Tag: Jermaine Bamfo


A Ghanaian Footballing Pioneer: The Legend of CK Gyamfi

As summer 2015 began its first forays into autumn, one of the brightest Black Stars dimmed, fading away into the ages. Charles (Nana) Kumi Gyamfi, more popularly known as C.K. Gyamfi, passed on to glory on 2nd September 2015. In his wake, he leaves a legacy which still looms large over the landscape of Ghanaian football.

gfa_mourns_passing_of_legendary_coach_ck_gyamfi_975092106Born in Accra in 1929, Gyamfi began playing football at the age of 7 in junior school. His precocious talent was noticeable from the off, and he became an integral part of his School XI, playing against boys bigger and taller than him. Due to his special talent, he gained admission into the Accra Royal School in 1944, despite the School being closed to further admissions as they had no vacancies!

He started his senior professional career with Sailors Football Club in 1948. After a match against the Ebusua Dwarfs in which he excelled against the opposition, he was persuaded to join them for a brief time before commencing a 5 year run playing for the Asante Kotoko. Noted for being the pivot around which Kotoko’s attack rotated, Gyamfi earned the right to play for the Gold Coast team which toured the United Kingdom in 1951. The Gold Coast team stunned their opponents, playing barefoot on British shores and scoring a total of 25 goals, with CK Gyamfi scoring 11 of those goals!

On his return to Ghana, armed with his first pair of boots, he introduced football boots to the Ashanti and Southern Gold Coast playing circles, and is credited by some as leading the charge which led to every team in the nation adopting football boots. He formed the Kumasi Great Ashanti in 1954, following a big split in the Kotoko camp, leading them to many great victories. After 2 years, he left the Great Ashantis and joined the Hearts of Oak, helping them win their first Cleague title in 1956 as well as being the inaugural winners of the league title in a newly independent Ghana in 1958. His 4 year stint at Hearts ended in 1960, when he secured a transfer to Fortuna Düsseldorf – becoming the first African football to ply their trade in German football! He scored on his debut and was held in affection by the Düsseldorf faithful, nicknamed ‘Tunda Vita’ (meaning ‘Thunder Weather’) due to his powerful shots.

He then entered football management, becoming assistant coach in 1961 before taking full charge of the Ghana National Team in 1962 following the departure of the Hungarian Black Star head coach Joseph Ember. Winning the Uhuru Cup in Uganda, Ghana then went on to win the West African Gold Cup. Gyamfi then led Ghana to their first Africa Cup of Nations championship in 1963, before repeating the feat 2 years later in 1965. For those who may have considered that achievement a fluke, an anomaly achieved in the 1960s where football was a lesser standard, CK Gyamfi stuffed their opinions back down their throats as he returned to manage the Black Stars in 1982 and secured a record third Africa Cup of Nations crown! Even now, more than 30 years after becoming the first manager to win three Africa Cup of Nations championships, only one coach has managed to equal the feat, and none have been able to surpass it.

Such a figure simply could not be ignored, and Mr Gyamfi continued to be an important voice in Ghanaian football. Most significantly, towards the end of his life when asked about Ghana’s failures in international competition, he bemoaned a culture among today’s generation motivated by love of money rather than national pride. “The players that I worked with played for the love of the game and were totally committed to playing for their country,” said the man known in football circles by his initials, CK. He added: “Today’s players don’t know the value of the national jersey but my players were prepared to die for their country.”

CK-169x300He became a chief of Okorasi, a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana, in 1999 when the stool of the town became vacant. He also received honours in the form of being named a ‘National Sports Hero’ and being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, as well as having the National Sports College in Winneba being named after him. The former captain of Accra Hearts of Oak & Ghana Black Stars, and the engineer of three of Ghana’s four Africa Cup of Nations triumphs, CK Gyamfi leaves behind his wife Madam Valerie Quartey Gyamfi (who was a former national tennis player herself) and eight sons.

By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Mental Health: The Dark Age in Ghanaian Society

The image will never leave me. A young lady – she must have been not much older than I am now. Chained to a stone wall, in a room which wouldn’t look out of place in Elmina castle or any of the historical slave-holding castles dotted around Ghana. Legs shackled, she lay slumped in the damp darkness. No energy left to act out the distress her face betrayed she was still feeling. Sat helplessly in a concoction of excrement and feminine fluid which looked so putrid I could swear blind the stench emanated out of the photo on the website and through my laptop screen.

 

A modern-day re-enactment of crimes against humanity performed on our shores centuries ago? A depiction of torture?

 

No. She was simply a mental health patient. In a mental health facility. In Ghana. In the 21st century.

 

mentally ill in chains

mentally ill in chains

In Ghana, mental health remains massively stigmatised and grossly misunderstood. And in the depths of misunderstanding and ignorance does not lie bliss, but rather a platform upon which traditionalist ideologies perform. The demonization of those with severe mental illness causes people to legitimise horrible treatment. A Human Rights Watch report on Ghana and BBC investigation into an Accra psychiatric facility found patients going without food or even clothes, being kept behind bars, and subjected to degrading physical treatment. It’s easier to perceive those with mental illness as animals, rather than understanding that these people need a greater, more intensive and careful degree of help than most.

