Their dad is Nigerian, who relocated to the US and married a white American. When his sons turned 14, he decided to send them to Nigeria (where they’ve never been) to experience the culture and learn gratitude.
A dad wanting his twin teen sons, accustomed to the comforts of the country club, to learn some gratitude took an unusual step. He sent the 14-year-olds to spend the seventh grade in Nigeria.
The boys, Noble and Evan Nwankwo, spent seventh grade at Mea Mater Elizabeth High School in Enugu, southern Nigeria. There, the day starts with 5 a.m. exercise and prayer, and continues with a 12-subject course load. There’s no help from mom on homework or washing clothes, either.
“Adversity is important in somebody’s development in life, as far as I’m concerned, because there comes a time when the storm is going to hit you, and if you never had that to fall back on you’re just going to fall apart,” Evans Nwankwo, the father, said. “I strongly believe that because it’s been important in my own development.”
Nwankwo was born and raised in Nigeria. He was one of 13 children. The family was well off. Then, the Nigerian Civil War broke out and they were running for safety and scrambling for food, and his father was killed.
He eventually made it to the U.S. and built a business. People around Cincinnati probably know Nwankwo’s work – his construction company is the go-to contractor that has worked on sites including Fountain Square, the Freedom Center and Washington Park.
As the boys were getting ready to go, things in Africa were looking bad. The Ebola outbreak was making headlines, as were attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram on schools in northern Nigeria.
The elder Nwankwo said he had “a lot of apprehension as they were getting ready to go, a lot of anxiety.”
The boys had other concerns.
“I hope I’m not as lazy as I am now,” Noble said before leaving for Nigeria.
It looks like Noble got his wish. Besides being responsible for their studies, basic necessities like water required work to obtain.
“It was kind of eye-opening to see how much you actually have to work to get a simple bucket of water, and how you actually have to use your own strength to carry it back and forth,” Noble said. “And it’s actually pretty tough to hand-wash your clothes with that amount of water. You have to really manage it.”
“You have to be trekking all over the school just to get water to bathe with… Here you can just turn on the tap and there’ll be water flowing like it’s nothing,” Evan said. “There, you’ll, be struggling for it. Sometimes we would go without water for a couple days.”
Since returning, their dad said he’s already seen a change in his boys.
“I feel that the experience is one that will live with them forever, and they will be forever changed – maybe not on the immediate, but long term.”
Evan and Noble agreed.
“I appreciate the washing machine. I appreciate the running water. I appreciate the shower, so I don’t have to use a bucket of water in a bowl,” Noble said. “I appreciate my electronics. I appreciate my parents a lot more because I realize how much – especially my dad – I really realize how much he had to do to get here.”
Besides the actual experience, they said their dad taught them a lot as well.
“He’s taught me a lot, and he’s made me go through a lot to make me a better person, to make me a person that can just endure,” Evan said.
The trip may turn into a family tradition. Evans said he was going to put aside some money so any future grandchildren can also spend a year in Nigeria.