If there were a drug for the highs and lows attached to fundraising, there is no doubt that at this point, an intervention would have been in order and I would have been hauled to a treatment facility. Too many times during this journey, I have asked myself, what on earth possessed me to take this on. The attention that 1k4Cancer has gathered has been staggering, however, the results seem a bit slower than expected. So far, the experience has also become a sort of exercise in cultural anthropology as well as an examination in the psychology of giving. However, any backing down or pessimism on my part would be a disappointment to the donors, and supporters of this project thus far.
This Saturday, my friend Chizoba Imoka invited me to speak to a group of teenagers in a mentoring session at her 2nd annual Unveiling Africa Foundation Conference. I was briefed to speak on the use of social interaction and social media as tools to influence social change. After weeks of pondering on what to write and how to engage teenagers, 1k4Cancer became the fodder for my lecture and I thought to share it on here with you all.
The Role of Social Media: The Snowball Effect
Sometime in August this year, my friend Dr Lola Salako invited me to a cancer workshop for media professionals. The purpose of the workshop was to educate people like me in the media on the severity of breast cancer and how reporting more on the issue could help to raise awareness and consequently save lives. During the workshop, amongst the list of speakers were oncologists, nurses, medical directors and survivors.
One particular woman spoke, her name was veronica. Whist she spoke, her face was reeling with sadness. She explained that after her mastectomy (removal of the breast), she has been prescribed a drug that would cost her there abouts of 5million Naira. She explained that she came from a poor home and couldn’t even afford two meals a day, so in the end, she was better off dead. Veronica is in her twenties, like myself.
Through the course of the workshop, I heard of these stories of people with cancer committing suicide because they could not afford their treatment and their families had spent everything they had trying to support them but still it wasn’t enough.
So I decided, I had to do something, however little, I still had to do something. I came up with an idea, called 1k4Cancer. I didn’t know wealthy people who would willingly donate hundreds of thousands or millions. But I knew average earners like myself who would easily part with a thousand naira and I realised that if one thousand people donated a thousand Naira, that would be a million naira. If ten thousand people donated a thousand Naira, that would be ten million naira and if one million people donated a thousand naira that would be a billion Naira. These funds could then be used to assist people like Veronica with their treatment hopefully keeping them alive to contribute to their community, country and the world.
I initially thought I would have the advantage of promoting my fundraising on the radio since I work on the radio but my superiors made me understand that if they gave everyone with a social cause to promote, free airtime the company wouldn’t make any money and we would be out of a business and consequently, I out of a job.
So I called my friend Nwando in Abuja, who called her cousin in Olu to help us design a flyer. Nwando also wrote a press release to accompany the flyer which we posted on social media blogs and websites like BellaNaija, Linda Ikeji, Myne Whitman and many others. My friend Nkechi called her friends who worked at Silverbird Gallaria to give me a space in the atrium to appeal for funds and hand out flyers to passing customers.
Then we started campaigning on twitter, on Facebook and using our BlackBerry phones to send broadcasts which was then re-broadcast to even more people. I gave daily updates of the funds being raised on twitter and my followers would retweet the messages, and the information just kept reaching more and more people even outside of Lagos and Outside of Nigeria.
I also spoke with my friend Glory, who spoke with her pastor at church, who then invited me to raise funds at their church. Whilst raising funds, I was also able to hand out flyers and essentially inform more people. I am two weeks into the 1k4Cancer project and I have raised 390 thousand naira. (Now in week 3 and have raised slightly over 453k) which means that we are on our way to being able to afford Veronica’s first course of Herceptin which costs 446 thousand Naira. Though we are no where near what we hope to raise, we know that we have started something.
You would notice that I stopped using the term “I” after the idea was conceived. This is because it became bigger and involved more people. Everyone, who told someone, who re-tweeted, who changed their Facebook display picture, who donated, who posted the flyer and press release, who collected funds from their families and colleagues, who rebroadcast the message and sent out their own broadcasts, make up this massive snowball. I on the other hand was just a flake of snow and social interaction and social media became the engines to mould these flakes into a rolling snowball.
If Veronica and the other women who we are raising funds for get healthy, they can work to educate and look after their children. Their children could become business owners, who in turn provide employment for other people to work and care for their own children. They could be doctors or researchers who could find a faster and inexpensive cure to cancer. They could be journalist, or writers who would give a voice to social issues consequently catapulting a new era of social change. They could be innovators altering the course of history and changing the future of our world.
We also saw the role that social media played in seeking justice for the lady who was gang raped in Abia State University. As everyone started talking about it on the internet, different groups of people were mobilised to march, to write, to complain, to criticise. Imagine if there was still no investigations, the perpetrators of such heinous crimes would walk our streets, gang raping every young girl at will.
Though it may have started with a simple or mundane idea or a blog post, or a tweet, or a status update, or a flyer, or a picture, the snowball rolls beyond our generation and affects beyond the world that we know.
To you can also donate into the SCC account Guaranty Trust Bank Account, Account Name: Sebeccly Cancer Care And Support Centre | Account Number 0010849209.