Davidson-based nonprofit organization Access to Success Foundation is in the middle of its annual Meal-a-Thon, a holiday-themed effort that aims to raise $40,000 to provide meals to malnourished children in Nigeria.
A2S Foundation works to empower youth in their communities by providing after-school activities and meals. Director and founder Andrew Lovedale, a former Davidson College basketball player, is now devoted full-time to helping the organization grow.
Lovedale, 29, grew up in Nigeria but eventually won a basketball scholarship to Davidson. He graduated in 2009 and played pro basketball in Europe before a knee injury ended his career. Now he works full-time as a volunteer for A2S.
In Benin City, Nigeria, the A2S Foundation has 130 children enrolled in the after-school program, Lovedale said. A2S implemented the meal program so the kids attending the after-school program can have a balanced meal, which in turn helps them focus.
“You cannot develop a child on an empty stomach,” Lovedale said. “We’ve had children come in crying because they are hungry. We’ve had children collapse from hunger. I am certain these kids are not getting the nutrition they need.”
“We learned through our research that we can provide a balanced meal for $1,” he said. “Kids are doing much better, they are in much higher spirits, they are learning and they are moving from one grade to another.”
For the rest of December, the Meal-A-Thon has a different theme each week to share the idea of giving in the holiday spirit. The organization has a website where donors can contribute. In 2014, A2S donated 26,400 meals to Nigerian children. The goal is to provide 40,000 meals this year to students in the after-school program.
While the current effort is raising money to provide meals, other fundraisers by the organization are helping children go to school, keeping them safe, tutoring, mentoring, providing sports and helping with homework. “We are working to provide a food bank and an outreach program to give food to the community where people can get a bag of rice or other food they can take home to cook,” Lovedale said.
“Most of our programs are long-term, that is the way I have built it,” he said. “It produces hope, and we want to provide hope but we want to help them get to the path where they can actually see an access to success.”
Lovedale now volunteers full-time for A2S. Neither he, nor any of the U.S.-based staff are paid, he said. In Benin City, the A2S Foundation has paid staff who work operating the programs there.
Ehizogie Oniawu Ighodaro, program coordinator for A2S in Benin City, said the foundation, for some, is a lifeline.
He said most of the children served by the after-school program live in homes with no electricity, no running water and no food. Many children are on the streets trying to sell things to earn money or barter for food and cannot attend school.
“For children who are supposed to have a childhood, most of the kids in this community live on the brink of life everyday with no guarantees of even the basic necessities of life that should not be denied any child,” Ighodaro said.
With funds raised from the Meal-a-Thon, he said, and being able to offer some children their only meal of the day, it is often the brightest spot in the day for them.
“Everyone in Nigeria from the children being served to the A2S staff and volunteers have bought into the vision of founder. We consistently emphasize doing things the right way and making sure that each child that we make a commitment to help is met at the point of their individual needs,” Ighodaro said.
“By treating each child as unique, we are able to unlock their potentials and set them on a path to success.”