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One man makes a difference

Vinay at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

‘I am very lucky as a person,’ said Vinay Mahtani, sipping a beer on the hip terrace of the Radisson Hotel in Lagos. ‘I think throughout my life I have had good opportunities, travelled the world, have been educated well. I felt a bit guilty that I get so much and there are so many people out there with nothing.’

Vinay is Nigerian of Indian decent. Vinay and I have a common interest – the Ebunoluwa Foundation.  About a year ago, Vinay wanted to do something for the community in which he has lived most of his life, but something that was more than just signing a check. He first spent 6 months looking for an organisation that he could support, that he felt comfortable with and truly believed in.

‘My mother knew Aino Ternstedt Oni-Okpaku, Founder and volunteer Chairperson of Ebunoluwa Foundation. After our first meeting I was convinced.’

This is the Foundation I described in my last blog ‘Supporting Nigeria’s most vulnerable’. It runs a home for orphaned and disabled children and advocates nation-wide on their behalf for changes to policies and attitudes. Their ultimate goal is to create an environment in Nigeria in which these children get the care they need to have full, productive and satisfying lives.

‘I said I would help her build a new home for the kids. The current scale of what they do is small and the home is run down. They deserve better.’

It is no surprise that Vinay chose a construction project. Three years ago, at the age of twenty-five, he took over from his father and became Managing Director of Churchgate Group in Lagos. He is now busy implementing his dream of turning the family business into the largest, most respected real estate developer in the country.

‘My passion is real estate. It is a great business because it is tangible; you can see progress on a daily basis and you’re not sitting behind a computer all day.’

Once he had identified the beneficiary, he decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraising activity.

‘It was a real accomplishment for me. I doubted myself at first, especially on the first day before we even left the airport and I realised I was the only one who had absolutely no hiking experience.’

Now that he is back in the comforts of Lagos he can laugh about his adventure.

‘The other hikers freaked me out, telling me I’d never make it. But the hiking bit was fine. The pace was slow enough and I got to the top when two of the experienced hikers in our group didn’t make it. The food, though, was terrible. And the hygiene… We didn’t wash the whole time. Neither did the cook.’

Was it worth it?

‘Yeah, it was worth it. Doing it for a cause pushed me that extra bit. I made USD 125,000 through fundraising. We’re drawing up the plans of the new home now.’

This small project is probably the start of larger things to come.

‘Personally I want to make an impact on this country,’ says Vinay. ‘One of the things I want to get into when the time is right is public, affordable, quality housing. I think I can make a difference here. Hopefully in the future, more Nigerians will have a descent roof over their heads.’

This blog is based on my article that will appear in Issue 10 of Arik Air’s Wings Magazine: “The most talked-about lifestyle magazine in West Africa”

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