Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo is the epitome of following your passion and solidifying your purpose. For the past 12 years Eyeson-Akiwowo, a former Bookings Editor for Essence magazine, has provided organizational leadership, as the founder and executive director of African Health Now. Its mission is to promote and provide access to sustainable health services for women, children and families living in Africa’s Sub-Saharan. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Eyeson-Akiwowo, whose family hails from Ghana, describes her non-profit work as purposeful. “It feels like every task I am able to accomplish gets us [Africa Health Now] to the next level and saves another life.”
Her work began in 2006 when Eyeson-Akiwowo produced the first “A Gift of Life @ Christmas” health fair with the help of 21 friends. “After our first health fair, a woman who had missed the fair the day before showed up at my parent’s home looking for medical assistance, and because of all that I had learned producing the event, I was able to assist her by contacting more people. At that moment I realized that I had something–knowledge and advocacy of self–that was so valuable,” she recalls.
To date, African Health Now has serviced over 20,000 women and men in Ghana. The organization’s latest initiative is launching the African Health Now maternity-go-box to support new mothers in West Africa.
Inspired to leave a legacy of service, Eyeson-Akiwowo lives by the Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Her work through African Health Now has done exactly that. The organization annually reaches thousands of community members in Ghana, with its annual “A Gift of Life at Christmas” health fairs. Participants are offered blood pressure screenings, glucose testing, healthcare resources, instruction in breast self-examinations, and discussions in healthy living, which would otherwise be unavailable in their township. To date, African Health Now has serviced over 20,000 women and men in Ghana. The organization’s latest initiative is their African Health Now Maternity-Go-Box to support new mothers in West Africa. “Right now my goal is to grow my organization and it’s extremely important as our ability to grow or not grow will determine what happens next year.”
Below, Eyeson-Akiwowo shares more about what it takes to transform local, rural spaces into medical clinics and what it means to live and pursue a purpose-driven life.
PMP: What drives you?
NEA: As a mother, my daughter is my driving force. Being able to show her that following your dream is feasible and amazing, and there are also sacrifices that one has to make, at times. I want her to know that if I could navigate it, then, she too, has the ability to go for her dreams.
PMP: How do you feed your passions so they don’t go empty?
NEA: It’s an ever-evolving process as sometimes you just give so much of yourself to so many things that you (or rather I) can often times feel empty. For me, knowing the effect the work I do has on the people is a [constant] motivator.
PMP: What types of obstacles did you face while going for it and what did they teach you?
NEA: Not everyone who cheers you on will support you.
PMP: What advice would you give to others on how to pursue their passion and make a profit?
NEA: Follow your heart and give it your all and the money will come–at least, that’s what I heard. The thing is life is so short that I would rather put my all into something that gave me happiness than just work a random job.
PMP: Does your passion/purpose support you fully financially?
NEA: Not at this time, but I know it will one day.
PMP: Which books have helped to shape your approach to life and why.
NEA: “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. I’ve had a strong connection with Nelson Mandela and the entire Pan African movement since childhood. My father was an avid Pan Africanist and it was on the day of his [Mandela’s] release that I first saw my father cry. Upon reading the book as an adult I understood what it meant to sacrifice oneself for the greater good of the people. I even got married on Mandela’s birthday on July 18th.
For more information about Africa Health Now, and to support the Maternity-Go Box, visit http://africanhealthnow.org/.