Born in Ghana, Emmanuel’s childhood was spent in the districts of La Bone and Darkuman. He attended St. Anthony Primary School, proceeded to Ada Secondary School and graduated from the University of Ghana with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with English.
Upon graduation, Emmanuel has remained deeply involved with the Not-for-profit Organisation which he co-founded as a tertiary student.
The idea for this NGO was birthed by a school project which required the participants to create a mock NGO. Thus, A Ban Against Neglect [ABAN] was formed with two American co-founders; Callie Brauel and Rebecca Brandt.
ABAN provides opportunities to the marginalised to learn a trade and earn some income for sustenance. Its modus operandi is to recycle waste materials particularly water bags into fashionable products like handbags etc that are sold for profit.
Why become a Social Entrepreneur? Emmanuel says it takes a bit of faith and dedication. Working the streets as a student, picking litter, he was invariably taunted. However, the very people who teased him in school are seeking jobs with his organisation.
The process of implementation Emmanuel says is in mastering the little things. You don’t have to be a professor in rocket science to be a successful person. Once I decided that was the opportunity I had, I didn’t let go, I just stuck to it and did it very well.
Traditionally young professionals will go into mainstream banking, technology and the white collar jobs,work for several years and in their late 40s and 50s, after they’ve garnered experience they then decide to give back to the society, and start an NGO. I have gone the other way round; I finished school and focused on charity.
The challenges they encounter are myriad and come from a most unlikely source: the benefactors. Mostly uneducated, they are prone to mistrust and misinterpretation. Also they believe that there is a spiritual connotation to every action undertaken on their behalf.
In short, according to Emmanuel, where you would expect gratitude you get the very opposite but that’s the nature of work we have chosen, and it teaches you not to give up, it’s toughens you up. I don’t seek reward and even though I am not a financially secured person I am not a beggar either and I am able to do the things I want to do. Finances asides, I’ve met tons of people around the globe, my network is huge. So just keep doing the things you do, do them very well and the opportunities will come, don’t look for instant reward.
ABAN started as an NGO that recruits street girls’ and teaches them to recycle waste products from the streets, mostly pure water sachet bags that litter the streets of Accra. Thereafter, the bags are washed and sanitised to make gift items. These are mostly sold in the United States, and the proceeds go towards the girls’ education and acquisition of vocational skills.
Subsequently, the program was revamped to offer help to marginalised young women between the ages of 17 and 22. It seeks focused young women who are intent on changing their lives for good despite the circumstances around them. ABAN has created an offshoot –the ABAN community employment-. This new program has recruited 10 professionals from Aburi town where ABAN is based to sew. The ABAN girls still play a role in making the products by washing and sanitizing the bags but processing the finished products is the purview of the professionals which leaves time for the girls to engage in rehabilitation programs.
Founded in 2008, ABAN has helped over 51 girls, who currently serve as ambassadors of ABAN in their communities. Some of them are now financially and attitudinally capable of caring for their kids and ensuring they get an education.
Our hope at ABAN is to not only end the cycle of poverty with these girls but also end the cycle of poverty with their kids who would otherwise continue on the streets and become second generation street kids. Emmanuel emphasized.
In terms of physical achievements, ABAN is a fully fledged registered NGO in Ghana and the United States which won the $15,000 Stedman Social Entrepreneurship Award at the 2010 Carolina Challenge. They have acquired six acres of land to build an ABAN village –a multi-purpose facility that would have dormitories, sports complex, and clinic for the girls.
Failure? Yes we have failed from time to time. I think for every girl that leaves the program and goes back to the street is a big failure for us. If a girl comes to us and after two years she goes back to square one, that’s a big failure for us. There is a lot of money that goes into their rehabilitation, as well as time and effort. We’ve had a couple of cases like that; sometimes people just decide they prefer to go back to the streets.
Emmanuel’s role models are his parents, whom he describes as very hardworking people with little means who still gave their children a very good life:
My Dad was a Taxi driver, and my Mum a Nurse, but we went to the best schools they provided basic comforts. They realised the essence of education and pumped their earnings into our education forfeiting the norm which is to own a house and own a car. Our education was their priority.
Emmanuel shares his life lessons: Don’t despair, don’t be anxious. At some point at the University of Ghana, I was getting anxious; a few friends were travelling abroad, getting good jobs, and there was no prospect for me, so I was getting anxious.
The anxiety was turning into a panic attack because I know what it feels like for people to be jobless. It’s not a good feeling; so for anybody in that situation, do not despair. Do the right things, look for the positives and wait for that moment and when it comes, make sure you take it.
To find out more about ABAN, visit: aban.org
*The original manuscript was submitted by Akpah Prince a Ghanaian Blogger and Freelance Writer and has been edited.
© 2014 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.