Despite some progression over the years, you can tell that mental health provision remains an after-thought, almost a nuisance. That is why psychiatric nurses in Accra embarked on a nationwide strike to bring to attention the fact that the majority were in salary arrears (it’s also interesting to note that despite a news article reporting this being hosted on one of the biggest and most active of Ghanaian news sites, the comments in the comments section stood at a grand total of 0…).

Mental health workers  are underpaid and overworked, with facilities badly under-resourced. Ghana records at least 1500 suicide cases annually – which constitutes about 7% loss of Ghana’s potential Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly! And those are just the reported cases – with suggestions that for every reported case, there are four unreported cases of suicide. However, only 2 out of every 100 Ghanaians with a mental illness will get the care they need.

Government spending on Psychiatry is very low and the bulk of services, albeit sparse, are centred on Accra, leaving much of the Ghana-007rest of the country with almost no provision.  Ghana has only THREE psychiatric hospitals nationwide catering to Ghana’s population of 25 million – and ALL THREE are on the southern coast (2 in Accra, 1 in Central Region). Imagine how those in the Northern region feel, an area with the biggest mental health burden in the country. Logic.

While the UK is looking to spend a whopping £1.25 BILLION on mental health services over the next 5 years, Ghana spends a meagre £3million a year. Accra Psychiatric Hospital is a 700 bed unit – and yet, it houses more than 1200 patients….Go figure.

With few options for care outside these facilities, many people resort to prayer camps & traditional healers whose treatment methods can be inhumane at best. There is such a heavy stench of superstition and fear around psychiatric illness in Ghana. Don’t believe me? Here’s a bit of homework for you. Next time you’re in Ghana and an auntie asks you about job aspirations, tell her you want to be a Psychiatrist…

A paper published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems found that while there are more than 1000 registered mental health nurses, there are only EIGHTEEN registered psychiatric doctors – NATIONWIDE. That works out at 0.07 psychiatrists per 100,000 Ghanaians. And those are just the registered – some of those 18 may not even be in active service. If these numbers fail to horrify you…

5450930078_fbe25c23ea_bDr Sammy Ohene, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Ghana, recently decried the ‘cash-and-carry’ culture which has seeped into the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, noting that Ghana law suggests costs to provide treatment should be covered by the taxpayer, not paid at the point-of-care. He goes on to suggest that those who cannot afford the new service fees will turn to herbalists and spiritual healers in an attempt to get psychiatric care. There is already a problem with the provision of medication, with some patients acknowledging having to take much lower doses of their medicines in order to make their medicine last as they cannot keep up with costs.

And that is the last thing you need. To begin to drive people away from facilities which can best cater to their needs and back towards the stone-age dark areas of the country where they will be further demonised. But who cares right? Because according to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, the only reason they have resorted to ‘cash-and-carry’ is because the central government isn’t providing money to cover costs of treatment and keep the hospital running…

trapped for being mentally ill

trapped for being mentally ill

The Mental Health Act 2012 seems to be just a means of simply keeping the watching international community off of our backs. The prospect of paying extortionate costs for care, and the ongoing stigmatisation and rampant traditional beliefs, are roadblocks preventing those who need care presenting themselves to receive it.

Listen – mental illness can happen to any of us. 1 in 4 will have some sort of psychiatric illness in our lifetime, of varying severity, regardless of race, nationality or creed. The people in the hospitals and those wandering the streets were once teachers, traders, hardworking wives or husbands, lovely children of parents and families. The social stigma so often associated with mental illness, allied with poverty and inadequate healthcare facilities, has conspired to rob these people of the care and support they deserve. Psychiatric care continues to suffer neglect in terms of practical, sustainable action that could benefit poor, marginalized people with mental illness. Will the image I described at the beginning of this article ever become a footnote in the legend of our nation? We have so much to do before we create enough light to drive out the darkness…

 

The paper ‘An overview of Ghana’s mental health system: results from an assessment using the World Health Organization’s Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) ‘ is available at http://www.ijmhs.com/content/8/1/16


By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Masquerade Of Justice: Introducing Anas Aremeyaw Anas

‘And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.’ – JOHN 1: 5 [NET]

Anas Aremeyaw Anas. An investigative journalist who cultivates his shining work in the depths of Ghanaian darkness. He works to the mantra ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ – a mission statement cultivated by his horror at corruption running rife in Ghana’s military and police. Brought up in a military barracks, and an owner of degrees in Law and Journalism, his metier focuses on human rights and anti-corruption – gathering hard evidence of crime and corruption in order to put perpetrators behind bars.

 

Anas posing as a mad man on the streets of Ghana

Anas posing as a mad man on the streets of Ghana

Amidst the ‘Who You Know’ culture which creeps along the corridors of Ghanaian power, Anas is a marked man. Enter, the disguises. His real identity is classified. He is seen publically wearing masks made of African beads which cascade down from various caps and hats, obscuring his features from view. Even when giving a TED talk in 2013, the beads remained, a candy-coloured shield to keep his identity intact while he shared his motives with the world. From his youth, Anas was known to enjoy theatrics, with a former President of the National Association of Pan-African Clubs recalling how Anas was once given a role in a casual play – “if you wanted him to play the role…he would go out and look for costumes, and then come in full regalia, ready to play the part”.

