part of the 2019 CR&S Week activities by FirstBank. The Bank had its maiden CR&S week in 2017.
Expressing his gratitude, Alimi began his speech by asking the students of the school to shout, ‘three hallelujahs’, thereon stating “I sincerely thank every member of your team (FirstBank) for their kindness and generosity. For all you have given us, God will replenish you back a million times. To have reached this stage as an institution has not been easy, but we have been able to pull through with the support of God and organisations like yours. The sheer quantum of materials you have brought also shows that you recognise that we are two schools and not just one – Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired 1 for senior students and Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired 2 for the junior students. You have proved that FirstBank is indeed the first while others follow.”
Like Oliver Twist, Alimi couldn’t resist asking for more: “We thank you most sincerely for today’s visit and we kindly enjoin you to continue to find time to interact with us. For us to have been in your thoughts means that you are concerned about our welfare, but we will still be approaching you with requests. We want you to find time out of no time to come and be part of our programmes. We are grateful for your efforts and pray that God will continue to sustain the Bank and all its staff. Thank you very much for all your cumulative efforts.”
Dr. Adeduntan had explained that the FirstBank team came to the school to demonstrate the kindness that it preaches and to assure students and staff of its support.
He said, “we believe that if all of us can show acts of kindness to people around us, we will make the world we live in a much better place for everyone. Our decision to come here today is to show appreciation to the management for shouldering the enormous responsibility of taking care of these children with special needs. This visit is also to assure the children who are schooling here that, as the popular saying goes, you will not walk alone.”
Commendably, Twenty-three other charity homes/institutes including camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were visited by FirstBank staff volunteers, led by senior members of staff. The Executive Director, Public Sector, FirstBank, Abdullahi Ibrahim with other volunteer employees visited the School for the Blind, Jabi, Abuja while the Group Head, Corporate Banking, Remi Ajose-Adeogun visited the Down Syndrome Foundation of Nigeria, Fagba, Lagos. Other visited locations were Madinatu and Almiskin IDP Camps, Maiduguri amongst others. Food supplies (provisions, drink, toiletries) and educational materials were delivered to all the visited homes.
The wide range of activities of the FirstBank CR&S week underscores SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness), a values-based initiative by the Bank which focuses on creating and reinforcing a conscious mindset of showing compassion, empathy as well as giving to others. It is aimed at inspiring people to make a difference as it is designed to promote kindness to one another. It is executed through a range of strategically designed activities including visits to homes for the less privileged members of society and talks about SPARK.
FirstBank’s visit to the various homes was particularly thoughtful in the light of the predicament of the less privileged and persons with disabilities in the country, estimated to be around 19 million by the National Population Commission in 2018. Many of these persons face several challenges including hunger, starvation, stigmatisation, discrimination and lack of access to healthcare, housing and education. Though the government moved to intervene in their plight when President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 in January, there has yet been the expected respite for them hence, most of them rely on the benevolence of public-spirited institutions like FirstBank and individuals.
Considering the number of challenges that Nigerians living with disabilities face, especially lack of access to healthcare, housing and education, there’s no gainsaying the fact that they need all the care and support they can get. And by continuously including them in its plans since it commenced the enlarged CS&R Week in 2017, FirstBank has been at the forefront of providing support for the less privileged Nigerians by reiterating that no assistance is too much to help them live a fulfilled life.
With the impacts made across over half a dozen countries that play host to the Bank’s business operations, the FirstBank 2019 CR&S week reinforced that philanthropy is no doubt embedded in its DNA.