Months after receiving the prestigious MTN Heroes of Change 2015 awards, the recipients have been keeping the telecom giant’s dreams alive through economic empowerment, health, and education in their communities.
The MTN Heroes of Change which is MTN Ghana Foundation flagship project was initiated in July 2013 to recognise and reward persons who have provided significant humanitarian services to their communities through personal sacrifices.
The MTN Ghana Foundation is the corporate social responsibility (CRS) arm of MTN Ghana which is celebrating its 20th anniversary of domineering telecom services provision in the West Africa’s second largest economy.
On 19 February 2016, 10 individuals joined the list of several past recipients of the MTN Heroes of Change. That fateful night audience stood and clapped and fireworks flared when the Executive Director of MTN Ghana Foundation, Mrs. Cynthia Lumor announced simple Madam Paulina Opei, a 57-year-old public health nurse as the winner at the grand finale of the 2015 MTN Heroes of Change at the Accra International Conference Centre.
By the time she stepped up to receive a dummy cheque for GHC 100,000 as prize for her dedication and selfless work, it appeared to have arouse the audience that giving one’s time, energy and other resources in the interest of other people would always be a worthy sacrifice.
The ultimate winner who received the award including a plaque, and a citation could not control her tears of joy that night.
Madam Opei as a trained nurse spent greater part of her life in supporting orphans from rural and poverty stricken communities in the country.
Her love for the orphaned children motivated Madam Opei to set up the “Save Our Lives” Orphanage to support orphans with formal education and provide them the opportunity to have brighter future.
Initially, all the 10 finalists were on the stage to receive citations and hampers from MTN Ghana. Winners in the various categories were Dr Emmanuel Bidzakin (Health), Rev Jehu Appiah (Education), and Nayina Karim (Economic Empowerment).
Each winner in the categories received a plaque, a citation, and GHC20,000 to help them carry on with their good works in their communities, while the other nominees of each category received GHC5,000.
Some months after receiving their prizes, Madam Opei says: “Through the MTN Heroes of Change, I have received nationwide recognition, it has motivated me and given me the supportto continue to nurture, care, educate and economically empower the motherless and some disadvantaged children in our society”.
“It has encouraged me strongly to change some perceptions and preconceived ideas among rural populace in the area that I work”.
She adds: “I was initially downhearted on the award day because three people had already won the awards for Health, Education and Economic Empowerment, but I consoled myself that at least for me to be nominated for the programme I have been recognized”.
“Just before I finally gave up hopes of winning I heard citation which sounded familiar, I then realized I was the one crowned as the Ultimate Winner as the MTN Heroes of Change”, Madam Opei further states.
For Dr. Emmanuel Bidzakin (Health category winner) said the MTN Heroes of Change award made him a role model. According to him, he is being accorded the necessary recognition by the community and established institutions. “I get invitations to give talks as a role model on different platforms in the community and its surrounding areas”, Dr Bidzakin states.
The medical doctor who established the Faith Community Hospital, the only hospital in Nakpanduri in the Northern Region of Ghana pledges to expand the hospital which has so far catered for 96,520 patients.
Besides the fame, the award has greatly motivated him to keep serving his people and saving life. It was the service to his people that afforded him the opportunity to receive the award, hence DrBidzakin is highly committed to continue to serve them and improve access to healthcare in the district.
“I also feel fulfilled in that the sacrifices i have made towards contributing to development in my community and the nation at large has been recognized by a reputable organization like MTN Ghana”, he says.
Furthermore, DrBidzakin stresses that the award has enabled the project have access to some financial resources to assist in improvement in quality of health delivery in the area.
It is apparent that Rev. Jehu Appiah (Education category winner) who set up a centre dedicated to the care of disabled children in Apam, in the Central Region of Ghana is living his calling as a Pastor.
“Personally, we have been motivated by the recognition of our effort and the many congratulation messages we have receive both far and near. Our project has also gained a lot of recognition”.
Through the MTN Heroes of Change project, some individuals and churches have come to make some donations to the centre, Rev. Appiah says.
Also, after the project, they invited the Chief and elders of Ankamu and presented the award to them. They also presented it during their P.T.A. meeting where, all parents and teachers shared their joy.
Touching on how the cash prize is being spent, Rev. Appiah states: “We had a bore hole which was salty, and we are using the cash award to fix a water treatment plant to make the water safe for drinking. We hope MTN will honour our invitation when we invite them for the inauguration of this project”.
“Our next project is to get our multipurpose dining hall project complete and start a vocational school in addition”, Rev. Appiah discloses.
Nayina Karim (Economic Empowerment category winner), an astute Social Entrepreneur who established a rehabilitation centre and school for malnourished children in Karaga community in the Northern Region is also using the cash prize to support his centre.
In his welcome address at the grand finale, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Ghana, Ebenezer Asante encouraged the MTN Heroes of Change Season II winners to keep on shining, and keep on touching more lives in the country.
He stated that; “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 hope to see from this project is to see more heroes being borne”.
Let’s all be challenged by the leadership and courage of these Heroes. Let’s all go out and create opportunities for members of our communities. Let’s be the change we wish to see, Mr Asante admonished.
Dr. Doris Dartey, a member of the jury added: “After going through the works of these heroes, I really believe that there is a bright future for this country”.
“The heroes have allowed their lives to shine. So, let’s all go out there to allow our lives to shine”.
Since then, these words of encouragements have sung deep into the minds of the 2015 MTN Heroes of Change, as they continue changing lives as well as transforming their various communities.