Community Heroes: an in-depth series on the lives and impact of people giving back to our global communities.
Nana Eyeson Akiwowo
Place of Residence: New York, N.Y.
Why she is a Community Hero: Akiwowo helps to provide adequate health care in her parents’ homeland of Ghana via her African Health Now NGO.
Although Nana Eyeson Akiwowo enjoys the freedoms and access to proper healthcare in the United States, many people in her parents’ homeland, Ghana, are not as fortunate.
After her father suffered a heart attack in the African nation, Akiwowo was moved by the community’s willingness to rally around one another and bring her father back to health.
It was then Akiwowo was inspired to create African Health Now as a way to end the healthcare disparity in Ghana and bring light to a growing situation across the continent.
In a phone interview with NewsOne, Akiwowo was gracious in lending her time and further explaining the African Health Now initiative going forward, delving into how African tradition is a prominent part of her aims, and much more. In our brief chat, Akiwowo’s humility was refreshing and her infectious desire to do more should inspire many.
“I don’t think I’m a community hero. I just think I am a product of an environment and a culture that as Africans, we’ve always been accustomed to helping someone in need,” shared Akiwowo. Learning this benevolence from her father, who arrived in the states years ago and brought friends and family along, the current New York native simply finds herself following that grand example.
“Truthfully, that sense of looking out for one another is a strong thing in not just African culture, but immigrant African and Caribbean-American culture as well,” she added. “It made sense for us to take care of one another, and to provide an organic base of support.”
African Health Now credits 2006 as its inaugural year, and the early stages of the organization was molded around a health event titled the “Gift of Life @ Christmas” fair. Along with 21 of her friends, Akiwowo helped to provide basic health procedures such as blood pressure checks, glucose tests, dental evaluation, healthy lifestyle classes and much more.
Over 300 Ghanaians, received care that day, with many stating it was their first time being seen by a health professional. Donations from friends, family and organizations helped to supply the event, and while there wasn’t a fair in 2012, African Health Now was still instrumental in providing information and support as needed.
“We didn’t do a fair in 2012 due to a lack of funds, but my dad wants me back to do another fair because the lack of accessibility the average Ghanaian has,” explained Akiwowo. That accessibility, and the fact that one healthcare provider is expected to work in a clinic and service upwards to 200 people over an unspecified amount of time drives home the seriousness of African Health Now’s work.
Akiwowo also spoke on the difficulty of getting men and women to speak on necessary health issues together, such as breast cancer, STDs, childcare, prostate health and more. She observed that culturally, African-Americans do not face the same conservative barriers as those in Ghana and that many in the states take that for granted.
African Health Now is a 501(c)(3) organization based in New York. Akiwowo is joined in the effort by five board members, an intern, a volunteer coordinator, and a four-person advisory team.
This coming December 1, which is also World AIDS Day, African Health Now will host another healthcare fair and condom giveaway in Ghana and has made a public call for donations. To learn more about African Health Now’s upcoming fair and to support, click here.