ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE LIGHT – MCF 2021 New Year Speech by Dr. Cecilia Ibru, Co-Founder, Michael and Cecilia Foundation
Happy New Year 2021 to us ALL.
We thank God for seeing us through 2020.
Indeed 2020 has been an unprecedented year. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has caused trauma, loss, and hardship we have all had to endure on a personal level and as a community was most unexpected and unanticipated.
Many have expressed, that 2020 was a year simply for staying alive and we are all grateful to God for keeping us safe into 2021.
Global unemployment rose as high as 8% and the World Gross Domestic Product declined to -4.4%.
According to the International Labour Organisation, an equivalent of 400 million full time jobs were lost, as businesses shut down and countries all over the world went into lockdown and economic recession.
Nigeria suffered a second recession in five years and bigger economies like the United Kingdom entered a recession for the first time in eleven years. The government of The United States of America had to distribute to its population $2.6 trillion dollars in stimulus packages to offset the effect of the economic crises.
However, if you look beyond the doom and gloom, you will see the pockets of light and hear stories that inspire hope. We as a community have made it through; and I can only appreciate the perseverance and determination we have displayed and say: “Congratulations to YOU for surviving this overwhelmingly difficult year!”
There is a saying that the human spirit is unbreakable. This has proved even more true this year as we stood for one another, and otherwise everyday people became superheroes.
From the selflessness of healthcare and essential services workers who are at the frontline of fighting this biological enemy, to the generosity of big corporations and individuals who provided palliatives to their communities, to the doggedness of scientists and researchers who have developed a vaccine in record time, to the people who provided social and emotional support; the teachers and school workers who diligently deployed the limitations of virtual classrooms to ensure learners do not completely lose out a year in their academic journey, and to the tech gurus who innovated digital spaces to offset the necessary closure of physical spaces.
Another thing the pandemic has inadvertently shown to us is how much of a global village the world has become. The swift spread of the virus, aided by air travel, across thousands of miles of land and ocean is evidence enough.
Nevertheless, this interconnectedness is something we should celebrate, not shun.
Our diversity is a win, not a flaw, and coming together to share positivity and speak up for others is something we should do often, as exemplified by the Black Lives Matter solidarity campaign against police brutality and systemic racism that was embraced by many across the world on the heels of that horrendous video of George Floyd’s death in the United States of America.
For Nigeria, 2020 further exposed the cracks in our institutions and society. The underfunded nature of our public healthcare system was laid bare, and the fear of COVID-19 cases was a constant threat and overwhelmed the fragile healthcare centres.
However, private individuals donating to develop and equip emergency centres was a heart-warming gesture that reinforced our resilience and sense of community.
The rot in the education system was also exposed and seeing school age children and students lose months of education time that could have been saved with access to technological tools through virtual schooling, broke my heart but strengthened the resolve to continue to improve and impact the expansion of the educational institutions under the Michael and Cecilia Foundation.
The End SARS movement and the discovery of undistributed palliatives during the protests were yet other manifestations of our peculiar socio-political setting, as well as pointers to how corrupt governance affects us all, especially the people at the grassroots.
These fault lines exposed by the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis are of great concern to me, and as a social change-focused organization, we are even more committed to finding and implementing solutions to make things better.
Notwithstanding, the pandemic has also revealed our innovative spirit as humans.
We eased into the “new normal” seamlessly by adopting tech solutions to continue our everyday activities, interactions, and transactions, while keeping safe and observing social distancing. This simply shows that the human spirit will always triumph over adversity.
In fact, companies in sectors such as tech, communication, food, e-commerce, health, and dispatch/delivery grew economically.
For us at the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, we were delighted to celebrate a win despite the turmoil going on around us. On November 12, we received one unit of PURPLE AIR SENSOR, a device that measures particulate matter at various levels as well as few meteorological parameters and display same online. This was made possible through the collaborative efforts of our Vice Chancellor, the Centre for Atmospheric Research of the National Space Research and Development Agency in Nigeria, and Penn State University, Pennsylvania, USA. The sensor is one of nine currently in Nigeria.
As individuals, we should take inspiration from these spaces of growth in a perilous time, knowing that for every obstacle the pandemic brought, there was a swift reply in the form of innovation, ideas, and strategies to break through the obstacles!
As we look to the future of a post-COVID world, think of how exciting it is to be in a time where people are not afraid to dream, to think outside the box, and to come up with creative and innovative ways of reinventing themselves after a global pandemic.
Also, remember to contribute to society in your own capacity and support each other. Revel in the simple things of life, like the smell of the fresh morning air, the sound of laughter, the warmth of family, and the reassurance of friends.
Be kind to yourself and to others, be thankful and proud of the most basic achievements. Recognise and accept the difficulties of life and find tools to overcome the inevitable pain and grief that may come, paying attention to your mental health.
Fill your body and mind with positivity and share positive energy with others. Most importantly, embrace the challenge of change and always look for the light.
I pray for us all more blessings in 2021.
And I wish you a very Happy New Year
Dr. Cecilia Ibru, <br> Co-Founder, Michael and Cecilia Foundation