In December 2019, I applied for and was selected for the prestigious Haney Fellowship to cover the Olympics. The Nigerian Ministry of Youth agreed to include me in their press delegation to showcase the experiences of young athletes. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and my plans were upended. I was devastated but eventually decided to adapt to my new reality. Given the rising levels of hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria, linked to the lockdowns, job losses, and pay cuts, I asked the Haney Fellowship administrators if I could channel the Haney Fellowship funds towards supporting the Lagos Food Bank, an organization that I have volunteered with since 2017. Over the summer, I had the unique opportunity to distribute food to vulnerable women and children across the city of Lagos and interview other volunteers. I wrote articles about the power of youth volunteerism and the essential work of the Lagos Food Bank. They were later published by several respected Nigerian media organizations and eventually featured in my school’s magazine. I was not able to travel to Japan and to cover the Olympics. However, I was able to serve my community during this dire time and build greater awareness about critical issues among young Nigerians.
-Udenna Nwuneli '21