As people grow up, it becomes easy to look back on "lost" time. Getting older in a prison cell makes it even easier to lose track of that time - of days, months and years. Ndume Olatushani experienced this as he spent over half of his life behind bars for a crime that he didn't commit. While Ndume had 28 years of his life taken away, he didn't lose sight of his purpose. Ndume believes, "Whatever fires we go through in life, if we get through to the other side that adversity is not meant for us, it is meant for other people."
Ndume chose to give his time instead of losing it in jail, and that changed his life. Because Ndume spent his jail time serving other imprisoned men and fighting for justice, his story is told across America.
Once Ndume became a free man, he didn't stop serving. On both sides of cell bars, Ndume worked to help others because he never stopped believing in the goodness of people and fortunes of himself. He grew up the seventh of 11 children to a mother who consistently served their impoverished community. Simple gestures like feeding other kids in public housing became Ndume's example for how to treat others. While in jail on false charges, Ndume said, "Even on death row, I realized I was a fortunate person."
This realization made all the difference in how Ndume spent 28 years of his imprisoned life, and it still defines his actions today.
Now Ndume spends his efforts helping impoverished youths defy stereotypes and get out of conditions that often lead children into the jail system. Ndume partners with numerous organizations to do this, from after-school programs at local high schools to volunteer organizations that work with youth to justice efforts within the jail system. This includes places like Pearl Cohn High School, the Martha O'Bryan Center, which serves impoverished families, and Project Return, which facilitates incarcerated people reentering society.
Ndume explained that when he got off of death row, he wanted to come back and give people hope. He wants to inspire kids and the men on death row to believe that anything's possible. Ndume is living proof that truly anything can happen. When it comes to volunteering, he hopes that more people will understand that we all have a responsibility to reach out to those around us, and no matter what conflicts people have, we are all far more similar than different.
Nashville's Volunteer of the Month is a program of Doing Good, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which educates and inspires people by celebrating the real stories of real people who volunteer. For additional information about Ndume, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit www.DoingGood.tv or @DoingGoodTV on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube.