Personal Empowerment not Enough

Courage Award Winner Seeks Social Change in His West African Homeland

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah of Ghana was recently presented with the 2006 National Courage Award. Since 1980, Courage Center has presented the National Courage Award to recipients who have made a significant contribution to the health, welfare and rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

Yeboah was born with a severely deformed right leg. Individuals who have a disability in Ghana, West Africa, are often poisoned or left to die by their families. Those who are not poisoned or left for dead are often hidden away or spend their lives begging on the streets. Of the 20 million people in Ghana, two million people have disabilities.

Yeboah is well on his way in accomplishing his mission to change the destiny of individuals with disabilities in Ghana forever. He is the subject of a documentary film, Emmanuel’s Gift (narrated by Oprah Winfrey), and has dedicated his life to changing the perception and treatment of people with disabilities. Against the odds, he is opening minds, hearts and doors and creating social and political change throughout his country.

In 2002, to gain the attention of his country, Yeboah decided to ride across Ghana on a bicycle he received from the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He had mastered pedaling with only one leg and undertook his important journey, which was documented in newspapers and on the radio. By the time he reached his destination, he was a hero.

In 2003, he was given a brand new life when he was evaluated and fit for a prosthetic leg. The next year, he participated in a ceremony at the King’s palace in Kibi, Ghana, where he awarded educational scholarships to children with disabilities and presented sports wheelchairs to athletes with disabilities.

His goals today include building a state of the art sports academy for athletes with and without disabilities, employing people with disabilites, organizing a team of athletes with disabilities to represent Ghana in the 2008 Paralympics Games in Beijing and eventually running for a seat in Parliament.

The Courage Center Gala also included the presentation of The Jay and Rose Phillips Awards. These awards honor people with disabilities who have achieved success in their chosen careers and help to create awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The 2006 Phillips Awards winners were Timothy Helseth, Loan Servicing Supervisor with Wells Fargo, Lynnette Lijewski, Relocation Service Planner with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Rebecca Noble, Retail Supervisor with Cabela’s, Scott Rickford, Financial Advisor with Oakridge Financial and Paul Van Winkel, Public Service Assistant at the Hennepin County Library-Ridgedale.

Medtronic employees from the internal employee resource group ABLED (Awareness Benefiting Leadership and Employees about Disabilities) dedicated their time and energy as volunteers to assist in making the Courage Center Gala, which took place at Medtronic World Headquarters in Fridley, a huge success.

The 500-plus attendees enjoyed dinner and a silent auction, as well as music from the group “Up with People,” on August 26. All proceeds from the evening went to support the mission of Courage Center’s Sports and Recreation programs.