I came across this CNN video during my morning news round. Video wasn’t working, but something made me come back to check et voila. Professor Frimpong-Boateng’s story is very inspiring and relevant for all who seek to follow their passion, take a step without seeing the whole staircase, and apply themselves in service of their nation.When returning home from studies in Germany, he didn’t buy furniture, appliances, things for himself or his home. Instead, he used his money to buy equipment to bring his dream into reality.
This statement about how Ghana’s first cardiothoracic center came into being brought tears to my eyes:
“I saw it as an opportunity to bridge a 30-year gap. In 1981 I proposed the establishment of a cardiothoracic center in Ghana. But not many people bought into the idea. They said “we have problems with malaria, guinea worm, water supply, basic hygiene. So why should a hi-tech institution like cardiothoracic be established in Ghana?” It took me nine years before those in political power accepted the concept.
From 1981 to 1988-89. Every year I had to come to Ghana once or twice a year – to see people, to sell the idea, and go back. I paid for my own fare and so on. How many people would do that? After 9 years the concept was accepted. The Germans were prepared to give us loan to buy the equipment, but they were not going to build the center for us. I took it upon myself to do that. I organized funds and built the block without any contribution from the Ghana government.
I want to make that point because it is important – I could have built this block as my own somewhere, and maybe gotten some loan from Germany to equip it. But I wanted Ghanaians to own it, so I could have the opportunity of training more Ghanaians. A private enterprise would not be able to do that. I wanted Ghanaians to own the center… We have to sacrifice for Ghana and for Africa. I believe that…People say there must be a change in Africa and so on. I say, like Ghandi said, if you want a change, let that change begin with you and others will see you and copy.”
He touches on many poignant issues – education, human capital, healthcare (the link between the local soap industry and heart disease), poverty, challenges, politics, the returnee experience, investing in one’s country. His story embodies the fact that the very things which make us feel marginalized, insufficient, unimportant could help us identify our purpose and contribution in this life.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.