We Found it: The World’s Greatest Small Social Enterprise Will Inspire You
by SITE ADMIN on MARCH 10, 2013
Today Your Mark On The World announces the winners of the Hand Up for Social Good Awards for the best small social entrepreneurs based on their mission and impact.
The winner, who will receive $1,000 from Your Mark On The World (well, me), The Yonkofa Project, is profiled here.
The Runner up for the Hand Up for Social Good Award which comes with a $500 prize from an anonymous philanthropist goes to The Senase Project, which is profiled at yourmarkontheworld.com.
For this post, I interviewed The Yonkofa Project founder Dr. Gabriella Nanci. I’ll share that interview with you directly and unedited as Dr. Nanci tells her story much better than I could.
How did you come to start The Yonkofa Project?
It is a rather personal journey; I actually changed careers because of 9-11. I felt a need to help the people of the world who were just so desperate, and medical school seemed like the logical first step. I participated in short-term medical missions, and Dr. Deborah Martin, who had been my surgery preceptor, asked me to go on a mission to Ghana. While there, I set up a small medical team and went to the villages in the evenings after clinic, making house calls on patients too ill to get to the clinic site. This really changed the experience. I was struck by the tremendous effort families put into caring for their sick and dying loved ones. There was an obvious need to prevent the diseases that were causing such a huge burden: losing the children you love, caring for the chronically ill, and being unable to provide for your family due to illness.
I felt compelled to help these wonderful people, not for a couple weeks, but long-term; and improve their quality of life. Seeing case after case of chronic suffering, caused by simple diseases that were treatable or preventable, was quite an eye opener.
I returned to Ghana a few months later and this time worked alongside Ghanaian medical professionals from the city, but travelled out to remote villages. In this setting, I came to realize the answer is largely within Ghana. Ghana trains wonderful health care professionals, but the lack of infrastructure means these people have no way to serve in the remote areas; simply put, there are no clinics to work in. The very few that exist are simple structures, often without water or even electricity, built by villages that have no means or access to put in the equipment or provide the supplies for a proper clinic.
So, what do we need? Even a small organization like ours can receive large quantities of gifts in kind, both equipment and medicine; so medical supplies are not a problem. Finding talented Ghanaian medical professionals willing to serve in a modern clinic in the village they grew up in is not a problem. Finding patients is definitely not a problem. What we need then, are the buildings themselves.
What are you most proud of having accomplished?
I think the thing that makes me most proud is the people in Ghana know and trust us. They have been so generous with what they have. We have had Ghanaian companies volunteer to bring our building materials from the port to the job site (a 16 hour trip for a large truck), artists who have donated their artwork and music for us to sell for fundraising, donations of labor, food brought to the job site, donations of room and board for the volunteers, etc.
How did you do it?
It has been a lot like the story of “Stone Soup.” We started out with an idea, and everyone contributed what they had. One of the key players was Msgr Simon Assamoah. He is a Ghanaian priest who picked the site for the first clinic, and met with the village elders and the chief, who donated the land. We had two professional videographers who, at first, were just going to help a little, but were so taken with the project that they are actually making a documentary. We had graphic designers volunteer to do our album covers and brochures. Then we have had donations of building materials, discounted freight, and volunteers for electrical and plumbing work who are willing to travel to a remote village in Ghana. As I understand, the word “Yonkofa” means “friendship,” but in a way that describes “a coming together.” This is really what has happened.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
The first building we erected was the nurses’ residence, so it is the actual clinic building we are working on now. This means I am pretty focused on raising money for the last item we need; the roof! My hope is that, with a completed clinic under our belt, we will open more doors for funding, and open more clinics . . .
How does it feel to be recognized for your accomplishment?
It will feel great to get the first clinic completed – so great that we can start on the next one! The district hospital has several sites already picked out for us. . .
It is important to note the time and effort made by our panel of judges who chose the finalists and to everyone who voted. Our judges were: