image (1)? BY KASIE ABONE
He dreamt of helping his father to some level and then move on to another level, but Afam Onyema, an American born Nigerian has since decided to dedicate his ivy league degrees to the service of a land he knew little or nothing about as he joins his father to build world class health facilities in nigeria to care for the less privileged.
It takes a heart of gold for a young man to dedicate his entire life to the service of a society he hardly knows. Young, brilliant, Afam Onyema, with top degrees from Harvard University and Stanford Law School, it was no surprise this United States of American born native of Nawfia, Anambra State Nigerian has juicy job offers on graduation. But rather than accept the lure and prospects of life of luxury and comfort which his qualifications offer him, Afam was touched by his fathers, Dr. Godwin Onyema’s, commitment and determination to fulfill his promise to his late father, Pa Augustine Onyema, many years ago before leaving the shores of Nigeria for United States in search of the golden fleece. The senior Onyema had promised his father that he would return one day and build a befitting hospital for his people to take care of their numerous health challenges. For Afam, this is a task that must be done hence the young Onyema turned down even multiple choice job opportunities including $160,000 job offer in preference for a full time work to assist his father actualize this noble dream to give back to his home land, through provision of world class medical services to his people, Nigerians and Anambrarians in particular.
Instructively, Afam knew little or nothing about his native land before he took a decision of a lifetime commitment to the service of humanity. “No, I don’t know them pretty much. I don’t come home that much. It’s something I decided to do, to help. I will be coming home more often and I will get to know my people over here much better,” he answered in response to a question byThisday during an exclusive interview in Awka. Afam was among a team of surgeons and other paramedicals which GEANCO Foundation led to Anambra state to perform knee and hip replacement surgeries free of charge at Anambra State Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka, Anambra state capital.
He serves as GEANCO?s Chief Operating Officer and sits on the Foundation?s board of directors with his brother, Gozie, and his sisters, Ebele and Nche. They serve together with respected and committed medical doctors, attorneys, business and healthcare management executives and high-level government officials who are all working tirelessly and passionately to deliver world class health solutions to the poor.
Recently, GEANCO foundation Chairman, Dr. Godwin Onyema, an obstetric and Gynaecologist, led a team of about 20 specialists surgeons, lawyers, businessmen, psychologists among other specialists including his son, Afam, to Anambra State Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka, Anambra state on a medical mission during which they performed a hip and knee replacement surgery on 32 patients free of charge. The third mission, the first being in Enugu in 2005, another at Regina Caeli, Awka in 2011.Overwhelmed with gratitude by the level of passion and dedication of each member of the team to providing health solutions to the needy in the society, Obi hosted them to a breakfast at government lodge on their last day in the state before departing for Enugu on their way back to US. The occasion offered the governor an opportunity to interact with them on areas of partnerships to further deepen the realization of governments MDGs goal on health.
Commending the missionaries, governor Obi expressed immense gratitude to the team. He said the benefits to the state and the patients was unquantifiable. To operate 32 patients which would have been impossible, and considering that they did all this free. They have advised us on what to do to improve the facilities and we have to do it. Obi said their visit would in no small way act as a buffer to the health delivery programme of the state. “We have talked to them and they have adviced us on so many things we would do to improve our health facilities and I can assure you, we would do all of them.” Obi assured.
The leader of the team, Steve kirschner, Sales representative of Zimmer Orthopedics in Warsaw Indiana USA, whose company supplies all the orthopedic equipment used in the surgery, told Thisday that he was overwhelmed at the level of diseases in Nigeria. “We don’t see it like this in USA.” He said coming to the state was humbling as the patients were very grateful for the surgeries. Recounting his experience during his first mission at Regina Caeli hospital in 2011, Kirschner said there has been remarkable improvement in the health sector compared to 2011 when he lamented the team couldn’t achieve much due to poor facilities and the ongoing doctors strike actions at the time.
“I am happy we are able to help the people of Anambra state. We are trying to make an impression here. There has been huge improvement in the health sector by the government from what we saw in 2011. We see efforts being made to improve the health services in the state. Asked to estimate the cost of the mission he said the operation cost about $100, 000 but “when you talk about supplies and implants, it costs millions of dollars.” asked whether he would repeat the visit, he assured that since the Onyemas plan to build a hospital in the state, it’s something he plans to do on regular basis. “When the Organisation told me if I can put together a team, I told them I would, and it’s something that I would like to do again.” he assured.
