In 2019, when Nigeria’s economy was more favourable, and a kilogram of cooking gas was sold for just 200 Naira, Esther Ofere needed just that 1 kg to escape starvation.
Then, Ofere was a struggling student at Ekiti State University who needed to refill her gas cylinder to cook.
“I had no money with me. I was very broke and in dire need of 200 Naira to refill my gas cylinder. I was going to make garri and melon soup to eat. I am not even sure I had red oil to prepare the soup well, but I was going to make it either way and put something in my stomach. That was going to be my last meal.” Ofere recalled.
Garri, a flour of fresh starchy cassava root, is often a go-to food for Nigerian university students as it can be drunk with water and eaten with soup.
Luckily for Ofere, her parents prepared this food for a living. In her words, “My parents fry garri, and that is why I never lacked garri in school. I would drink it before lectures and after lectures. Surviving in school was hard, and I went through a lot”
That afternoon, as Ofere stood outside her hostel with her gas cylinder, calling home was not an option-as she knew things were tough. Ofere resolved to call her uncle, as he had been promising to send her money.
“I called my uncle and begged him for money. He said he didn’t have. I even explained to him that I had nothing and would appreciate it if he could transfer only 200 Naira into my account; he refused,” she said
Ofere started to panic, and her stomach made loud noises. She tried calling some friends, but everyone came up with an excuse. Maybe they were all tired of her demands.
Meanwhile, a young man had spotted Ofere from the provision store where he stood, a stone’s throw from the off-campus hostel. He greeted Ofere, and she recognised him as a street neighbour.
“We exchanged pleasantries, and somehow, we got talking, I explained to him what I was doing, standing with a gas cylinder. He understood and just brought out 1,500 naira from his pockets. It was like a film trick. He told me to have it and I couldn’t help the squeal that left my mouth,”
This unexpected help lifted Ofere’s demeanour. She was able to refill her 3kg gas cylinder and prepare a meal.
Her benefactor’s name is Yinka. Ofere kept thanking him for 3 days, wherever she saw him in the street, until he felt embarrassed and told her to stop.
Now, Ofere, a serving youth corper and CEO of Essie Cakes N More, could only smile when she remembers the kindness shown to her
“It’s amazing how someone not related to you could come through for you at a critical moment. I doubt he knew the magnitude of the help he rendered to me that day.”
The act of kindness shown to her years ago didn’t only solve her problem of being hungry but also made her believe in the goodness of people.
It gave her the strength to be independent of family and friends.
“I believe in hard work and independence. I believe that a person can strive for success and achieve it. Someday, I hope to put smiles on struggling youth’ faces and empower them with my brand”