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Airtel Touching Lives… Fresh Breath of Air for Television Viewers

There are a lot of emotions running amok and all resulting in tears; crammed into the pilot of Airtel’s recently launched reality TV show, Airtel Touching Lives. Vibrant and inspiring, it premiered on Sunday, 4th January 2015, at 7pm on Africa Magic channel 154 and qualifies as one of 2015's most eagerly anticipated new shows.
 
That Touching Lives does much more in putting a human face to the struggles and challenges of everyday Nigerians is encouraging. The reality of our lives is that it is always hard to judge the actual depth of the daily lives of others who are not within our range, so Touching Lives has, by just one episode, magnified this without coming across as being cliché or judgmental.
 
There is a lot to like and learn from Touching Lives, particularly the ambitious scope of the project that its creator Airtel Nigeria and the show host Wana Udobang have mapped out. The opening montage music, which is absolutely essential to the series and might have been its make-or-break element, is expertly overseen by Olawale Olapetan, who acts as both musical director and songwriter.
 
Part of why Airtel Touching Lives is poised to be an early leader in the 2015 show circuit is that there is so much talent attached to it in the person of the presenter Wana Udobang whose experience from her 1K4cancer initiative to being a keen public speaker in the areas of gender advocacy and youth mentorship and her regular hosting of the critically acclaimed “Sharing Life Issues”; expectations are high on the quality of the program and the transparency in the choice of beneficiaries.
 
The program captures moving stories and emotive moments of how the downtrodden, neglected and less privileged are emancipated from the shackles of poverty, despair and suffering across Nigeria; bringing to the fore various issues challenging the beneficiaries in focus – from physical disabilities to debilitating hormonal conditions and calling to mind the challenges we have as a nation in the area of enhancing access to inclusive education and International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) – more commonly known as “Functional Disability”.
 
The Royal Heritage Health foundation’s had through its Wheelchairs for Education initiative, provided wheelchairs to children living with disability and immobility. Its program director, Sunday Moses Adewoye, stated that their desire is to support as many children as possible to gain quality education by supporting them with infrastructure to enhance their dignity as humans. This incidentally, falls in line with Airtel’s core, the Adopt-A-School programme.  The foundation has in conjunction with its dedicated volunteers continued to work to meet this end.
 
Eguntola Lawrence the disabled son of a lowly farmer in the Gboni area of Kwara state has lived his life so far with the limitations presented by his condition. Hearing him speak of his plight will move even the most stoic of hearts to tenderness. The producers have tried – and succeeded – in connecting him to the viewer’s emotionsdespite the language barrier and tell a story of a lad. The gifting of 40 wheelchairs by Airtel to the Foundation is clearly a boost to the morale of its handlers and a solution to the needs of many others.
 
An even more touching situation is depicted in the story of the Chime’s – a family with four children suffering varying degrees of disabilities from hearing and speech impediments to  cerebral palsy – theirs is indeed a situation that has long been in the need for an angel. The angel that came to the rescue of the family is the Airtel Touching Lives team.
 
Rest assured that there was and will be no single dry eye around while viewing this segment; it is indeed a worthy watch for no reason other than to witness the strength of unconditional love and character of the Chime’s and their honorable landlord and nominator. All of these emotions were delivered without the segment coming across as being commonplace or contrived. The force of the feeling of relief and gratitude felt by Mrs. Philomena Chime upon being informed of the boon granted her family by Airtel Touching Lives was intense and true.
 
Whatever stumbling blocks came up in the scripting and filming of the pilot are overly compensated for by the success it has in the communication of empathy, inspiration and love without leaving a sour taste in the mouths of viewers.
 
With its pilot episode alone, Touching Lives is a big break for Nigerian television viewing, and there are a number of paths this initiative can travel on to raise to the fore salient issues affecting Nigerians while proving that its creator is a corporate entity with the strong desire – and plan – to intrinsically touch the lives of its audiences. The question is how ready are we to go on this journey with them? For updates, past episodes and more details, on Airtel Touching Lives, kindly visit www.airteltouchinglives.com.