In what has been observed as a positive shift, pentecostal churches, especially those with a charismatic hue, have, while maintaining an emphasis on getting people to heaven, succeeded in rebranding themselves as social and political campaigners, contributing to the betterment of their communities.
One such charismatic intervention is what has gained popularity as Central Aid, the charity outreach of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC).
Inaugurated by its founder, Dr. Mensa Anamua Otabil, on December 29, 1988 initially as Central Education Trust, it set out to offer financial assistance to brilliant needy Ghanaians for their secondary, technical and vocational education.
On the educational scholarships front alone, beneficiaries have increased in number from the initial intake of 52 in the 1989/90 academic year to over 6,000 students from varied family, ethnic and religious backgrounds at the end of the 2018/2019 academic year.
In a video documentary on the scheme, a former beneficiary, Mr. Benny Fiifi Ashun, currently the Marketing Manager of GHACEM Ltd, testifies that though he passed the Common Entrance examination with very good grades in 1998 and gained admission into his first choice school, the Mfantsipim School in Cape Coast, his father passed away just about that time and that threatened the pursuit of his secondary education.
Through Central Aid, he entered the Mfantsipim School for his secondary education from where he continued, first at the Wesley College and then the University of Ghana.
Once a while, in special circumstances, needy students are helped through tertiary education. One such case is that of Dr. Ebenezer Otu Anoba, a medical practitioner who received financial assistance from Central Aid in 2012 when he was suddenly faced with financial challenges in his second year at the Ghana Medical School.
The board of the scheme considered him as a special case and provided financial assistance for him to stay on the programme till he finally completed in 2014.
With the introduction of government’s free Senior High School (SHS) policy in the 2017/2018 academic year, ICGC has, with effect from the 2018/2019 academic year, brought to an end its 30-year-old educational scholarships for secondary, technical and vocational training.
The concept of educational scholarships remains intact. With effect from the 2019/2020 academic year, the church has repackaged the scheme for brilliant needy tertiary students. The initial intake of 105 beneficiaries are currently in Level 200 at the Central University.
ver the years, however, and away from academics, Central Aid has expanded its scope of operations to cover more social interventions.
For examples, the ICGC, through Central, has been supporting institutions in the health, education and social welfare sectors of the country.
In 2020, it donated GH¢100,000 to the National COVID-19 Trust Fund to support the government’s fight against the pandemic in Ghana.
A year earlier, in 2019, Central Aid donated three electro-convulsive therapy machines, popularly known as “miracle machines”, to the Mental Health Authority (MHA) for distribution to the Accra, Pantang and Ankaful Psychiatric Hospitals to help patients with severe or treatment-resistant depression, depressive or bipolar disorders.
Financial assistance to the Children’s Cancer Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital every month has been ongoing since 2011.
Similar assistance has gone out to the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra, the Ghana Heart Foundation, the Plastic Surgery Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and Mamocare Ghana (breast cancer screening project) at various times to support health care in the country.
The Osu Children’s Home in Accra has been a beneficiary too. In 2007, Central Aid provided the home with a two-storey 50-bed fully furnished boys hostel with state-of-the-art e-learning centre, a staff flat, dining room, storeroom, sick bay and washrooms.
The Central Aid charity is not limited to Accra. In 2004-2005, it renovated a three-classroom block for the Akufful-Krodua Catholic Junior Secondary School in the Central Region.
Through the ICGC local assemblies, Central Aid renovated the Mexico 1 Junior High School in Tema in 2011, donated an incubator and essential medical supplies to the West Gonja Catholic Hospital at Damongo, provided a computer laboratory with internet connectivity for the Longoro Senior High School and a fully furnished ICT centre with internet connectivity for the Mampong School for the Deaf.
Under the church’s social and community development initiatives, Central Aid has executed development projects in underprivileged and under-served communities.
The most significant of these have been the construction of 20 boreholes fitted with hand-pumps for 19 communities in the Ga West Municipal Area in 2010; construction of classroom blocks, teachers’ flats, ICT facilities, public toilet and sanitation facilities, sports and recreational facilities and the provision of streetlights, employable skills training, security lights for the Baka Ano and Zongo communities in Sekondi; provision of street lights at the Bogoso Chapel square and donation of school furniture to the District Assembly J.H.S. at Bogoso.
Pastor Mensa Otabil sums up the heartbeat of Central Aid: “The Church of Jesus Christ is the bridgehead of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Thus, the church has a Divine mandate and responsibility to demonstrate the wisdom and creativity of God in providing solutions to the issues of poverty, deprivation, ignorance and diseases plaguing humanity”.