I’ve decided that this year because of thousands of miles away from family and friends in Canada, I’ll try and give a different type of gift this year.
I want to share a short story about my good friend Vitus.
Vitus was born in 1988 and raised in Kajelo, a village just outside of Navrongo where I currently work. When he was younger, around 8-10 years old he wasn’t interested in education, but his mother and teachers encouraged him and he eventually became one of the top students in his class. His mother cooked good food for him and encouraged him; from then on he never missed class. In Junior High he was the class prefect and taking care of students in class and being the link between masters and students – essentially he was a student leader. In Senior High he was also the class prefect and even the assistant prefect of the entire school.
During his teens he cut firewood and sold it in the market having to walk 20 or more kilometers with a donkey cart, making only the equivalent of about $1 CAD. He did this work before and after school (and weekends and holidays) yet never missed classes. “It’s not easy growing up in the village” Vitus told me. His mother passed away in 2005 when Vitus was 17 years old; he was with his mother until she died. Vitus then took over her household duties and cooked, washed, took care of his younger sister, and other domestic work. People in the village laughed at him doing what is considered “women’s work”, but he didn’t mind because he knew what needed to be done in order to help his family.
Vitus also volunteered teaching primary students in the afternoon after they finished their regular classes, and he also taught 2 subjects at junior high school (also for free). In addition to this, on one old computer he organized a computer class at his home where 15 students would come and learn basic computer skills. He volunteered his time because he didn’t want to sit and do nothing, and he wants everyone to be educated and learn skills and knowledge.
Vitus is the type of person who takes actions into his own hands rather than sitting around feeling sorry for himself and waiting for handouts. Somehow, through side jobs like taking photos and printing posters of Assembly candidates for the upcoming election, printing/typing for university students and faculty, making wedding cards/invitations for someone in Accra and other side jobs, Vitus has managed to pay for his college school fees for this semester. He has also managed to pay 2 years rent on a small one room store where he’s in the process of opening his own business! He managed to accomplish this all while getting admission to school 2 weeks before exams, and passing the 3 exams that he just wrote!
I went with him to see the place and it’s coming along just fine. The steel door was just about finished and ready to be put in, the carpenter was late with making the desk for the computers which is on its way, and Vitus is in communication with someone who is willing to loan him a photo copier until he pays it off.
(Vitus standing proud with his Tamale Polytechnic College shirt in front of his newly established business)
So, Vitus and his good childhood friend will be running a computer training centre here in Navrongo. Vitus, being the charming customer service expert that he is, already has people calling him (teachers, students, business men, etc.) asking for his services, that is, asking for basic computer training. He’s created quite a following of customers from his previous work at Globaltech (an internet café/computer centre), people would even turn away if they found that Vitus wasn’t working that day. He’s made contacts at the junior and senior high schools as well as the university in town. I’m feeling pretty confident (as is Vitus) that this will work. But it’s a risk that he was willing to take, entrepreneurship is a difficult game to play but I have faith in Vitus, and Vitus is a man of faith.
He has worked hard, I mean long hours and long weeks. He would wake very early and take his old motorcycle to work, but there were plenty of times when it broke down and he had to ride his bike for about an hour to and from work. Some nights he’d even close at 11pm or 12am and be back at it the next day for 7 or 8am. So when I mean work hard, I’m talking 12+ hours a day 6 days a week, and the hardest part in my opinion is that he wouldn’t get paid sometimes for up to 3 months. But he still came to work every day, still was friendly as he helped customers, and worked hard even though he wasn’t getting paid.
So this is my Xmas/Christmas/Holiday gift for all of you reading this:
Good news about someone, who has had a tough life and never gave up hope, someone who never sat back and said it was too hard, someone who struggled to help his family when times were tough. With determination, perseverance, a positive attitude, hard work, and the passion to serve and teach people, Vitus finally seems to be reaping the good deeds he’s been sowing since childhood.
Vitus, I know you’ll be reading this online, you’ve done well my friend “Nkwaane”
(Ghanaians usually want to look serious in photos, that’s why we didn’t smile until after the photo was taken)
Happy Holidays from Ghana