 

The ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ mantra has powered an impressive portfolio of investigative work. He published the results of two investigations in 2006 – one involving a cookie factory which was using maggot-infested flour, and another exposing corruption inside the Passport Agency, which earned him the Journalist of the Year Award via the Ghana Journalists Association. He has gone undercover in Ghana’s biggest state run orphanage, exposing corruption and child abuse. He has exposed fraud and corruption at the Tema Harbour. The dumsor fans among you may be interested to note that Anas in 2012 premiered a three-phase investigation into the power distribution sector in Ghana, exposing corruption carried out by employees of ECG. He has also investigated the effects of illegal gold mining in Ghana, and exploitation carried out by an ‘Abortion Lord’ who slept with female clients who came to him seeking abortions, as well as exposing child sacrifices being carried out in the Northern region, calling for the prosecution of fetish priests who were participating in such barbaric activity.

 

Disguises are required to successfully infiltrate the secret circles which are the focus of his investigations. There is no space for failure. Anas notes, “The threats are not imagined. They are real…When you are dealing with bad guys in the society and you take a swipe at them and you miss, you embolden them. I have no time for that. If I pick a story that I want to do, I do it well.” He is a possessor of many items of disguise – a marvellous array of wigs, masks, and surveillance equipment have helped him in many missions. He has masqueraded as an albino body parts trafficker, and even posed as a rock to film cocoa smugglers! One of his most notorious missions involved him gaining admission into Ghana’s largest psychiatric hospital under the guise of a severely mentally-ill patient. He secretly filmed, amongst other things, workers selling hard drugs to patients, patients scrounging for food out of bins, and a dead patient who had been lying in a ditch unattended for days being carted away in a van used to transport hospital food. This helped him bring an exposé of Ghana’s mental health service abuses of patient’s human rights to the masses, triggering further scrutiny by Human Rights Watch and the creation of a Mental Health Act in 2012.

 

When it comes to Anas Aremeyaw Anas, fact is stranger than fiction. But behind the various disguises stands tall a strong, powerful body of investigative journalism which has

Anas as a policeman

Anas as a policeman

brought down walls and made a tangible and very serious difference in Ghanaian society. His whistleblowing reaps results. And you won’t find a better example of this than his most recent and arguably most significant mission to date.

 

In September 2015, he premiered a new undercover film titled Ghana In The Eyes of God, which focused on corruption within the Ghanaian Judiciary sector and showed 34 judges and magistrates caught on hidden camera receiving money and animals in exchange for the freedom of various criminals. The affected judges have been suspended from service and the cases have gone to Ghana’s highest courts, with Chief Justice Georgina Wood ordering further investigation based on the findings of Anas’s work.

 

He has been noted for his portfolio of investigation, receiving a ‘Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery’ award by the US State Department in 2008 for his contribution to investigating human trafficking, as well as a CNN/Multichoice African Journalist award in 2009, and being named the best in Anti-Corruption reporting by the FAIR Investigative Journalism Awards in 2010. He has also received an Africa Achievers Award in Kenya in 2013, and an Engaged Journalism Award by the May Chidiac Foundation in 2014. President Barack Obama highlighted Anas’ virtues in a speech during his 2009 visit to Ghana: “An independent press. A vibrant private sector. A civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth.” He was polled as the ‘5th Most Influential Ghanaian’ in 2011 by ETV and named one of the ‘Most Influential Africans of the Year’ by the New African Magazine in December 2014.

 

Despite the accolades, the face remains hidden, the identity remains secret. Mr Anas is a beautiful oxymoron who terrifies the underbelly of Ghana. He needs to keep his mask on in order to cause the masks of others to fall so we can see people for who they really are. He shuns the fame and the spotlight, and remains in the shadows. For it is in the darkness of Ghanaian society that Anas Aremeyaw Anas works best, and will continue to work – and bring our worst to light, warts and all.

Follow him on Twitter @anasglobal and view his 2013 TED Talk ‘How I Named, Shamed & Jailed’ at http://www.ted.com/talks/anas_aremeyaw_anas_how_i_named_shamed_and_jailed

 

By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Helping Them Win The First Fight Of Their Lives

The most dangerous day in a child’s life is the day that they are born.

Each year, more than one million babies die on the day of their birth. 98% of these deaths occur in the developing world.

Infant-Mortality-5-300x300

With stats like that, you can understand that babies are fighting against the tide from the minute they emerge into the word. Kicking, screaming, they put everything they have into taking that first gasp of air and inflating those preciously vulnerable lungs. Their senses are wildly overwhelmed by the symphony of bright lights  and dazzling sounds of the outer world for the first time. Their skin crackles against the bite of cold which makes a change from the months they spent in their mother’s warmth. They are outside the protection of their mother.

 

The survival cord broken.

The battle has begun.

 

This is not an easy process, regardless of where a baby is born. This makes it even more crucial that babies are given the tools they need, and the environment they require, to survive. For an unfortunate reality is that in Ghana and many other countries in the world, some babies need more of a helping hand in those first few minutes, hours, days and weeks…just to come out of that fight alive.

Infant mortality is the number of deaths between birth and babies exactly 1 year of age, expressed per 1000 live births. The Ghana infant mortality rate in 2014 according to the CIA World Factbook was 38.5. That works out at approximately one death of a baby in Ghana under the age of one every 15 minutes.

