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At the inaugural speech of US President John F Kennedy in January 1961, he made a profound statement which has become very popular.
His inaugural address, the first delivered to a televised audience in colour, is considered one of the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history. According to records, his address took 13 minutes and 42 seconds to deliver from the first word to the last word, excluding the applause at the end, making it the fourth-shortest inaugural address ever delivered. As part of the speech, he said,
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
These words of President Kennedy seem to describe the MTN Heroes of Change programme.
For the benefit of those who have not been following the MTN Heroes of Change programme, this programme was launched by the MTN Ghana Foundation in July 2013 with the aim of identifying and recognizing selfless people who continue to sacrifice their time and resources to improve their communities and brighten lives.
Dr. Abrokwa-Yenkyira, a plastic surgeon and Founder of Grafts Foundation, emerged the ultimate winner in the maiden edition of MTN Heroes of Change in 2014.
The 2016 event was won by Paulina Opei, Founder of ‘Save our Lives Orphanage’ and a trained nurse. For the past 22 years, Madam Paulina committed her life to caring for babies who had lost their mothers through child birth. Her reward was a GH¢100,000, which is to be used to expand her facilities and improve her work.
If I were to crown you the MTN Hero of Change what would you have done with that money?
Madam Paulina was not the only person who was rewarded. She was honoured alongside nine other people who had all been nominated by members of their communities for impacting their societies positively.
Before the awards event, the stories of the heroes had been aired on seven TV stations and on social media. The 13-week event ended with an awards night which for me is one of the best organized events I have been to recently. At the awards ceremony, all 10 heroes, made up of three women and seven men, were rewarded by MTN for their contributions to the development of their communities.
Speaking at the event, CEO of MTN Ghana, Ebenezer Asante said “the stories of the heroes should challenge all of us to go the extra mile in everything we do. For us at MTN, the greatest result we expect to realize from this project is to see more heroes being borne.”
As the heroes walked up stage to collect their awards one after the other, I started questioning my own relevance in society beyond my family, church and work.
. I believe that many of us see ourselves as heroes and we may be to some extent, but the stories of these 10 people go beyond the ordinary. I pay tribute to every single one of the top 10 finalists for their heroism.
Dr Emmanuel Bidzakin, the medical doctor who set up a facility in Nakpanduri, Rev Jehu Appiah who cares for mentally and physically challenged children in Apam and Nayina Karim, who is passionate about improving malnutrition amongst children in his community.
I also commend Yvonne Boaduaa, who set up a training facility for physically challenged persons and Salome Francois who established the New Horizon School 40 years ago to support children with disabilities.
I will like to applaud Isaac Adjaottor, a Community Health Worker, who set up “Farm for School” and uses the proceeds to pay the school fees of deprived children and Emmanuel Quartey, who established the JAYNii Streetwise Foundation that helps street children acquire skills in music and the arts.
Well done to Nicholas Kumah, who also takes care of street children and Paul Semeh, who has an NGO called Street Children Empowerment Fund, which seeks to rescue children from the street and put them in school.
The 10 Heroes of change are icons and role models who need to be celebrated. All of them had emotional stories to tell. Not only that, they also showed the pragmatic ways in which they tried to solve the problem they had encountered. The 10 heroes have shown us one thing – that all of us can help in transforming our nation, with or without the help of government. They have thought us a lot of lessons, one being the fact that you have to work hard to succeed in whatever endeavor you find yourself. They were also proactive in identifying problems and finding solutions to it. The heroes are also good planners; with limited resources they all had to formulate a plan to keep their dreams alive.
The heroes did not ask their country what she will do to solve the problems they were seeing around them. Rather, they decided to take action.
I conclude once again with the words of John Kennedy, who in that same speech ended by saying, “finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Let’s all go out and make a change in the world.
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