Sara Nana Yeboah is a young Social Entrepreneur, Corporate Nurse, Motivational Speaker and Wife at the age of 27. She has also traveled across the length and breadth of Ghana with free health screenings, registering children unto the National Health Insurance Scheme, distributing free school uniforms, painting schools and library.
Below is a chat I had with the Florence Nightingale of Africa about her past, present and dreams on The Journey So Far.
PRINCE: Can you share with us when and where you were born?
SARA: I was born in Germany on the 28th of February 1987 in Hanover to my Ghanaian parents. I moved to Ghana when I was just five and have since been in Ghana.
PRINCE: When and how did you start schooling?
SARA: I started school at age four when both parents were working. I had my primary and Junior High School (JHS) in Saint Mary’s Preparatory School in Sunyani and went to SHS that was 2002-2004 at Sunyani Senior High School. I enrolled myself in the Nursing Training College also in Sunyani. When I was growing up I didn’t want to leave my parents so I was always in Sunyani.
PRINCE: Can you share with us some of the memorable achievements you had when in school?
SARA: when I was in primary school, I used to write a lot of essays and then I was doing debates in junior high school and senior high school I became the vice president for the debaters club for 2 years and became the debating club speaker in my final year in school.
PRINCE: Currently what are some of the things you are doing?
SARA: At the moment I am a critical care nurse at the Ridge Hospital at the medical emergency department, writer, speaker, run debaters arena, a page on Facebook, a wife, singer and I do whole lot of other stuffs.
PRINCE: How did you get to start your social entrepreneurship endeavours?
SARA: The social entrepreneurship efforts started, even when I was a kid because. I used to care a lot about the needy and sick people, when I was growing up as a young girl. My parents went to school and both as pastors with Assemblies of God leave my younger siblings in my comfort so I learnt how to care of the sick, and how to care of people in general. It got to a point I started growing passion for people in need and therefore, when I meet people who are in need, I have the passion either to give them the little things on me or either buy food for them, so that’s how it started until I grew up and became a nurse.
When I was in Sunyani regional hospital, I was at the emergency department, so I used to get a lot of seriously sick people. Some of them come, because probably he or she is mad walking by the road, has just being hit by a car, they have nothing, so sometimes I use my money to buy clothes and other things for them, I also do donate blood free for people, because there are people who donate blood to collect money. Sometimes I help pay medical bills, buy medication for patients, so I think the passion came up when I was growing up. And came more when I started my organisation called the Sangy Nursing Services, as I toured around the country I started seeing people with needs then I decided to find a group of people to help pay the health bills for the seriously ill or needy families, then I started registering children unto the national health insurance scheme (NHIS).
PRINCE: Basically what has been that prioritized inspiration to do all this things?
SARA: Its always about the passion to the job, when I was in secondary school, I wanted to become a medical doctor, I completed school and had a good grade, I applied to the medical school in KNUST in Kumasi, I was called and then my daddy couldn’t pay for my bills because, all my other siblings were also in school. So I decided to go into nursing not because I thought it was the last venture but I decided inwards that I wanted to become one of the best nurses in the country. So I had to learn harder, and decide to write about my dream as a nurse and therefore I drive the passion from my like for the job.
PRINCE: How has the journey been so far?
SARA: I always don’t want to talk about the journey because, it has being a Rolla Costa, sometimes good sometimes bad. But thank God I gain inspiration most at times from, my husband who also believes in my dream and assist me if I need money to buy things for a particular program, currently my outreach programme is been funded by him so I don’t look elsewhere for funds. I never expected the road it to be easier, sometimes you combine Job at Ridge hospital, the Sangy work, and then as a wife, but it has been cool, because it makes you groom and then the next time you organise another project , you become perfect in what you do, so it has never being easy.
PRINCE: Could you share some of those extreme challenges that you have to go through?
SARA: Funding for the project, and then vehicular movement, and sometimes too getting the right people to work with. I have employed nurses I pay; I can’t employ more nurses because I don’t have the money. Because most of my projects are capital intensive, I have to reserve a lot of money to be able to render these projects. And therefore even though a lot of people have expressed interest in participating in the Sangy Nursing Services, I can’t take people as nurses and don’t pay them, so we pray that our finances grow so we can pay a lot of people.
PRINCE: Congratulations for being nominated for the Cecilsons Award, do you actually think you deserve this award?
