Call her the star of Erin Ijesha and you would not be far off the mark because Damilola Oladeru has achieved what many young people her age in these parts only dream of. In December 2009, Oladeru, 22, handed over a library building filled with novels and textbooks to the Erin Ijesha Community Grammar School in Osun State. It was the culmination of a vision that started when the young lady visited Ghana as part of a volunteer team of pre-medical students and optometrists in May 2008. It was the first time she was stepping foot on the continent since 1999 when her family migrated to the United States after winning a Diversity Visa Lottery. If anyone thought that her family’s departure meant a loss of manpower to the country (her father was an engineer and her mother a teacher), the bright lady has disproved that with the good deed she wrought in her community, courtesy of the community service skills she picked up in America.
The Read at Peace Library on the premises of the school not only serves students but the whole of the Erin Ijesha community and neighbouring villages. Students come to read and borrow books while adults visit in order to read daily newspapers provided by the administration. What began as a pet vision for Oladeru when she spoke with Chief Jeremiah Akinfenwa, her grandfather, about affairs at home has now become an engaging project that she has handed over to the community. In March 2011, the library was further equipped with computers and educational software for several academic subjects.
“I didn’t want to give them handouts,” says Oladeru. “I only wanted to give a helping hand and I’m not worried about the sustainability of the project.” She has already set sights on replicating the project in other communities and towns that have contacted her.
Now in the middle of completing her master’s degree at Yale University, Connecticut, US, Oladeru is focusing her future on reaching out to neglected and underserved communities after the success of her project at Erin Ijesha. After collecting the books and computers donated to the library from a Community Service Foundation, churches and individuals in the US, she says Nigerians at home and abroad do not have to wait until old age or retirement before giving back to their communities. Her action has not gone unnoticed though. In 2010, America’s Glamour magazine listed her among the Top 10 College Women in the country. But she’s not resting on her oars yet.