 

Infant-Mortality-6-300x300Every. 15. Minutes.

 

To give babies a fighting chance at life, they need expertise in their corner. Expertise which may be lacking due to lack of appropriately-trained healthcare workers or expertise which may be too far away for them to reach in time. They need technology and equipment; conditions such as hypothermia, respiratory distress and hypoxia require adequate treatment with medical devices such as incubators – but for many babies in Ghana, even these options are unavailable.

It is unfortunate that in many areas in Ghana, relatively simple interventions for conditions which are highly-treatable may not be available. It becomes more critical when you appreciate that the majority of neonatal deaths are due to preventable causes, such as infectious diseases which could be immunised against.

 

Disparities don’t stop with Ghana/Sub-Saharan Africa and the majority of the Western World however. You would be surprised to find that there is a chapter being written on the shores of the UK as well. According to ‘Facts and Figures on Infant Mortality & Stillbirths’ by Public Health England, ‘non-white ethnicity’ is independently associated with increased UK infant mortality.

The London Health Observatory found that one of the five most important factors associated with infant death in London is being borne of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Mothers of Black origin are TWICE as likely to have their baby die before their first birthday as their white counterparts. So even when black babies have access to better sanitation and healthcare, noticeable disparity remains in infant mortality amongst our babies compared to Caucasian babies here in the UK! Many reasons have been given to try and rationalise this: increased teenage pregnancy rates in black communities, a mistrust of healthcare and an unwillingness to present to clinic, etc. But the fact remains, that there is a gap.

 

A gap which the GUBA Foundation aims to address and is desperate to close.

 

However in order to close the gap, the Foundation needs your help. This is a momentous project, with the potential to change the landscape of healthcare in Ghana and amongst the BME in the UK forever. It’s going to take more than wordplay. Ideas are needed, as well as innovation, support, energy, and resources.

For the GUBA Foundation passionately remembers babies of Ghanaian and UK BME heritage. They remember those babies who were carried but never met. They remember those held but not taken home; those who came home but could not stay. They take up this fight in their memory, to safeguard future generations. Their memory puts fire in their bellies, intensifying our sense of responsibility. Because the GUBA Foundation fervently believes every baby deserves an equal shot at life, regardless of where Infant-Mortality-2-300x214they’re born and to whom they are born.

Help spare women from the most unimaginable pain a mother can bear. Help aid babies in need. Help remove the danger. Help make that first birthday a day of celebration to many more, and help make that first day the best day. Help make sure that many more babies come out of that first fight of their lives victorious, having been born with a winning corner.

Help Close the Gap on Infant Mortality.

You can support the GUBA Foundation’s ‘Closing The Gap’ project by kindly donating via justgiving.com/gubafoundation, or send a cheque made payable to GUBA Foundation, 19 John St. London WC1N 2DL (including a letter with your cheque stating your name and address). You can also donate up to £10 by texting GUBA00 followed by the amount donated to 70070 (e.g. GUBA00 £10).


By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Home Truths for the Homeland

Accra-floods

Accra Floods

Watching the Accra floods unfold across my TV and across social media timelines, a sadness and anger triggered within me. And frustration. And a realisation. As much as we love Ghana and for all we have achieved in recent years, there are home truths we’ve not been paying enough attention to. The cedi’s value has become a shambolic mess. Oil we apparently struck a few years back – what happened to the money? Infant/maternal mortality is another simmering issue which charities such as the GUBA Foundation are helping bring to the spotlight. The quality of schooling is poor, as has been recently publicised.

And don’t get me started on dumsor, an issue which is proving to be a terminal illness to business around the country and is as tiresome as the daily debate around it and the attempts to resolve it.

 

In June 2015, The Wall Street Journal noted the following – ‘[Accra is] perhaps the continent’s best example of an urban middle class. In 2011 it was the 2nd-fastest growing economy on EARTH…but [even then] below the city, its infrastructure was crumbling. Power has been off TWO-THIRDS of the time since January, because until recently Accra received almost all of its electricity from a 49-year old hydrodam that hadn’t been getting enough rain. Stop lights are frequently out, jamming up roads that haven’t been broadened. Ports are perpetually backlogged. And the city sewers are especially old…many of them dating back to the British colonial rule.’

 

That excerpt illuminates the fact that the floods in Accra, which produced images akin to a Hollywood disaster film, was a disaster waiting to happen – a landmine lying in wait beneath our foundations, for the right amount of pressure to trigger things to explode and implode.

IMG_5139And this is the crux of the problem. There are issues in Ghana that have been there from the days of Kwame Nkrumah. That’s not good enough. Nkrumah planned to get the Akosombo dam built to match demand at the time; not to meet demand in the future! The dam wasn’t *the* dream; it was the *beginnings* of a dream, for Ghana to start being more self-sufficient, stable and increasingly productive. The issue is we’ve accepted that standard as our ceiling. That standard was set 60 years ago you know. 60 years…

You see, my issue is that it’s not every day ‘build a Trasacco Valley’ or West Hills Mall to act like Ghana is ‘ballin’’, thinking that’s indicative of success. It’s not. Ghana rather needs to prioritise and concentrate on things which may seem simple, but as these floods have shown, are vital. We need to focus on investing and developing the fundamentals.