SARA: I can’t say yes or no because for you the category for nominating somebody has been spread for by your organisation therefore so probably what we are doing you think we need it. But I started Sangy Nursing Services not for an award, seriously; I have a lot of work to do as a human being. I stared with signing only 100 kids unto the national health insurance scheme and now we have signed over 500 kids, and we still want to do more. So I am happy to be a nominee for this award. I think if Cecilsons think we deserve it thank God, but we didn’t start Sangy for an award, never, we want to serve humanity and we want the job to be done.
PRINCE: What have been some of the achievement you’ve chalked with Sangy and other things you do?
SARA: Yeah, it keeps on coming because, last year we were nominated, we had honorary mentions across the whole continent; as we speak, we have had opportunities of writing for magazines across the continent; the latest among them is a magazine called Health Elite in Dubai who wants us on board to be writing article for them. So it’s always not an award per say but we do have honorary mention, when they make you a person of the year or month. The future has been bright but we’ve had a lot of radio and television interviews. Our main passion is to get to the core of the people.
With Sangy, we do a lot of health screening and healthy talk, and therefore our ability to get to the masses so that we can stop a lot of deaths under 35. Stop a lot of children’s death, deaths that are not warranted that is our dream. What we do most is at times go to the community for the health screening, try to tell people the basic things they need to know before they get to the hospital, so for us to be doing this, it is an achievement on its own and I am happy we have being able to get to the hearts of lots of people, very happy.
PRINCE: I know some people might have shared with you impact of what you are doing in their lives, especially young people.
SARA: When we started the Sangy page on Facebook, we try to talk to people, take a topic every month and discuss, so along the years, we’ve talk about heart conditions, diabetes, typhoid fever, hypertensions, and thank God people have related to these topics and people inbox you to tell you what you gave them has helped manage the condition well because they couldn’t have gone to the hospital to talk to the doctor about this condition because they were shy, we have being able to physically discuss it, and I think it is an achievement on its own, and I am really happy about it.
PRINCE: What has been the biggest failure in terms of what you doing?
SARA: Ok, I started Sangy with a full view, I had an idea of what I was going to do as a health organisation and therefore I did not expect to fail because we know that life is only once you don’t have to play with the life of somebody, so what we try to do was to research very well, so I wouldn’t call it a failure, but call it a major setback, you travel across the country and you don’t have accommodation, you have to pay your staff, and you know that the little money you have is to put resources together for whatever you are going to do. So there haven’t been any failure to me per say, because I don’t have a lot of pressure on me to get funding from people, because I have got all my gadgets and My biggest fund is my brain and my ability. So I have to educate myself very well before I get to the community. So for now no financial losses, it’s my own salary, I strategize, and then use it for the people.
PRINCE: Do you think rebuilding Africa in terms of our health sector is possible?
SARA: We have a long way to go, we were even thinking of going across Africa, thank God, Kenya has invited us in April to come to Kenya to start something there for them. What we are trying to do is to gather well equipped health workers who are not so money conscious, who want the health of the people you know, it is about time to talk about not to talk just about money, because I believe that if you set monetary very well, sometimes that will take care of you. Sangy is going this way by trying to educate lots of health workers, to be able to take that mantle, to educate people in the community, so that the pressures in our hospitals will reduce because now every thing in the hospitals are money, if you don’t have money you are going to die apparently, because you cant afford the services of a health doctor, you cant afford the services of quality care but if we are able to teach people on what to do and what not to do, they wouldn’t need money to visit these hospitals. But I think this is the way to go as a health organisation to help grow the continent of Africa.
PRINCE: What are the future plans of Sangy or advice to people on strategies and what they can do to rebuild Africa in terms of the health sectors?
SARA: Sangy is trying to build branches across the continent, we may not necessarily be in the name of Sangy but as at now we are not in a competition with anybody, nobody is in competition with us, what we want to do is to make the health of our people our most important priority, and therefore if we meet a group of nurses, we talk to them.
I am into general health can you pick as aspect of health let say child health, can you pick adult health, can you pick male health or do something on health and we would rebrand and therefore, because we are not in a competition with anybody, we are ready to share ideas, we are ready to sit on the round table and discuss ideas this is what we do working with Sangy, if you do this it is going to help you, if we cant go across the continent, because of probably funding, or financial constraints, we could get nurses in Kenya and train them on how to also build a health organization for the people there, to build a group of nurses or doctors in Botswana and tell them this is what we could do to help a community, we can go on one Saturday, gather people in your community, educate them on conditions they could treat, and in the near future this is what we are trying to do.
