William and Genevieve Amuna are still yet to come to terms with the right tense to use when asked about the size of their nuclear family, or precisely, the number of their children.
Their tongues were accustomed to saying they “have” three children. They said it without consulting their brains, for it was a fact that needed no effort to remember. That was the default answer. It was true.
And they needed no further explanation.
But that changed on July 24, 2021. One of the three handsome and extremely intelligent young men they birthed and groomed for over three decades of their marriage left the family in the most painful of circumstances.
Time, they say, heals. The universality of this fact may be incontestable, but what will be difficult—and perhaps impossible—is a consensus on the amount of time needed to heal.
Some losses are almost unhealable. At best, their crushing effect could be lessened by the healing balm of time. Total healing may be difficult in some instances because the constant reminders of the heartache may be too glaring to ignore or forget.
For the Amuna family, this has been their struggle in the past 12 agonizing months. The beautiful family portraits that adorn their walls constantly remind them of the void that cannot be filled by time or anything else.
The thousands of golden memories that have been carved into their hearts like giant monuments cannot be toppled by time. Not in their lifetime! In those portraits, no software can edit Andrew Mbabilla Amuna out of the eyes of the fertile minds of the family.
Andy, as they called him, was a star. To his family and friends, he was a Sirius, the brightest star in the night’s sky. He radiated love and care and constantly wore a smile that could outshine the sun with its warmth. And he was still accelerating at a pace that both pleased and surprised his parents.
Andy’s parents had their doubts about his academic performance when he started school. They thought he was an average student. They thought he was too playful and did not trust the impact of their own advice to him until his final results in basic and secondary education told them to relax and enjoy the unbroken rhythm of excellence.
Tema Parents’ Association School and Achimota School, where Andy had his basic and secondary education, had, undoubtedly, produced a worthy ambassador.
When William Amuna (an accomplished engineer with the Volta River Authority and later CEO of the Ghana Grid Company) was invited to be the commencement speaker at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology(KNUST), Andy graduated that day with first class honours in Electrical Engineering.
After graduating from the KNUST, Andy did his National Service and worked briefly with Eni Ghana before moving to the United States to further his studies.
At the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, he graduated top of his class in 2020. He was the one chosen to give a speech on behalf of the graduate school at the virtual graduation ceremony.
He worked as an associate engineer at Scheweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) from May 2020 to July 2021 when he exited the unpredictable stage called life, without the faintest hint.
When Andy passed, his academic and professional excellence and exploits were almost forgotten in the tributes that poured in from both Ghana and the United States. Those who knew him focused on a more pronounced quality—Andy’s humanity. His love for others, his selflessness and his desire to uplift others were as inseparable from his personality as the perpetual smile he wore.
One legacy of Andy’s humanity is the 80-bed capacity Robert and Cecelia Amuna Children’s Ward in the Bongo District Hospital in the Upper East Region. Before that ward was built, children and older women were cramped into the dilapidated 40-bed capacity female ward of the hospital.
The head of the hospital, Dr. William Gudu, says the hospital was compelled to put up to three children on one bed during the peak periods of the year. When it was too overcrowded, they referred some children who needed admission to the regional hospital since there was no other health facility in the district that had beds.
Dr. Gudu said some parents would leave the facility but fail to take the children to the referral facility for various reasons, including cost. “After a day or two, you would be told that the child is dead,” he said.
When Andy saw my news item about the situation on Joy FM, he called his father to say the condition of the children was unacceptable and that something ought to be done about it. William Amuna said Andy kept piling up pressure until he was compelled to act. He mobilized his siblings and, together with the support from friends, they built the 80-bed capacity children’s ward.
Dr. Gudu says since the ward became operational in 2019 the hospital has never been compelled by space to refer a child to the regional hospital. He also says the hospital is now able to admit moderately ill children who require admission but would have been asked to go home in the past for lack of space.
The effect of this, he says, is that the ward has stopped some avoidable deaths among children who would have been turned away in the past.
Andy’s friends say even while he was away in the U.S., he was always among the first to contribute to any cause to help others. He was looking to make his own money and take charge of the kinds of humanitarian enterprises he pushed his father to undertake. But, as he said in his graduation speech, “Life does not always go as planned.”
The Amunas are yet to recover from the loss, but they believe the best way to honour Andy’s memory is to continue his legacy. That is why the Andy Amuna Foundation promises to uplift hundreds and touch thousands of young lives.
The family did not touch the donation that was given during Andy’s funeral. They used the donation as the seed money for the foundation.
At 4pm tomorrow (July 30, 2022), family, friends and well-wishers of Andy will converge at the Achimota School to launch the Andy Amuna Foundation. The foundation will use education as a tool to empower children whose promising futures are threatened by poverty.
The board secretary of the Andy Amuna Foundation, Mrs. Monica N. A. Senanu, says opportunities will be open to all Ghanaian children, but emphasis will be put on the sciences. She says the foundation will also aim to augment the infrastructural challenges in the education sector.
One of the maiden steps will be the construction of a model basic school in Andy’s deprived home community of Dua in the Bongo District. That school will have a well-equipped library, ICT centre and all the facilities needed to enhance teaching and learning.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”
Andrew Mbabilla Amuna lived only 27 years. But even in death, society will gain from his life. Indeed, he lived well.
May his legacy, the Andy Amuna Foundation, be the seed from which hundreds of his kind will sprout, flourish and make Ghana and humanity better than Andy left it.