Things like electricity, water, roads and transport, education, hospitals and healthcare services

…but no. We want to make ourselves look better than we are by building residential areas where only the rich & powerful can afford to live, and building malls where only the rich can afford to shop.

 

Ghana is focused on building its roof when we haven’t even finished laying the foundations –  and that’s a crying shame. That’s why we have cholera outbreaks in Accra, by-the-renewing-of-your-mind-how-to-have-a-strong-foundation-1200x1161why large swathes of the country go without power for days. And that’s why we had a situation like the flood crisis – it was a system failure more than a natural disaster, exposing the fact that despite the energy and resources we’ve put into paving our roof, our house is infested and the foundations aren’t sound.

Our priorities need to change. For we need to realise the truths and stop the cyclical behaviours which fail to demand accountability from those in power and allow us to become complacent and accept inefficiencies as the status quo. Only then, will we finally be set free and realise the perfectness of the Independence dream.

 

By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Help Your Community – Give Blood

“There are a lot of black and Asian people out there who desperately need help, and they can’t get it from anyone else but their own communities. It’s something we’ve all got to consider, because we’re the only ones who can help each other.” – Gina Yashere

 

mike 0010I’ve given blood this week, and have given donations in the past. It’s something I’ve done without publicity, without spreading the word. I do it when I can, kicking any subtle needle-phobia I have into touch and donating before going about the rest of my day-to-day. Donating secretly and quietly – for altruism doesn’t need publicity right? But the statistics have made me rethink that. The Great Ormond Street programme shown on the BBC recently made me rethink that. Various appeals made in regional news programmes have made me rethink that. It’s time we start actively encouraging each other to give blood.

 

Because we have a problem.

 

According to Blood.co.uk, about 14% of the UK population are from a black, Asian or other ethnic minority background. But there’s such a shortage of minority donors that only 3.5% of those who have donated blood in the past 2 years are people from these ethnic groups! This means that if you’re black or Asian, your chances of finding an unrelated matched donor are lower than if you were white. Much lower.

It’s clear once you look into the matter that the greatest demand comes from the communities with the lowest donation rates and the hardest tissue types to match – i.e. communities such as ours. Certain ethnic groups often require certain blood types. And with such difficulties in matching, we need to be doing more as a community to help each other out, just like Gina says in the quote at the beginning of the post.

o-GIVING-BLOOD-facebookAccording to ACLT, just one unit (475mls) of blood can help save 3 adults or 7 babies of any race. Rare blood groups like U negative are only found amongst people of African and Caribbean descent. We are all fully aware of the many appeals and charities out there related to disorders like Sickle Cell, a disorder prevalent in the Black community, whose sufferers know very well the significance of blood, because regular transfusions can prove life-saving.

 

So if you are reading this, and you are from a Black, Asian or other ethnic minority background, tell your friends about blood donation. Take a second to put the idea forward to colleagues at work, fellow church members, family, schoolmates, even followers on social media. Take a minute to think about it yourself. Take a little time to read the links at the end of the post…

 

…And realise that giving blood could be one of the best things you’ll do this year for your community, your people. It costs nothing more than a little time. Time which could grant someone out there much more time to enjoy what life has to give. Someone out there somewhere will be forever grateful that you decided to act to give them a better chance. Someone out there somewhere would be forever indebted to you for your charity.

http://www.blood.co.uk/giving-blood/why-give-blood/BAME.asp

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewe…/Donation/Pages/Donationethnic.aspx

http://www.aclt.org/index.php/home/shownews/318

http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/news/latest-press-releases/2015-press-release-archive/non-white-children-face-needle-haystack-search-bone-marrow-matches-because-donor-shortage-warn-great
By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Introducing Amon Ogyiri & Ashantibeads

unnamed (7)

Ashantibeads was founded by US-based Ghanaian Amon Ogyiri in 2012. He was moved to found Ashantibeads having observed what he perceived as a lack of recognition for the African culture in the world. “There is plenty of beauty in Africa which still hasn’t been exposed to the rest of the world,” Amon reflects. “My mission was to display as much beauty from African culture as possible, through art & fashion. “

 

The hallmark of the brand are the trademark African bead bracelets of various colours which are adorned with a Gye Nyame charm. Ashantibeads’ African Beads are dedicated to gratifying the most sophisticated jewellery consumers, designed for all people from different backgrounds to admire what Africa has to offer. Amon was inspired to make these bracelets by his role model Russell Simmons, who had created a green bracelet whose sales would produce proceeds which would go on to help improve the quality of life of people in Africa. Amon’s idea was to follow-on from this by creating a bracelet for Ghana and also do his own bit to contribute to the advancement of the Ghanaian People.  Amon has been able to use a percentage of the profits from Ashantibeads to work with a non-profit organization in Ghana called Youth Icons of Ghana” to help build libraries in less-privileged rural communities in Ghana.

unnamed (6)

The beads have enduring all-encompassing appeal, with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds having purchased their own bracelets. The beauty of the colours available, and the mystery of the enigmatic “Gye Nyame charm, are an undeniably attractive concoction. “The beads represent the history, culture and pride of Ghana – my homeland,” explains Amon. “For example, the black Ashanti African Beads are an emblem for the people; a great build for customers who seek amongst their collection of jewelleries one that graces their acquired taste. The green Ashanti African Beads embodies the fruitful land of Africa, and so forth.”