Three top surgeons performed the operations. They were Dr. J. Bohannon Madon, Dr. Thomas McCoy and Dr. Jeremy Gililland. Speaking about their involvement in the mission Gililand said that it has to be in ones heart to have the desire to do this because it takes personal commitment to do so. In addition, each volunteer he said had to bear his own cost as their own contribution.?Throwing more light into his decision to join his father in fulfilling his grand fathers wish, Afam said the need to improve and save lives as well as make a difference in the society coupled with the fact that his father never seized talking to him and his siblings about the dream, were his motivators.
Meanwhile, Dr. Onyema while expressing his passion and commitment to the health mission, told Thisday that the ultimate aim of the foundation was to build a state of the art world class hospital in the state. Already, government has donated land for this project and Onyema hopes to break ground by next year when the mission visits again.
The hospital, which willl be named after Dr. Onyemas father and built in his memory, Augustine Memorial Hospital. The facility when completed will be uniquely positioned to provide high-quality medical care for both the wealthy and the desperately poor, serve as Center of Excellence for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other pernicious infectious diseases, serve as advanced teaching hospital that will train African doctors, nurses and medical school students in the latest procedures and practices as well as engage Nigerian medical professionals living abroad who want to conduct medical missions or move back home to practice. The state-of-the-art healthcare facility which will negate the need for Nigerians to travel outside of the country for Medicare would save over $900 million spent by Nigerians on treatment abroad.
The construction would come in three phases. The first stage Stage of our hospital will consist of a Women and Children?s Center, an Orthopedic Center, and an Infectious will be uniquely and powerfully positioned to provide high-quality medical care for both the wealthy and the desperately poor, serve as Center of Excellence for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other pernicious infectious diseases, serve as advanced teaching hospital that will train African doctors, nurses and medical school students in the latest procedures and practices as well as engage Nigerian medical professionals living abroad who want to conduct medical missions or move back home to practice. The state-of-the-art healthcare facility which will negate the need for Nigerians to travel outside of the country for Medicare would save over $900 million spent by Nigerians on treatment abroad.
The construction of the hospital would come in three phases. The first stage will consist of a Women and Children?s Center, an Orthopedic Center, and an Infectious Disease Treatment and Education Center focusing on HIV/AIDS and malaria.
The second stage, a 100-bed facility will consist of an emergency room, medical, surgical and major trauma units, a cardiac center, and ophthalmology and radiology departments, among other capabilities; while the third stage will be expanded into a 200-bed tertiary care facility. A burn unit, cancer center, dialysis clinic and physical therapy and rehabilitation center will be added.
Meanwhile, Afam is making history in Nigeria and his base in USA as a young philanthropist as he deploys his Ivy League education to raise funds and awareness towards helping the less privileded in a society that he has not benefitted from to build a befitting hospital. He is determined that GEANCO Foundation would hugely contribute in the reduction of the level of diseases and infant mortality in a country where health facilities still remains in a very bad state. To ensure this mission comes to fruition, Afam, his father and the team of GEANCOFoundation partners plan to visit more often to further put actions to their plans.

BIRTH OF GEANCOWhen Godwin Onyema was leaving his native home, Nawfia in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra state, his father, Late Pa Augustine Onyema, extracted a promise from his brilliant son that he would one day return from the “White Mans Land” to build a befitting hospital to take care of numerous health challenges that confronted his people. Pa Onyema’s concern was understandable given that many sons and daughters of his kinsmen who had travelled overseas in search of greener pastures before his son never returned home. With that promise in his kitty, Pa Onyema blessed his son and bade him good bye. The young Onyema left Nigeria in the early 1970s to begin his OB/GYN medical residency in the United States. That was over thirty years ago.
Though Pa Onyema is late but his demise did not deter his son from fulfilling that promise. In 2005 that promise metamorphosed into the creation of a non profit organisation, GEANCO Foundation, which Dr. Godwin Onyema, formed together with his four children.
?GEANCO? is a compilation of the initials of each member of the Onyema family. While the senior Onyema is the MD/CEO of the foundation, his second son, Afam, a Harvard and Standford University law graduate, is the Chief Operating Officer. Afam turned down lucrative job offers in high flying law firms to be able to serve on GEANCO board.
The Foundation seeks to save and transform the lives of the poor and vulnerable in Anambra State in particular and Nigeria and Africa in general primarily through the development of world-class medical, educational and recreational facilities and program.

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