Shot@Life: What brought you to Shot@Life? Tell us a little bit about your story.
Folake Olayinka: I’m a Nigerian-American, and I grew up for the first nine years of my life in Nigeria. I have seen firsthand what the impact of polio, measles, and all of that have on populations, specifically kids. To me, getting vaccines was something that had to do with social status and economic capabilities of your parents to take you to the hospital way back then. But now, thanks to UNICEF and the United Nations, it’s made that so much easier to give children access to vaccinations. To me, that’s the personal aspect of things. I would say that I was privileged growing up in Nigeria where my parents could afford to take me to those hospitals and pay for it. Now, helping in any way that I can is why I’m doing this and to raise awareness and join the fight.
Was that something that you were exposed to growing up?
In America, I would say that polio is something that people talk about but don’t really know or have seen it firsthand. Growing up, it was the norm to see kids with polio on the streets, begging for money. But that has changed dramatically over time. Now, polio is something that everyone knows is preventable, even people who are not as educated know the importance of taking vaccines. People are more educated now in Africa and in Nigeria about shots and vaccines.
“I would say that I was privileged growing up in Nigeria where my parents could afford to take me to those hospitals and pay for it. Now, helping in any way that I can is why I’m doing this and to raise awareness and join the fight.”
What are you most proud of from your advocacy work?
I’m an introvert and extrovert at the same time. So, getting that power to go up to my representative and have that conversation was something really empowering to me. Now, I can go to my congressman’s office and feel comfortable enough that I know and am educated about this topic to have a voice and say what I feel to make change. I’ve gained those experiences through doing this.
Want to join Folake and others working to improve global health and make the world a more equitable place? Learn more about how to get involved here!