Kunle Adewale is dedicated to a life of service and volunteerism. The 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow alumnus celebrated his birthday this year by donating 100 art kits to children in four hospitals in Lagos, Nigeria. He also organized an event with 40 artists to raise funds for young adults with chronic illnesses and disabilities. In 2019, Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor John Cranley declared August 2 as “Kunle Adewale Day,” in recognition of Kunle’s contribution to arts in the medical field.
When asked why service leadership is important to him, Kunle responded, “I believe that life has given me so much, and I have so much to give back to improve the lives of others in my community and beyond. By serving and volunteering, I have discovered my purpose in life and found fulfillment in touching lives. Life is not about how much you can receive but how much you can give!”
Kunle serves his community through art-focused programs. He founded three organizations: Tender Arts Nigeria, Arts in Medicine Projects and Arts in Medicine Fellowship. Through these organizations, he has reached over 20,000 people in Nigeria and across the world. In partnership with the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, his most recent project explores the use of art to assist frontline health care workers and young adults affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was inspired to organize the Art Responders Healing Project because I realized that artists and art organizations play a critical role in responding to global health crises. The mental health challenges of this pandemic are alarming amongst the youth, health workers and community members in Nigeria. I believe that art can help people to cope in times of crisis. People can be immersed in artistic engagements to have hope and experience healing,” Kunle says.
The Arts Responders Healing Project explores the use of music, dance and art while leveraging social media campaigns and technology to help health care workers and young adults overcome anxiety, isolation and fatigue. To protect others amid the pandemic, most events are held on virtual platforms. Kunle states, “An integral part of the project is the headline music titled ‘You Are Not Alone,’ a therapeutic music of hope that has benefitted COVID-19 survivors, health workers and community members in Nigeria.”
Kunle’s network has responded positively to his servant leadership, and he credits Nigeria’s support due to his credibility. “When I call for support, they are always eager to be part of what I am doing. This is based on credibility, trust and respect for me and the work that I do. I am always grateful for their generosity and support. Impacting lives is a collective business. Everyone wins when no one is left behind.”
Kunle’s future goal includes collaborating with the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to expand on arts as a means for psychosocial support. “One of my goals is to collaborate with the Nigerian government to make informed policies that promote arts and health in the Nigerian health care system and the community. I want to see more health professionals utilizing their creativity to improve the health outcomes of the population they serve.”
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The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.