In the next six weeks, a massive event is being organized by Winneba United to honor a hero, Mr. R. C. Ekem, the Managing Director of Ekem Art Pottery Ltd, Winneba. Mr. Ekem, once upon a time, was a lifeline to many individuals and organizations in Winneba.
I completed Winneba Secondary School in 1994. While in school, I was once taught by one Mr. S. O. Larbi. Mr. Larbi was a strong member of the Winneba Assemblies of God Church, and a member of the Full Gospel Men’s Fellowship International. He was Mr. Ekem’s friend. Upon graduation from Winnesec, Mr. Larbi introduced me to him, and told him about my life challenges.
In February 1995, Mr. Ekem offered me a job in his company, as an Accounts Clerk, and within two months I became one of his most trusted staff, handling payroll, petty cash, and internal payments.
I received my first ever salary from him. I worked for nearly two years before leaving the company to further my education at the University of Ghana.
While working with him, I learned a lot of lessons from him as a person: his humility, generosity, and commitment to issues dear to his heart. He was a man of few – very few – words, but also a man of many steps, many acts, many actions, many doings.
A staunch Methodist, in whose house Saint Paul’s Methodist Church was started. The last time I visited Saint Paul Methodist Church, he was distributing leaflets! Wow! He was happily, and innocently, youthfully, unassumingly distributing church program leaflets.
While working for him, I saw, on a daily basis, people from all walks of lives coming for help, and he helped so many. As his accounts clerk, I saw the money given to those who came to him, for everything from school fees to medical bills, gospel events, church harvests, and many different shades of needs.
There were requests for graduation programs for hairdressers, tailors, carpenters and many more of such. Interestingly, while the associations of the above were making requests, the individual graduates were also making requests for assistance! In fact, some of the requests, to me, were too ridiculous, but Mr. Ekem still insisted I pay them. He was so kind, so much so that I thought some people were exploiting his kindness.
Ekem Yard, as we all called it, was for several years the venue for virtually every socio-religious program in Winneba. It was the venue for the meetings of Dress Makers Association, Hairdressers Association, Carpenters Association, Women’s Aglow meetings, Full Gospel meetings, and Winneba Town Christian Fellowship. Most church plantings, all-nights, revivals, and crusades started from Ekem Yard. There were massive attendance for all these groups during their meetings. Many chairs, tables, equipment, tools were broken, stolen, lost during some of such meetings, and they became loses to the company.
I remember that was the first venue I met Evangelist Douglas Kanko, when he was then a member of the Assemblies of God Church in Adenta. That crusade he held in collaboration with the then African Christian Mission, another organization that Mr. Ekem helped by securing the land on which they had their church.
Throughout the two years I worked with him, the then Scripture Union President, Mr. Jude Hammah, held his monthly official phone calls in Mr. Ekem’s office, on his phone, and these phone calls sometimes lasted for hours. These phone calls happened each month! I do remember those phone calls, because I was paying the bills.
Unfortunately, and I was always sad about it, most of those Mr. Ekem helped did not bother to come to thank him for the help they received. Many of them came back to ask for more help even though they did not show appreciation, and he gave it to them, again!
Today he is officially on retirement. A bird whispered to me that he is 73 years old. But he still works; he is still physically very strong and active, active at work, active in church, active with his grand children. He is still active with Full Gospel. But I imagine he is no longer able to give as much as he used to.
I’m afraid Winneba community is beginning to forget this man – R. C. Ekem.
It’s been twenty years since I worked with him. It appears to me that many people, especially the young ones, do not know or remember “Mr. Ekem,” and what he had done for the people of Winneba. Even the adults who know him have not bothered to remember what he stood for in Winneba.
Having been in his accounts section, and knowing the conditions of almost all those who received help from him, I can say with a high degree of certainty that there could be dozens of people who would have died if not for Mr. Ekem’s benevolence. There could have been dozens of people who might not have completed their education if not for his generosity, and many more who would have faced greater challenges, had he not been selfless.
If we are to encourage more people to help others in need, we need to appreciate those who helped in the past, and I want Mr. Ekem to know that I appreciate what he did for me.
Mr. Ekem gave me my first job after secondary school, which is the reason I was able to save to start a farming business. It’s the reason why I was able to save to go to the university, which is the reason why I was able to pay my mother’s medical bills. At one point, Mr. Ekem paid for my mothers hospital bills – I have reminded him about this several times but he doesn’t seem to remember his own giving.
We do not have to remember generous people only at the time of their generous days, or only at the point when we needed their help. The likes of R. C. Ekem must be known to all, and be written in the minds of children, youth and elders.
Gratefulness is a virtue that must be encouraged in all generations. There are several hundreds of people who are wealthy, and they prefer to use their wealth for big parties, opulent show-off, sophisticated lifestyles, and self-abundance. They stage a few acts of kindness to self-glorify themselves, to feel good in themselves.
But we need to appreciate those who choose to spend their resources on others, in such a genuine quest to help them out of sufferings and desperations. Such people, in my opinion, need to be celebrated, not only when they are actively giving, but even when they are no longer able to give. Society must demonstrate that humanity is worth dying for. Society must demonstrate that the merit of receiving and continuous receiving, goes with the acts and arts of gratitude.
Gratitude should not only be given at the time of receipt, but long after the circumstances of need and of desperation have been taken care of. Therein lies the real gratefulness. Grateful people are enduring people, people of faith, people with fellow-feeling, people of self-denial.
People who believe in humanity give out of what they have, and give out of what they do not have, to people in need. It requires a lot of sacrifice to be a giver. Sometimes givers give, not because they have too much, but because they have faith and conviction. Mr. Ekem is an epitome of human selflessness, a gift to human faith, a human in himself, but a giant in his spirit of giving.
The maiden edition of this R. C. Ekem Cup which is organized in his honor, will start on Saturday August 8, 2015, and end on Sunday September 13, 2015. There will be matches played every Saturday and Sunday until the final game. The official opening match will be played on Sunday, August 9, 2015. Mr. Ekem will kick the first ball and to speak to the media. There are six teams participating in this tournament, including Winneba United, a second division team I have started in Winneba.
All matches relating to the cup will be played at Winneba United Park, in Sankor, Winneba. More information could be obtained on www.winnebaunited.org. Those who wish to receive updates both of the cup and the team itself could like Winneba United on facebook.
The winning team will receive two thousand Ghana cedis (GHC 2,000). There shall be several other prizes. I have set aside an extra two thousand Ghana cedis (GHC2,000) for Mr. Ekem to donate to the charity of his choice.
My company, Run-OFF Ltd, the operators of Run-Off restaurant at Winneba Junction, and the operators of Run-Off electronics based in Accra, are the main sponsors of the R. C. Ekem Cup. My non-profit, Challenging Heights, is also supporting the tournament in kind.
I would like to use this medium to, once again, thank Mr. Ekem for giving me my first salary and for teaching me a life lesson - a lesson of humanity, and of richness of giving. I wish him a healthy long life of fulfillment and of good energy. May he continue to be the light he raised, and may he continue to be the life he lived.
James Kofi Annan
(A former worker, Ekem Art Pottery Ltd, Winneba)
Source: James Kofi Annan/ email: [email protected]
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