When in 2014 false news about Michael Essien contracting the Ebola virus began circulating on social media platforms, the footballer was keen to use the opportunity to activate fundraising plans with both of his charities: Health Africa International (HAI) and the Michael Essien Foundation (MEF) The outbreak had formulated the initial idea; the rumours simply sped up the campaign. Both charities realised from the onset that education about the virus was key. If preventative methods could be shared, it might at the very least help slow down the spread of the virus. After all, people around the world had access to and were sharing a variety of what could only be described as fabricated information, from purported cures to outright fictitious cases of Ebola. They had the means to search and attempt to educate themselves, just not the right content. And, having experienced first-hand how powerful a tool social media could be, the charities began to work on fighting spurious claims about the disease.
Driven by Michael’s wife Akosua and the teams at HAI and MEF, the campaign #UnitedAgstEbola, is in collaboration with Penguin Books and Baron Peter Piot, the Belgian doctor who first discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. The campaign focuses on producing a book, Ebola & You, for students between the ages of 8 and 15 in West Africa. The region is significant and close to the Essiens’ hearts for two reasons:
- To date, it has seen the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus (between 2013 and 2016) in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the peak of the epidemic, over 11,000 people perished, 10% of whom were healthcare workers.
- The Michael Essien Foundation and Health Africa International have always looked at giving back to Michael’s community in Ghana and others like it within the region.
A Night of Hope was the beginning of efforts by both Health Africa International and the Michael Essien Foundation to kick-start awareness and fundraising required to cover the book’s publishing costs. The event was held at Watches of Switzerland, Regent Street, 23rd June, 2015, and both charities had the primary task of reaching £70,000. It promised to be an exciting night, and indeed it was. Stars from around the world were in support of the cause, with footballer Rio Ferdinand, actor Boris Cudjoe and British Member of Parliament, Lord Boateng all lending their support. The soiree featured performances by jazz saxophonist Yolanda Brown, British-based R&B singer Shaun Escoffery and Afrobeats artist, Fuse ODG.
At the entrance, guests participated in the evening’s raffle by purchasing one of 200 locker keys, with only one containing the prize – a stunning Messika diamond jewellery set donated by Frost of London Jewellers. In addition to the raffle, there was a brief documentary that highlighted the Ebola virus as well as the Foundation’s goals, and an auction where guests bid on a collection of treats. The list included: wine tasting experiences in France, a weekend-stay in Monte Carlo with private helicopter city tour, branded Michael Essien watch by Mont Blanc, signed memorabilia from Essien, Messi and Ronaldo, as well as a fine selection of watches, jewellery, and luxury spa treatments from Champneys.
By the end of the evening, approximately £10,000 had been collected, with a further £1,000 received in the days that followed. Then, in December 2015, The Michael Essien Foundation teamed up with Alive & Kicking, raising an additional £3,000.
Efforts in 2015 to tackle the crisis, and hopefully prevent future outbreaks were successful, but, there is still a lot of work that that needs to be done for the Foundation to reach the publishing costs target. Members of the public are encouraged to join in and help ensure that the tragic events of the last outbreak are not repeated. Donations can be made at Health Africa International. If you want to learn more about future events with the Michael Essien Foundation and Health Africa International, you can follow @UNITEDAGSTEBOLA on Twitter.
Nimi Manyo-Plange is content writer and blogger with work experience in the Middle East and West Africa. She calls herself a ‘Ghabritarian’ (Ghanaian, British and Nigerian) and has worked for a TV station, three advertising agencies and one of the world’s largest travel agencies. Semi-dependent on caffeine and chocolate for survival, when not typing away at her computer, you can find her rambling across fields and parks, a camera in her hand as she searches for stunning photographic opportunities
This is an event, which is taking place in London in June 2015 to raise funds for Ebola education in West Africa. They key to Ebola being stopped in its tracks is education and prevention, hence the need to raise funds to play our part
This campaign is being run under The Health Africa International banner to support Global efforts in fighting the fatal Ebola Disease that has put the very existence of some West Africa countries at risk. The Launch supported by the Rt. Hon Speaker John Bercow, Lord Boateng, Hon Keith Vaz MP and the UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening. It brought together humanitarians, Country ambassadors and individuals who are passionate about the eradication of Ebola from West Africa
The second event was also in Ghana with Florent Malouda captaining the world 11 side. Players like Michael Ballack, Emmanuel Eboue, Ricardo Carvalho, Djibril Cisse were all on the plane to Ghana to support the cause.
This maiden event brought together about 60 world and African footballers to Ghana. The World side was captained by Ashley Cole with Michael Essien captaining the Africa side. The event was organised with the African Union in Michael’s capacity as an African Union Peace Ambassador.