By Adanma Odefa
I stared in fascination as she told me her story, wondering how one so young (barely of legal drinking age) could be so focused on giving and creating societal change.
Amara Ndumele had made up her mind before she even applied to the University of Maryland that she was going to devote a decent sized chunk of her time in service to her fellow students and her society. She was very clear about the organizations she would pitch her tent with.
A distinguishing factor of Amara is her inability to retreat in the face of defeat. Displaying a boldness and confidence that is not synonymous with freshmen, she ran for an elective position in African Students Association (ASA). Although she lost, she decided to regard it as part of the learning curve and proceeded to immerse herself in the organization’s activities, organizing several cultural and educational events as the Community Service Chair/Programming Committee, including the First Annual Pan-African Conference on Campus with attendance of over 300 students for ASA.
This Nigerian-American diversified her efforts into public health in temporary appeasement of her desire to become a doctor and help improve the health of others. She became an ambassador of the Health Center as an advocate of sexual health. She also worked in several community health organizations including Community Family Enrichment Services Center, where she counseled children on health awareness as well as motivation for self-confidence.
Chatting with this remarkable young woman, it would appear her entire life is one meeting after another and one dream after another. Top of the list she says is to contribute to public health in Nigeria someday. It was little wonder that Amara eventually became the president of ASA in an election that turned out to be a unanimous selection.
Revealing a quirky side, she participated in a pageant that was more for fun than a desire to be the prized peacock. Even as a senior, she continues to volunteer her time and sits on a planning committee for the upcoming black history month.
Society may have doled out some rewards for her selflessness although I suspect that much bigger accolades still lay ahead. Those ‘thank yous’ include National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Ron Brown Captain Scholar and Spirit of Maryland Finalist.
If ever there was a young Nigerian diaspora to be proud of, her name is certainly Amara Ndumele, the one woman riot who would simply not sit still and watch the world go past her. She will not hang around for a prompting but kick the ball farther and harder than its last kick.
When I asked her what her driving force was, she smiled and after a slight pause said, “ I grew up hearing that it is unacceptable to give up. I simply can’t tell my father that I gave up”.
Adanma Odefa is a TV broadcaster with African Independent Television (AIT) and a presenter with Voice of America here in Washington DC. She is also a public health activist and social change advocate. Currently, she is a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow as part of the Fulbright program.