At new event venue Ovation, The GEANCO Foundation held their annual gala, Health and Hope for Africa. It was a night of fundraising and celebration for the work that has been accomplished thus far. More importantly, it was a night to introduce attendees – and reintroduce those who were already familiar with GEANCO’s work – to the organization’s mission and infuse a call to action to support the cause of improving healthcare in Nigeria.
GEANCO is a family affair, and it was made clear at the gala that they welcome others to join their family to work towards their purpose to save and transform the lives of the poor and vulnerable. They currently travel on medical missions to Nigeria performing hip and knee replacements, as well as orthopedic surgeries. They are also a part of the Clinton Global Initiative to screen women and children for anemia.
The organization was started by Nigerian native, Dr. Godwin Onyema, MD in 2005 and his family. Even the organization’s name is a compilation of the initials of each member of the Onyema family: Godwin, Ebele, Afam, Nche & Nma (Mom) and Chukwugozie Onyema.
While in high school in Nigeria, Dr. Onyema was inspired to dedicate his life to medicine by his father and a British missionary doctor who cared for his local community. After graduating from medical school in 1974, he immigrated to the United States with his wife, vowing to return home again to improve healthcare and save lives.
During the speaking portion of the event, Dr. Onyema thanked his children for making the choice to help fulfill his dream. They made the decision to carry on the lineage of improving public health in Africa.
“My children could have easily said, ‘Dad and Mom, the problem in Africa is yours not ours. You go figure it out. We’re Americans’. But they didn’t do that. They’ve been with us, committed and dedicated. And they have worked beyond what I could have ever imagined.”
The gala began with a cocktail reception where guests dined on hors d’oeuvres and sipped on libations with Afrobeat music being spun in the background by a DJ. Also featured was a chance for attendees to send messages back to Nigeria, which included photos taken in a photo booth. There was also a silent auction and raffle for an assortment of experiences, autographed sports memorabilia, and African artwork. Towards the end of the formal presentation, there was a special performance featuring an aerial dancer with an acoustic rendition of “Wide Awake”, originally sung by pop singer Katy Perry.
GEANCO’s long-term goal is to establish a world-class hospital in Nigeria to be named in the memory of Dr. Godwin Onyema’s father, Augustine. Once again, the concept of family comes into view.
“I tell people that they are donating to a story,” said Afam Onyema prior to the seated program. “This is my father’s dream, something that he’s wanted to do from when he was in high school and fell in love with medicine.”
If there was anything other than the concept of family to take away from the evening, it was the eager drive to motivate people to act and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Afam said,” We’re excited about what we’re doing and we want more people to become engaged in that.”