Do What You Love
African Health Now: “Gift of Life” Cocktail Benefit
When Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo left her highly coveted position in the publishing world to run her non-profit organization full time, she made a life change that many considered to be courageous and hasn’t looked back. African Health Now is a community development organization that works to promote and provide information and accessibility to primary health care to women, children and families living across Sub-Saharan Africa. Just in time for her very first “Gift of Life” Cocktail Benefit (with tunes by the legendary D-Nice), Nana talks to In Her Shoes about how she made the transition, valuable lessons she has learned as the leader of a non-profit and how you can support African Health Now on October 20th in New York City:
In Her Shoes: When we met, you work working in the publishing world for the most popular publication for Black women. How did you make your transition from the magazine world to non-profit? What was the inspiration behind this career change?
Nana: Granted, it was a major leap, but the transition wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I started African Health Now while in publishing and for most of its existence I worked at the magazine while running it. But as the organization started to grow, I realized how much our programs were needed and I knew it was something I had to dedicate more time to. Once I made the decision, I wanted to learn how to run a non-profit so I started volunteering and taking classes which then led to me becoming a development consultant to various non profit organizations so that I could see and learn first hand how they work and later use that knowledge to make my organization better. I learned the importance of a board and board development, why a strategic plan was necessary, how to translate program data and various other elements that I then applied to making AHN better.
As for the inspiration, I am not sure if I could pin point because I really loved what I was doing at the magazine, but with each trip to Ghana to conduct our health fairs and with each interaction with our program participants, I kept feeling like there was more. One day I spoke to my mother about it and she simply said “maame (term of endearment), if not you then who will do it?” so I did it. I leaped!
In Her Shoes: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during this transition?
Nana: How much I would miss the magazine’s beauty closet (joking)! No, the biggest lesson is how much of a sacrifice becoming a social entrepreneur is. Now that I am a mother and wife, I realize it even more but on the flip side I know that I am a better woman because of this and a better role model for my daughter. One of the key lessons my parents instilled in us and one that I want to pass on to my daughter, is the importance of social responsibility — if you have the opportunity to help your fellow man or change a person’s life and you don’t, then what are you really doing?
In Her Shoes: Congrats in advance on the success of your upcoming fundraiser for African Health Now. Tell us about the event concept and the message you would like guests to walk away with?
Nana: The goals of the Gift of Life Cocktail Benefit are three fold: we are raising funds to support our on the ground health programs as well as raising seed funding to acquire our first mobile health unit, which we look to deploy in 2018; we are also honoring three dynamic individuals for their various contributions to shaping the narrative about the continent and its people –Kenyan artist & activist Wangechi Mutu (Humanitarian Award), senior Apple music executive Bozoma Saint John (Leadership Award) and podiatric surgeon Dr. Samuel F. Quartey (Health Advocate Award). Overall, we want to educate and engage guests about African Health Now programs and the various ways they can help give the gift of life.
In Her Shoes: Where can In Her Shoes readers purchase tickets?
Nana: Tickets can be purchased at www.africanhealthnow.org/events.