You can paper over the cracks, or you can dig down to the underlying roots and fix the foundations, solving the problem and benefitting generations to come.
When I first met Eric in our London offices, I just knew he was extraordinary and I fell in love with his aims and his aspirations. You see, Eric unknowingly lives his life by the words of Albert Schweitzer “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
By the end of our meeting, I knew that I would travel halfway around the world in order to tell his story.
We’d been driving for 14 hours on some of the bumpiest roads I’d ever experienced. “Are we nearly there yet?” I asked as I looked across at the small Ghanaian man that I’d met in London just one month earlier. He calmly responded, “Soon. Just a little longer.” I studied his face in the rear-view mirror as the sun began to dip behind the horizon. Eric Owusu sat patiently as our 4×4 finally turned the corner of the dirt track, and the sight of the small village filled with mud huts in Northern Ghana first came into view. The sound of the children cheering, laughing and chasing the car got louder and louder until we came to a stop, opened the car doors and stepped out. “We are here!” Eric exclaimed.
Myself and Yordan had travelled with Eric and his best friend Rob for two days -but the village had waited a lifetime for our arrival. As the days final rays of sun hit my face I looked around and, feeling humbled and inspired, I knew it was VIVIDA’s responsibility to tell the world Eric’s incredible story.
Eric was born and raised in Ghana and now lives in London where he is training to become a Doctor. His motivation for training wasn’t to satisfy parents or for pay and prominence; it was to go back to Ghana – fully qualified as a doctor – and truly touch the lives of the people he’d met using the power of modern medicine. But there was a problem. On his initial return Eric recognised diseases and conditions that were treatable with the correct medication. The problem, he quickly realised, was that nearly all the families told him they simply couldn’t afford the medicines that they needed! This was a much bigger problem than Eric had ever imagined. Would all of his effort and all of those years of training be wasted?
Eric was not about to accept defeat. So he decided he was going to fix the foundations and began to think what he could do to solve this problem.
I stood with my camera equipment in front of those very same families that had inspired Eric all those years ago. He smiled at me and then his face changed as the seriousness of his challenge kicked in. In order to create a healthy home for this community, medicine alone just wasn’t enough. Eric, his best friend Rob, and a dedicated few from local towns needed to create a sustainable business solution to generate income for the community. Unbelievably it all hinged on Shea Butter and the women of the village who were producing it. I brought my camera to my eye and pressed record.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women are extremely important to us. VIVIDA travelled across to Ghana with a skeleton crew to capture both photos and video.
At the time of writing this, The Shea Business School has successfully trained and educated over 800 women and generated. These women are now seen in a new light, regarded as entrepreneurial leaders on the path to trade the results of their hard work. Cultivating shea butter in order to support their community.
Eric has successfully created an environment within which the women can work safely, feel respected and work towards financial independence, for themselves, their families as well as future generations.