PRINCE: What are the future plans of Sangy Nursing Services?
SARA: To go international, to meet the health needs of people, is our topmost priority and therefore wherever we have to go, even the market, we are target children between the ages of one to five years old and the little things they should know. When a child collapses at school and people surround to look at him not knowing what to do, it is time for kids and people to be educated serious, take it like any other topic and discuss, people, the kids, everybody should be involved in. So what we are going to do in 2014 is, we are going to the doorstep of every individual from schools, kindergartens, primary, JHS everywhere to educate them on health issues.
PRINCE: Apart from Sangy, in your personal life what are some of the things you planning to do or you are doing?
SARA: I wanted to go to school last year but I had a little problem, I fell sick I went for surgery, so I couldn’t go to school. I think my life now is basically revolving around what God wants me to do, everyday when I wake up there are different ideas, this time I have decided to completely commit to health needs of my patients at ridge hospital, every step all the way. I have to go for my patients, and personally it is my payer that the number of patients that would die in my hands will be few.
Last year 2013,I made a plan for my life as a nurse to reduce the number of deaths and thank God we were able to reduce it to 25, for the whole year, I mean depending on the ward I am, you hardly have your patients going home alive, because it is a critical care ward, but it means that we did our homework well, we were researching a lot, we were putting things in place for our patients, we were educating colleague nurses, to also be like you so that you can also put things together. This year what we are trying to do is to save more lives than to lose more lives, then to increase my relationship with God, then fellow human beings, and then we form partnerships with organisations that would want our services and to help our young ones and our group of people to be able to build the Africa that we need together.
PRINCE: You have been having inspirations from some people; whether young or old could you share some with us?
SARA: Ok, the first inspiration I draw is always from the God I serve as a Christian who worships with ICGC. We’ve always been told of our priorities, we set priorities, but you know I take inspiration also from my parents, my Pastor, and others, such as Ms Hannah Tetteh, who inspires me a lot, the minister of Foreign Affairs who inspires me from the time I got to know her, but I hope this platform will give me that opportunity to meet her once more and I meant her once but the opportunity I wanted wasn’t the one that came, so inspirations are drawn from God. My parents and most importantly my husband, he inspires me to even go the extra mile every time.
PRINCE: If you should be ranked by Forbes or Times magazine what do you think you will be recognized for?
SARA: I want to recognize as the Florence Nightingale of Africa and a corporate Nurse who can do everything, I don’t want to limit myself, believe in what people say, the fact that you focusing on one thing means you are focusing so follow that one thing. I am a person, I think a lot, it is all about management, how you manage your times and do things well, I always believe that hard work doesn’t break a bone, and therefore whatever you want to do, you can achieve it. Whatever I set my eyes on I achieve it so, I identify myself as a social entrepreneur, and I just want to partner with people in every field, education, religion every aspects of it. The best thing will be as the nurse of Africa, the Florence Nightingale of Africa, as a Corporate Nurse and the rest will take charge.
PRINCE: Any acknowledgements to some special people that have helped you?
SARA: Thank you so much for this opportunity you’ve given to me and the first appreciation is to my parents Pastor and Mrs. Dankwah, they are both pastors with assemblies of God, they have being an inspiration, I remember when I was growing up they push me to the wall. First I thought they didn’t like me, I thought they hated, because every responsibility in the house, I was the one doing it, even though, we were five siblings, they have shaped me to be the better person I am, people ask me how do you combine you, how do you take care of the home, but I think it was about time management, so my parents, my husband; Mr. Godfrey Yeboah and to all those who believe in me especially Cecilsons Africa.
PRINCE: What are your last words to young people out there?
SARA: I believe that if you have a vision the vision can only come to bare if you have the passion. Passion is the most important drive vision takes into action, when you start a business and your business is not working, check yourself well, are you putting the right things in place, and is never going to be an easy road and people will come with sugar-coated words. To register a company in Ghana here is another hell, to get the company running is another hell, what about the youths in villages who are not recognised, the work you put there is never going to be easier, but with the sweat, the blood and the tears, the end will always be perfect for us, so you should keep on fighting, keep on thriving, derive inspiration, from the right people, know what you want, don’t be swayed by anything, walk if you have to walk long distances, you don’t have to start acquiring wealth, cars and all that when you have to invest in your own business, when you start investing in your own business, all other things will come, be focused, it has never been easy but with focus with determination and passion you will make it.
Interview by Akpah Prince