Many celebrities have showed interest in Ashantibeads. such as Angela Simmons (daughter of Rev Run of RUNDMC) American based rappers Nipsey Hussle and Shad Moss (aka Bow Wow), the late Ghanaian singer Castro da Destroyer, superstar Ghanaian rapper Sarkodie,  Ghanaian boxer Joshua Clottey,  and the vibrant Nigerian singer Davido, amongst many others!

unnamed (8)

The celebrity endorsements have gone hand-in-hand with ashantibeads impressive social media machine in increasing awareness of the brand. People who see or hear about the products usually have an urge to tell others about what Ashantibeads are doing for Africa with the brand, with Instagram and twitter helping extend reach to many people across the world.  Customers usually upload photos of themselves wearing their products on Instagram which allows their followers to see Ashantibeads’ work.

Despite the level of success to-date, Amon does not feel like he has reached the point at which he can say he is successful with the brand. “I have more things to do and accomplish before I can say I have been successful. The mission is not over.”

So what are the plans and dreams for the future of Ashantibeads? “We have just released Africa’s $100 dollar shirt designed by me,” informs Amon. “It is an extension of the Ashantibeads brand. I feel that the ‘Gye Nyame’ symbol has been depreciated and taken for granted for a very long time. I saw the value in this symbol.  It’s about being proud. Africans need to realize the value of our culture.”

You can view and purchase your own Ashantibeads products from www.ashantibeads.com

 Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Forever Young, Forever Royal: The Story of Liesel Angel ..

Every doctor has that one patient who left an indelible mark on their career, an ever-enduring influence which has affected their practice forever. Mine was Liesel Angel….

 

unnamed (1)

 It was a normal morning on a paediatric ward. And following a ward round I set about my jobs for the day. First thing, I was asked to visit a side-room to try putting in an IV line into a patient, as the nurse that morning had failed and the patient wasn’t in the best of moods. So I entered in…

 I saw Mrs. Lovia Ofori-Agyemang for the first time, sat in a chair, gorgeous albeit worn-out, with tired yet bright eyes. And on the bed, covered in glitter and with crayons sprawled out in front of her, was Lovia’s daughter – the little Queen herself – Liesel Angel. Cute beyond compare, her eyes broad and wide due to the underlying disease process which I later discovered was Neuroblastoma. This Queen, though adorable, was not in the mood to suffer fools this morning.

So I rolled my sleeves up, put my stethoscope to one side, and sat at Liesel’s feet in her kingdom of glitter. With the soundtrack of children’s TV playing in the background, Liesel slowly let me into her world. She taught me a lot about rapport-building, breaking down barriers, understanding the unfathomable human capacity to endure pain. And she let me put the line in. Eventually. I had only one shot – thank God I was successful. It would’ve been off with my head otherwise.

During all of this, Mrs. Lovia had filled me in on the pertinent details of Liesel’s story. Little Liesel Angel was a victim of a cancer exclusive to children called High Risk Neuroblastoma (Stage IV) – a cancerous tumour arising from particular nerve cells, which run in a chain-like fashion up the back of the child’s abdomen and chest and into the skull. Children affected by Neuroblastoma have one of the lowest survival rates of all childhood cancers.

unnamed (4)

The first symptoms of Neuroblastoma are often vague, making diagnosis difficult. It often spreads before becoming symptomatically apparent, meaning 50 to 60 percent of all cases present with metastases (spread). An abdominal tumour may cause a swollen belly. A chest tumour can cause breathing problems. A tumour pressing on the spinal cord can cause limb weakness. A tumour in the bones around the eyes can cause distinct bruising and swelling.

After going through a year of treatment, Liesel had been declared free of the disease. But it returned, with a vengeance, and there was nothing else the medical professionals could do at that point. Neuroblastoma stole Liesel away from her kingdom on 3rd February 2012 at the tender age of 3, causing her to remain forever young. Forever unrealised. The Queen was no more. If only I had some of Liesel’s royal resolve the day I heard the news…

Receiving the vision to establish a charity to provide relief for children faced with life-threatening ailments and their families, Liesel’s untimely passing triggered her family into action. Founded by Liesel’s mother Lovia Ofori-Agyemang, and father Francis Appiah-Boakye, the Liesel Angel Trust is a not-for-profit organisation that provides practical hands-on support and relief for critically-ill children and their families: providing advocacy, counselling, domestic help, and personal support while understanding that it’s not just the patient who must endure the stress of battle, but those who love them too. Donations allow the Trust to purchase equipment, fund research and provide better facilities for terminally-ill children that would otherwise be unaffordable under the NHS. The Trust also supplies vital support to hospitals in Africa who help children with cancer.

unnamed (3)

Pursuits of the Trust include the One Touch Transport Service (which helps transport patients and families to appointments, and drop siblings at school), subsidized luncheon vouchers, Domestic support to keep the upkeep of homes, Bereavement Support, Educational Support to increase awareness in communities, and Wellbeing Massage Therapy. Friends of the Trust are ordinary people committed to supporting through various fundraising activities, from cake sales, to charity sing-alongs, to talent shows, and much more. The Liesel Angel Trust aims to help others alleviate the load Liesel’s own family must have felt when they had fought their own battle.

