1k4cancer initiative, founded by popular media personality and writer, Wana Udobang, has raised over 3 million naira to assist cancer stricken women from low income homes.
Udobang, a youth mentor and public speaker, is also producer of the documentary film Sensitive Skin which highlights the effects of the skin condition Psoriasis. She is also the host of Airtel Touching Lives, a programme that tells the story of people living through difficulties.
In this interview with YNaija, she talks about the 1k4cancer initiative as well as her other charitable activities.
- Your initiative 1k4cancer has raised over N3 million in the last few years. Could you tell us more about the initiative?
It was a campaign to help raise money for women under the care of Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre with their cancer treatment. Most of the women were from very low income households. I initially started it to raise funds for a particular lady called Veronica who needed funds for her treatment but couldn’t afford it. The idea was to get everyday Nigerians to help by donating at least a thousand Naira. We luckily exceeded our expectations that first year but I must admit as the years went by it got a little difficult. People also experience donor fatigue and there needed to be more sustainable ways to keep raising funds.
2. Have you achieved the goal for which you originally founded the initiative?
I think you always want to do more and that’s the truth. As long as more women are diagnosed with breast cancer and can’t afford their treatment then you never really reach your goal. But the project is sort of on a hiatus at the moment in terms of my active participation as it does take quite a lot of time and an emotional toll as well. Plus fundraising isn’t the easiest thing to do. But I am grateful for what it has achieved and the people it has been able to help and I hope we can continue to do more despite the fact that life gives us only 24hrs in a day.
3. Using the arts and media, you have worked to create awareness and tell alternative stories about victims and vulnerable persons in the society. How has the reception been? Are you fulfilled ?
I think telling underreported stories has given me a great sense of purpose. I don’t know that I ever feel fulfilled because I constantly feel like there is more to do. In terms of reception, certainly I think I have been very fortunate as people do pay attention whether it is with Airtel Touching Lives or with my journalism or when i worked on the radio. I think what does make me feel fulfilled is the fact that people care enough to ask what can we do? How can I help? And that is a really big deal because this is the real reason I create work or try to be part of the story telling process. Knowing that people can be pushed to be empathetic enough to want to get up and do something about certain situations going on around them.
4. You are an unapologetic plus sized woman, do you see yourself as a role model to young girls who are having a hard time coming to terms with their body?
I think role model is such a strong word and I am quite weary of pedestals because it’s like setting yourself up for scrutiny and unattainable expectations. I just see myself as a person discovering the best ways to live my life and be happy. If people see something to draw strength from in that, then it is certainly a good thing and I am thankful for the opportunity, which I don’t take for granted. I think we all need someone that looks like us and has experienced the things we have so we feel less alone.
This goes for everyone regardless of body size. But I would say that my ethos is about living the best life possible and being the best you can be regardless of societal constructions of what look, size, figure or skin tone is socially acceptable. For me the focus remains on striving for a healthy body, mind and spirit as well as discovering your greater worth and value. Hopefully we can all use those aspects of ourselves to impact the lives of those around us and our communities as well. But body issues are also a part of growing pains and how you scale through them and discover your own authenticity is a great character builder I find. You just don’t let those things define you.
5. If you could advice your younger self now, what would you say?
Don’t worry too much. Everything will be alright so stay present and enjoy every phase you are in and most of all celebrate the little things.
6. You are involved in several social projects, what motivates and keeps you going?
I know it sounds so cliché but I am strongly motivated by the power of change and transformation. When I was at university my tutor sent me an email just before my graduation telling me that I had a voice and I must use it. That statement has always hovered above me with a certain sense of obligation however exhausted I get.
I am motivated by change in the most subtle of ways and the grandest ways as well. From its ability to start conversations, getting us to pay attention, reminding us about empathy, teaching us to see a different point of view to those life changing transformations like statutory changes or seeing justice served. I also enjoy the things I am a part of so I suppose that helps to keep me going.