H.E. Mrs Lordina Mahama’s speech at the 170th commencement ceremony at Fordham University
Thank you very much for the introduction.
To the President, Father MacShane,
The Board of Trustees,
I bring you warm greetings from the good people of my lovely country, Ghana- and also from my husband, the President.
It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me, to share this important day with the graduating class of 2015.
This is a University that has a good history and a background of working for its community.
Fordham was established and founded on the principles of the Catholic doctrine. I admire Fordham for a number of reasons including your location- here in the Bronx.
Maintaining your presence here all these years, and your Jesuit principles encourage your students to challenge themselves and strive for excellence in their lives.
The question I have asked myself since I received your invitation is, “what is it that has distinguished my organization and myself to earn such a call up, to be the keynote speaker at today’s Ceremony?
In looking for answers, it led me to reflect on the work of my foundation and our partners. Have we done enough to deserve today’s recognition?
The simple conclusion I come to is that it might be about our humanity- the ability in our own little way, to respond to the needs of the society in which we live and work.
At the Lordina Foundation, we hold the view that “the more we share, the more we have”. It is this that inspires us to work even harder to improve the lives of
our fellow citizens.
And I am personally motivated, thanks to the recognition by Fordham, to go out and do more for my people and society.
As we disperse from here, we must define the relationship we want to have with our communities and our people.
Many of us will find the definition of ourselves in the careers we choose as scientists, social workers, religious leaders, etc.
But what is important, ladies and gentlemen, is our sense of fellow feeling, both at work and also in our spare time.
You must make an effort to lend a hand to others, especially those who are less privileged than us.
After all, the holy book say, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me”?
It is common for us to shake hands and embrace to physically express how we feel towards each other.
But the most significant element of human interaction is what flows from kindness.
Kindness is a demonstration of empathy and fulfills the commandment to love thy sister as thyself.
As you step into the world, one finds that life provides you with opportunities to show empathy and human kindness.
No matter how busy you may be or how important your work is, you can, and must not forget to extend a helping hand to those in need.
Such endeavours are truly priceless.
I have a number of such experiences in the course of my activities as President of the Lordina Foundation.
Empathy led me to the Gambaga Witches Camp, a place of refuge in the northern part of my country for elderly women accused of witchcraft and banished
from their communities.
This situation is not a good one. But in many parts of Africa, failure and misfortune is attributed to evil forces such as witchcraft. From unemployment, poverty, disease, barrenness, inability to find a spouse, mental illness right down to the ultimate, which is death, all these are attributed to supernatural manipulation of witches.
On my first visit to the camp I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wept uncontrollably. The camp reflected a classic example of society’s ignorance and loss of humanity towards others.
The women in their old age, feeble and in need of support do not deserve to be left to fend for themselves.
After so many years of being good wives and mothers, they deserve to be surrounded by a loving family, as is the custom of African traditions.
My Foundation therefore decided to support these women and to make life easier for them.
We have supported them with food donations, clothing and other items of humanitarian aid.
Each visit brought new joy and smiles to their faces.
That smile, that look of gratitude and love is the reward we receive as givers and exceeds anything money can buy.
My interaction with the elderly women of this camp is my most highly priced memory.
What started, as an effort to provide food and humanitarian support has transformed into assisting them with livelihood support.
We are facilitating and supporting the construction of a vocational training centre with accommodation facilities to help train the women to be financially
Any time I receive update on the progress of work on the witches’ camp project, I feel a sense of fulfilment.
I feel a sense of my humanity. This is what we must live for, to be each other’s keeper.
As part of our philanthropy at the Lordina Foundation, we visit a number of orphanages to provide various forms of humanitarian assistance.
Most orphanages in Ghana try to provide a home for these unfortunate children as best as they can.
Nothing can replace the warmth and care of a parents love and yet we must work to make life worth living for these unfortunate little ones.
Our assistance in terms of food, provisions, toys, and clothes helps to make life a bit easier for these children.
The Lordina Foundation has also been involved in various advocacy works including the prevention of the spread of HIV, cervical and breast cancers.
Since the year 2012 I have worked in close collaboration with the Ghana AIDS Commission to create awareness among pregnant women to avoid transmission of HIV to their yet unborn children.
This has been a very successful campaign and has led to the provision of drugs at subsidized rates to persons living with HIV in Ghana.
This has been responsible for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV within a 5-year period.
There is joy in looking into the beautiful eyes of an HIV-free baby, born to an HIV positive mother.
The stare you get from the little innocent eyes is enough reward for all our efforts.
The many women who avoid breast and cervical cancers every year through our screening programmes, awareness and advocacy, and our championing of anti-H.P.V. vaccines for girls, is a reward greater than any.
Opportunities are presented to us at every stage in life and with every opportunity comes a pedestal on which to stand to do more for not only for ourselves, but also for others.
Even as we make our lives better every day and see ourselves advance in education, finance, health, etc. we should not forget to advance also in the very thing that defines us, our humanity.
Thank you for this recognition, thank you for this opportunity, thank you for this honour. It is an honour I dedicate to the hardworking women and the children of Ghana.
Thank you for your attention.