Liesel’s angel still shines brighter than ever through her legacy of the Liesel Angel Trust. She was a bright little girl, a Queen who was snatched away by a terrible disease which tried its hardest to put out her light forever.

It failed.

Liesel reigns on. Forever young, forever royal, her influence is still carrying weight and making a different to countless others. And you can do your bit to ensure that her star continues to shine on, and leaves as indelible a mark on more lives as it did mine.

unnamed (2)

In memory of Liesel Angel Appiah Boakye: Aug 2008 – Feb 2012

You can contact Liesel Angel Trust offices on 020 8538 0185 during the hours of 10-5pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can email enquiries to info@lieselangeltrust.org or write to Liesel Angel Trust, The Vista Business Centre, 50 Salisbury Road, Hounslow, Middlesex TW4 6JQ

Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

AFCON 2015: Ghana so near yet so far…

Blackstars lose in the cruellest fashion but there is genuine cause for optimism..

Another tournament comes and goes, another dose of heartbreak for the Black Stars. As our famous uncle would say, in the final of AFCON 2015 our pain was ‘delivered fresh, from nature god’. Social media following the AFCON final was a mess – people from certain countries (no names mentioned) decided to emerge from their shadowed dwellings after the final whistle to rub salt into wounds. Many Ghanaians played another round of ‘Let’s Find Who We Can Burn At The Stake This Time – AFCON Edition’. Others blamed Mahama. While others simply logged off and went to bed.

hi-res-4a3c983840d5ab3d32c03c57bbf1cdcf_crop_northDespite an encouraging number of people who could reason, many were lost in the horde of the confused, the hurt, and the impulsive.

Which is fair enough. The manner in which Ghana threw away a two-penalty advantage, was reminiscent of beginning to dream of history being made only to watch Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick in 2010 soar past the goalkeeper, past the crossbar, and past the roof of the stadium. Categorically gutting. Ghana weren’t just close; the craftsman may as well have started crafting our name into the cup. We weren’t just within touching distance – we all practically started planning what posts we would upload, what kente we would wear into work the next day, how amazing Ghana Independence this year would be.

But alas. It was not to be. Again.

So the impulsivity of the reaction, and the rawness of the pain is understandable. But as with many things, sometimes the morning after brings so much clarity to the events of the night before. And when it comes to reviewing Ghana, that is what is needed – clarity. And perspective.

It’s easy to be short-termist when it comes to football. Heroes rise and fall with unnerring speed – daily, weekly, monthly. The manner in which Ghana lost out in the final can cause many to fall into the trap of finding a new scapegoat, a new villain to verbally flog – all while losing sight of the bigger picture…
…which is the fact that Ghana arrived at Equatorial Guinea for AFCON 2015 still bruised from an underwhelming, disappointing and disjointed World Cup campaign, smeared with the tar which poured from allegations of corruption and reports of dissent and infighting amongst the ranks. Ghana entered this competition as the least-favoured to escape what had been anointed by most as the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’. Many poured scorn on Ghana’s chances following the draw of the group. Avram Grant himself dampened expectations going into the tournament, imploring everyone that this was a tournament about assessing the team, about development, about building towards a better future.

255F825900000578-2941812-Ghana_players_celebrate_in_front_of_coach_Avram_Grant_en_route_t-a-58_1423173831453We kicked off the first game expecting nothing…

And yet not only did we escape the Group of Death, we came out standing tall and proud in first place.
We battled past Guinea 3-0 in the quater-finals.
We eviscerated the hosts of the competition in front of a bipartisan (and as we eventually saw, bitter and disgraceful) crowd, without captain Gyan on the pitch.

We finished the tournament finalists.

We fell to the 11th spot-kick taken by Ivory Coast. For 120 minutes, and until Razak missed his penalty, we stood toe-to-toe with an Ivory Coast team who are renowned and revered as the most experienced and accomplished football team amongst the African nations, captained by Yaya Toure who is such an awesome tour-de-force of a footballer he has won African Player of the Year for the last 4 consecutive years.

Christian Atsu solidified his burgeoning reputation on the world scene by emerging from AFCON 2015 as the official Player of the Tournament. And who could fail to be moved by the visceral outpouring of passion and desire by Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, as he screamed fierce encouragement to his troops during the shoot-out before being overcome by the pain of defeat at the final whistle.

Sure, it doesn’t take away from the pain. It doesn’t do much to depreciate the idea that we are becoming the Bridesmaid of African football, so favoured, so pretty and alluring, and yet always falling short of finally becoming the Bride. We have had our fair share of misfortune and hurt in recent years, as anyone who bore witness to the Suarez 2010 quarter-final can attest to. This final was another dose of exquisitely-devastating heartbreak, as we failed once again to emerge victorious from the Russian Roulette that is the penalty shoot-out.

