John K. Edoga:

I am 61 years old and have had a very successful life in the United States for the past 43 years. Like most immigrants, I have learned to take certain things for granted. I however cannot and have not forgotten that for the rest of the world, daily living continues to be dramatically different and extremely difficult.

I came to the US on an African Scholarship Program of American Universities, ASPAU and received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College in 1967. I graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1971. My surgical residency was completed in 1976 and I began a very successful and satisfying practice in general and vascular surgery the same year. I retired from the active practice of surgery in November of 2004 and now function as the Chief Executive Officer of a start-up surgical device company called Edrich Health Technologies, Inc.

My life’s ambition is to change my hometown and to bring some of the same opportunities that others have accorded me to the people who have been left behind.

I feel I really do not have a choice in the matter. I was born in Aku, Nigeria. My father was the headmaster of the local elementary school. My mother was a seamstress who trained other young brides in the skills of housekeeping and childcare. My formative years were spent in the same squalor and deprivation that has persisted and maybe even worsened with time.

Shortly after my 10th birthday, our lives were shattered. My father died of complications of perforated appendicitis. What followed after that cataclysmic event, put in the context of my father’s openly stated life philosophy of no persons left behind, helped mold my life, set my priorities and reinforced my belief that all things are possible given sufficient effort and perseverance.

My hometown has been left behind by the march of time! There is no water! The schools are inadequate! Disease is rampant! There are no opportunities for advancement and hope is understandably fading. I returned there in December of 2005 (my last visit had been 25 years ago) and things were even worse than I had dared to imagine.

I know this cycle of poverty and destitution can still be broken as the people have remained resilient and have not yet despaired despite the huge obstacles they have to overcome everyday just to stay alive. I know we can change the future for more than the 100,000 men, women and children who call my hometown their home. We have begun the project with the construction of a public library, which was completed in December of 2005. Our next step is to make safe, reliable potable water readily available in the town. Then the construction of the secondary school will follow. I believe all of this can be finished in 3 to 5 years.

I cannot imagine a greater achievement in my life than to have successfully continued the mission that my father began almost 70 years ago to positively impact the future of my hometown, my birth country and my continent of origin. I dare only to see the process as a continuation not a completion as the need is as vast as the continent of Africa. I hope that when I am gone, my children and grandchildren will continue to pursue this goal of keeping hope alive for future generations everywhere.