Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo – Giving the Gift of Life at Christmas

| December 1, 2009

nana eyesonChristmas, for many, is a time to expect and to receive. For many others, it’s a time to anticipate the joy of giving. Those in the latter category share the true meaning of the Christmas spirit. They are the ones who lend a helping hand when all other hands are outstretched ready to receive. When Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo’s father suffered a heart attack in Ghana, the scare and anxiety experienced by his family living in the United States led his youngest daughter to spring into action. The result of her actions was a giving hand that Christmas, and every Christmas thereafter, to those with hands outstretched not because they want them to be, but because life has afforded them very limited choices. Pushed by an indebted spirit, Nana founded African Health Now (“AHN”), an organization to honor the people who rallied behind her father when hope seemed so far away.

Nana’s confidence and radiant personality are unmistaken and infectious. She speaks of her vision for African Health Now with such passion and zeal; it’s difficult not to be drawn in, to sit up and pay attention, and to take note of every word she speaks about a cause that is absolutely dear to her heart. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977 to parents of Ghanaian descent, Nana and her two siblings were raised in what she describes as a “characteristic Ghanaian atmosphere.” From her mother’s deliberate refusal to speak anything but her local Akan dialect inside and outside the home, to her parent’s involvement in the Ghanaian community within the Brooklyn area, Nana and her siblings were raised to understand their Ghanaian cultural background, to speak their mother’s native tongue, and to understand the importance of having ties with their ancestral home.

It would take years for Nana to understand the importance of the values her parents had instilled in her. In 2006, her father suffered a heart attack in Ghana that left his family back in the United States on edge. It was during the endless search for answers and information on her father’s progress that she realized what little control she and her family – and many others in her situation – had regarding access to health information and resources from across the miles. Fortunately for her father, he unconsciously created a support system when he opened his home to those in need within his community. The community in turn repaid his kindness by offering their support and services when he needed it the most. Touched by the humanity of the people, Nana says she decided to do something nice to repay them for their love and care. Little did she know she was setting the foundation for a grassroots organization that would impact the lives of hundreds of people.

With the help of a few friends, including a few doctors and a dentist, Nana put together AHN’s first health fair with an intent to educate the public on basic health care issues. The fair included free blood pressure screenings, dental screenings and healthy living discussions and talks. There were about 340 attendants that first year.

Encouraged by the enthusiasm and support of those who attended the fair, and an awareness of the challenges Ghanaians faced in terms of their knowledge of basic healthcare prevention and care, a healthcare grassroots funding effort was formed on nothing more than the zeal and dedication of a few passionate individuals and professionals who have since devoted their time to the cause. That year, 2006, saw the birth of what is now termed the Annual Gift of Life @ Christmas Health Fair.

The health fair has been held every year since that first kick-off in 2006. Today, the health fair attracts crowds of people seeking free basic healthcare screenings and information. The mission of AHN is focused on the promotion of the health and well-being of Africans and people of African descent living both in the United States and abroad, and aims to provide information and accessibility to resources through the use of conferences, workshops, health fairs and on-going programs.

nana eyeson1To date, AHN has partnered with various organizations – Millennium Cities Initiative Village in Old Tafo Kumasi, the Enslavement Prevention Alliance West Africa, Reach 4 Recovery, and the Susan G. Komen Accra Breast Cancer Center – willing to assist in fulfilling AHN’s long-term goals. This year, the health fair will be held on December 26, 2009 at the Tema Station in partnership with the Enslavement Prevention Alliance West Africa’s prevention of human trafficking. The fair will seek to address the health concerns of the women, men and children commonly known as “Kayayos” who live in the Tema Station under deplorable conditions. Kayayos are day-laborers who work long hours in the city usually carrying heavy loads from place to place for very little pay. Many of them have no place to call home and so they sleep wherever they can. Some kayayos are as young as 10 years-old, and many live far from their original hometowns in the Northern part of Ghana; some come voluntarily in search of greener pastures. Others are brought under the guise of being offered better opportunities that never pan-out.

Nana serves as the Chief Executive Officer of African Health Now. Before taking on the leadership role at AHN, she worked in the publishing industry as an Assistant photo Editor for Vanguard Media, then later as a Bookings Editor for Essence Magazine. She attended City College New York where she studied journalism and communications. Nana is also a newly-wed. When it comes to handling her responsibilities as a new wife and running an organization that helps make the lives of hundreds of people living miles away better, Nana is doing just great. Of course, only a true goddess can successfully handle both with such superior charm, grace, excellence and self-sacrifice.

To learn more about the wonderful work that African Health Now is doing under the direction and leadership of Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, visit the organization’s website at www.africanhealthnow.org. You may contact Nana personally at neyeson@africanhealthnow.org. While at the organization’s website, you may also want to find ways to contribute your time or physical presence to a worthy cause.

 

 

 

 

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