I’m going to Nigeria!
I’m hugely excited about this*, have never been to Nigeria, have never been to Africa. And a childhood in Tokoroa is a long way from dreams of ever flying into Lagos and taking part in the Ake Festival in Abeokuta. (And Abeokuta is where Wole Soyinka comes from, and Wole Soyinka worked with Joan Littlewood, and we’ve just completed the pilot Fun Palaces … it all joins up …)
So, thanks to the British Council Literature dept, I get to go to a land that is entirely new to me, to teach both a schools workshop for young people and another for adults, to meet new people and to broaden my life. Brilliant. Lucky me.
I also get to go to a country where there is risk of yellow fever and malaria, typhoid, and other diseases.
And because I live where I live, because I happened to be born in London – a mere accident of birth that I did nothing to achieve other than be born to my parents, a mere accident of birth that had nothing to do with me that I wasn’t born in Nigeria now or at any other time – I also get FREE VACCINES from the NHS. (Well, there’s a shortage of yellow fever vaccines, so I had to buy that.) But the rest were free.
This is amazing.
It is astonishing that the NHS give travellers free vaccines. It is so sensible – we don’t want people travelling and bringing these rare-in-the-UK diseases home. It is so generous. It is brilliant.
And it is lucky. I did not create the NHS, though I hugely support it. I did not do anything to make the system I was born in, I just had the good fortune of being born when and where I did.
So, because I know I am lucky to have free vaccines, I’ve just donated to Medecins Sans Frontiers.
My suggestion is that, if you’re travelling, if you have the good fortune to receive free NHS vaccines (or even if you have to pay for them – if you can afford to travel anywhere, be it for work or for fun, then like me, you’re already luckier than about 3/4 of the people in the world) … then when we get a vaccine, we give one via a donation.
It doesn’t have to be MSF, there are loads of other agencies who also do amazing work, giving people the basic health care that so many of us take for granted.
Get one, Give One.
Go for it.
* and yes, a little bit nervous, it’s always a little bit scary to go to a completely new place, and to travel alone, even when I know I will be welcomed and taken care of on arrival. I was equally excited and nervous when I went to Novosibirsk for the British Council many years ago. I liked it so much that I said yes when they invited me a second time.