It is a year into the launch of your NGO. You have dedicated so much time and energy towards building it from the ground up. Your NGO’s cause is no ordinary undertaking. It is not one of the many hurriedly put together groups that just wants to do some good for the feel of it. You are very passionate about this thing you are undertaking. Why did you start it in the first place?
7 years ago, an auntie of yours died from a cancer that affected her liver. The doctors said it was Hepatitis. The ailment was something you had heard of before but you never gave it much thought. In fact, most people you know have never given it much thought. But it is deadly and has killed other people you know beside your auntie. So, you started kick started a movement to raise awareness. You were hell bent on getting people informed about cancer and the many variations it manifests itself into.
With a year gone since the launch of your foundation, you decided to throw a little celebration to mark the moment. It was not meant to be filled with pomp and pageantry. After all the work you do revolves around a morose subject. But you do have something to celebrate nonetheless. You have put in one long year of work into something that has certainly yielded some results. People are more aware of cancer than they were before, even if the awareness is marginal.
Naturally, there should be a buy in from the community. They should understand the good that you are doing and grace your one-year anniversary. So, you planned a somewhat grand event with a modest expected guest attendance of 250. You hired a photographer, a poet and even a generator because Dumsor was steadily doing its own thing. The stage was set for the coming year of activities.
A couple of hours after the event is billed to start and barely 10% of the number of expected guests are seated and most of those present are even your family members. You are crushed by the turn of events. It seems like you were wasting your time all this while. The event had to start nonetheless and when it was time for you to deliver the keynote address, you barely made it through the speech. Would you have continued with your work in raising awareness when people did not seem bothered to be aware?
For most of us, the answer is a sure yes but Abdul Samed Zurak, the founder of Zurak Cancer Foundation and the person whose experience was described above is not like most of us. On 27th April, 2014, Zurak Cancer Foundation was established in the house of Alhaji Zurak, a household name in Madina Zongo. The focus of this foundation was to target something that everyone of us is at risk of being a victim to so applause or lack thereof was not going to influence the work that had to be done. It was about sensitizing people and saving lives.
Over the last three years, the foundation has undertaken several screening events, outreaches and educational programs with the goal of getting across to persons most at risk of being victims of cancer. With a current reach of 3500 persons and 2700 out of this number having received direct and indirect impact of the foundation’s work, there is no doubt that this is a group that is doing some amazing work. The group of teeming young men and women drawn from various tertiary institutions have also partnered with medical institutions in the country to provide screening for over 5000 persons. Early detection is one of the surest ways of beating cancer and this is at the core of the group’s work.
On 27th April 2015, Abdul Samed was momentarily at a crossroad. The dilemma he faced was to either quit the work he was doing in literally saving lives because he was not getting the applause he deserved or to soldier on backed by the belief that the inherent worth of what he was doing was all that mattered. Quitting would have been the easier thing to do. Beyond having a small number of people join him for the one-year celebration, he also had a debt hanging around his neck from all the work he had been doing thus far without external funding. But soldiering on sounded more like it.
The foundation currently boasts of about 16 volunteers who have joined forces with Abdul Samed in echoing his message and efforts of raising the level of cancer awareness in the country. Having bagged several nominations and awards in its short existence so far, Zurak Cancer Foundation is steadily etching its name as a leader in health awareness. The good works of the group has earned it local and international acclaim. Abdul Samad was recently selected to be a 2017 Johnson & Johnson Scholar together with 7 others out of a pool of over 2000 applicants. The program honors and gives executive coaching to young leaders and pioneers in the health industry.
The applause Abdul Samad did not get on the 27th of April 2015 reverberated itself in ways he never thought imaginable. It echoed into a vibrant youth led organization that is saving lives and a more honorable grandstanding selection into the Johnson & Johnson Scholar program.