150205223514-ghana-afcon-celebrate-super-169
But Ghana came out of this AFCON tournament proud. Even prouder and in better shape than the last time we were finalists in 2010. We’ve got our spark back. Throughout the tournament, and especially with regards to our conduct during the disgusting antics of Equatorial Guinea, Ghana redeemed itself in the eyes of the world. Our reputation has been mended. Defensively, we look sounder. In Razak, (penalty kick aside, and not falling foul to short-termism in only focusing on the kick) we have an assured goalkeeper who looks as good as any on the continent. Atsu’s star will continue to soar. Dede Ayew is an awesome captain-in-waiting, developing into a man who can emulate the exploits of his legendary father.

The team looks stronger. The team will get better. AFCON 2015 saw Avram Grant and the Black Stars push the reset button. Our time as the Bride will come soon enough. The future is bright.

Jermaine Bamfo (@DrJabz_27)

Introducing Peniel Enchill….

The illustrator who took the world by storm at the turn of the year

PE

We’ve all seen it. As an Instagram post. Or a profile picture. Endlessly retweeted on your twitter timeline, or extolled to the heavens by celebrity. The epitome of a viral sensation. Sometimes, something goes viral for no reason at all. But a lot of the time, something goes viral because it is fuelled by exceptional talent and its essence contains something that captivates the masses.

This is what most accurately describes the much-acclaimed 2014 piece titled ‘Self Worth’ drawn by Peniel Enchill – a wonderful summary illustration of the hopes and dreams of many as we made the big step from one year to another; a beautiful depiction which gave much-deserved attention to a wide-ranging portfolio of incredible artwork.

So who is the young lady behind the sensation? Peniel Ewurama Enchill is a 22 year old Ghanaian-born fashion designer and illustrator who moved to the UK at the age of 12 and settled in the city of Sheffield. Drawing and Illustrating has been a part of Peniel’s life for as long as she can remember. Super-gifted with artistic talent, Ms. Enchill also holds an MSc in International Fashion Retail and a BA Hons in Business Management & Economics.

A proponent of a personal ‘Afropolitan’ style, Peniel is open to various influences. Her current inspirations include Aisha Ayensu of Christie Brown (mefirighana.com/introducingaisha-ayensu/), Deola Sagoe (Nigerian haute couture fashion designer), Andrea Iyamah (custom couture & swimwear) and Kobe Adu (Illustrator and Fashion Designer) amongst many others – all whom inspire Ms. Enchill in different ways. However, one forever looms large in the landscape of her life. Her biggest Role Model is her father, Dr Stephen Enchill, with her portrait of the great man standing proud as her most favourite piece of work to date!

Scrolling down Peniel’s Instagram account, you realise that much of her work is familiar! The long-distance relationship piece is one example, and her various illustrations which have centred on style, love and ambition have gained acclaim over the years. However this past Christmas season, she published a piece which touched hearts across the globe and caused her reputation to catch fire…

PE 1

As 2014 began to give way to 2015, Peniel published a piece titled ‘Self Worth’. It depicted a beautiful black woman, stepping over the obstacles of 2014 and carrying the good of the previous year into the next, embracing a bold & beautiful new year. The reaction to the illustration was mind-blowing, with the picture spreading like wildfire! “I really never expected it!” Peniel exclaims. “The response blew my mind and taught me so many lessons.” So what was the thinking behind the famous illustration? “I’m a staunch believer in goals and practically achieving them. What better way to start a new year than to set goals. The piece was meant to inspire people to evaluate the 2014 they’d had, and consider what they would want to see change in 2015.” Peniel felt that this exercise in introspection was something that people routinely underestimated. Her artwork ensured that at the end of 2014, thousands upon thousands took the time to indulge and celebrate it. However, shortly after publication, attempts were made by various people to degrade the message of the Self Worth piece – attempts which will not be glorified in this post by precise identification. Exercises which were damned in various sectors as expressions of ‘misogyny’, further examples of ‘black self-hate’ which I personally thought were inflammatory in the name of ‘trolling/banter/keeping-it-real’.

“I was initially very bothered and hurt as I spent so much time on it with the aim to inspire, but somehow, not only had that been ignored, it had become an object of ridicule and vessel of hate,” Ms. Enchill reflects. “Any artist would agree that is a hard pill to swallow. But that’s life and that’s art. No one piece of art is appreciated and interpreted in the exact same way by all its viewers.”

PE4

This whole experience has been an education for Peniel. “Every single day is a learning curve. Increased attention is not as glamorous as many may feel. It comes with a lot of responsibility!” Ms. Enchill is a one-man band at present, and so the extraordinary levels of attention via all kinds of sources can be difficult to balance at times. However, she states “It’s a challenge I gladly welcome, and I’m in the process of building a small team to help me reach my vision.

PE 3

“ And a team will be needed to keep the Enchill machine ascending into the stratosphere. She plans to branch out into products such as stationery (e.g. Calendars – I can’t even begin to imagine the extreme demand there would be for Peniel Enchill calendars!), hold exhibitions and possibly run classes to give back to the community at large. In essence, her biggest desire remains true – Peniel aims to keep on being a force of inspiration, reaching out to people near and far through her illustrations.

Just like the lady in the ‘Self Worth’ picture, Peniel remains unperturbed. She is stepping boldly into a bright and beautiful 2015, and into an even brighter future which stretches beyond the borders of a piece of paper. She on a mission to keep inspiring, keep reaching out. The sky is the limit. The best is still to come.

Please follow Peniel Enchill’s Instagram account @Peniel_Enchill

Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)