Airtel’s Touching Lives has been on our TV screens for nine weeks now. It has been nine weeks of insightful stories on the truly remarkable acts of bravery, kindness, compassion, love and humanity by ordinary people.
The series have thus far told what could simple be tagged as “ordinary people, doing extraordinary deeds”. Airtel’s Touching Lives, which is running on TV3, Metro TV, GH One, Viasat 1, Adom TV on Multi TV, Homebase TV on Smart TV and TV Africa, has received some rave reviews from viewers since it hit the screens on March 11. The chorus of responses from viewers has ranged from “I cried when I watched it” through “I thought my situation was bad until I watched it” to “Thank you Airtel”.
Stories so far
The season started with the shocking story of Rebecca. Ten years ago, Rebecca took over the care of her sister’s family after she ‘died of frustration’. This was no normal undertaking. Of the 6 sons, five are severely handicapped. The three older brothers are unable to care for themselves at all but thanks to Rebecca’s intervention the younger two are attending a “normal” school and are able to perform a lot of their own personal tasks. The sixth brother Vincent is on a tuition scholarship at the Catholic University in Sunyani.
His grades are good. He believes he was born “normal’ to help his brothers out. The key to this is a good job. The boys’ father is of no help, he lives nearby and has fathered a further 11 children. He shows no interest and gives no support to his first 6 sons. Despite the problems this family faces, there is a happy positive feeling when spending time with them as they banter about the latest soccer results or talk about their school day.
Rebecca’s story brought tears in the eyes of many. Officials of Airtel Ghana have said that it is not their desire to make people cry once they watch Touching Lives. They say they are just bringing to the fore the truly humbling story of people who are doing things most people did not think could be done or do not have the heart to do them. If you feel so touched by it then they hope it spurs all of us into action.
The second episode told the story of Ilyasu and his Bahass Foundation. The Bahass foundation has existed for 7 years now and is entirely funded by Ilyasu’s business interests (He has four herbalist shops). With his team of 30 volunteers, viewers watched as they bathed and fed the mentally challenged, distributed medication, organized recreational activities and religious services and run awareness programs. There are 128 registered beneficiaries of his program. He has been honoured by the community for his works and has managed to re-integrate 3 mentally challenged people back into the community. The third episodes saw two stories all from the north of the country where a retired teacher sought the assistance of Airtel Ghana to have the dilapidated dam of his village rebuilt, plus the story of the 8 cobblers of Bolgatanga.
Yvonne, a teacher of the Salvation Army School at Adaklu Abuade just outside of Ho wrote to Airtel Ghana about some children she’s been teaching under trees for a year now. Some of the kids carry chairs and desks from the church while others have to make do with tree roots and their laps. They are the mercy of the weather. Their story was captured in the fourth week of Airtel’s Touching Lives. In episode five, viewers met Mr. Alhasan, a 41 year old man married with 2 children. A tailor by profession, his true passion is football and he is singlehandedly trying to improve the quality of life of his town by forming a local football club.
He has also cleaned up the streets as well as a lot of young criminals now find favour in football as opposed to smoking wee and robbery. Then viewers were let into the life of Emmanuel, a show repairer who needs support to help to establish a shoe making shop so he can be able to cater for the entire family’s upkeep. Also in the same episode was the story of a brilliant 14 year old boy who wrote to Airtel Ghana to come to the aide of his unemployed father and support the family to make ends meet.
Eight years ago, Eric’s father went to sea and never returned. He is now a21 year old orphan taking care of 8 orphans including his two young sisters as well as aiding 7 others and 2 widows in the community. All this he does on his meager monthly salary of 60 cedis that he gets from his job teaching technical skills. He rents a single room for the 8 of them and there is almost literally nothing in it. They survive on 2 meals a day and all are in school. Four of them were street kids before meeting Eric. They needed a miracle which Airtel provided in episode seven.
In episode eight, viewers watched in awe as Rebecca speaks of how her mother died in childbirth, leaving her the role of mother to her 3 siblings. She speaks also about how two months later and two days before his wife’s funeral, Rebecca’s father was travelling in order to finalize funeral arrangements only for armed robbers to set upon the minibus he was travelling in and he was shot dead and the money stolen from him. She is left to cater for her siblings and to make ends meet. The latest episode tells the story of how Mary, who was nearly drawn to take her life, has formed a foundation with her own resources to prevent others from doing same.
Sustainability of Support is Key
There has been a lot of talk on the need for corporate bodies to offer CSR support that are sustainable. In all the episodes screened so far on TV, the key emphasis has been to offer support to beneficiaries that will not only make the most impact in their lives, but will also be sustainable over time. It feeds directly into what stakeholders have advocated over time. “You will notice that we are not doling out cash or giving freebies but we ensure that beneficiaries receive support which can generate income for them in the long term”, Managing Director of Airtel Ghana Philip Sowah reiterates. The key is for Airtel is to ensure that the support given out will turn the lives of beneficiaries around for good.
From the responses received from the public in general, one of the key drivers of Airtel’s Touching Lives seem to have been met as people are driven to do a bit more for their neighbours and their communities. “We show Airtel’s Touching Lives on TV not as a marketing tool. We want people to watch what others in even more trying situations are doing not just for their families but for the communities so they learn from it. That call to action is more important to us than anything else”, Mr. Sowah added.