Bright Appiah makes merry as he turns 40

BY: Dominic Moses Awiah
Mr Appiah (middle) cutting his 40th birthday cake with some friends and family.
Mr Appiah (middle) cutting his 40th birthday cake with some friends and family.

He is vociferous, fearless and will not stop at even taking on the Government of Ghana if a child’s safety, education or health is compromised.

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His stance on children’s issues can be bullish and sometimes uncompromising because of the passion that drives his advocacy for children.

While many may discover their advocacy muscles later in life, Mr Bright Kweku Appiah, the Executive Director of Child’s Rights International (CRI), found his strength in activism at 21.

In 2001, he led a group of young people to form the National Youth Platform (NYP), a platform that focused primarily on addressing issues that affected the lives and well-being of young people.


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That was the beginning of what would later bloom into a lifetime career of being the poster man of issues concerning children in Ghana.

When his family and friends gathered around him last Sunday to celebrate his 40th birthday, he vowed to spend the rest of his life shaping the dreams of young people, especially underprivileged children.

Twist of fate

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By a rather sad twist of fate, the death of his brother, Mr Alfred Kofi Appiah, the Founder of the CRI, in a road accident on March 19, 2005, would change his life and push him into child advocacy even beyond Ghana.

 Food time at the birthday bash

Leaving a huge space to be filled, he had no option but to take over that responsibility at age 25 and lead the organisation that was operating in a small container near the Adabraka Market in Accra.

With nothing more than the little space and his brother’s vision to count on, he rolled up his sleeves and laced his shoes with a loyal team to turn around the non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has become one of the most forceful child advocacy institutions in the country and beyond.

Fifteen years after he took over the CRI, the team, with the support of a network of friends, managed to move the organisation’s head office to Dzorwulu, near the Fiesta Royale Hotel, while supporting many vulnerable children.

According to him, the best way to invest, is in people, particularly those who cannot pay you back.

Embracing all

Mr Appiah is known for his selflessness and dedication to helping people, not only children. After taking over the CRI, he decided to invest all his time into helping people.

Through the CRI, many children who otherwise would have had their dreams shattered because of economic challenges have been supported to have university education.

Nothing irks him more than state institutions neglecting their responsibilities at the expense of children.

When the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) recently denied more than 200 candidates from the Bunkpurugu–Yunyoo District in the Northern Region the opportunity of writing two papers in this year’s Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), Mr Appiah led the CRI to sue WAEC and the Ghana Education Service (GES).

The end brought smiles to the faces of the affected children, and the GES listened to their plea on behalf of the children to place all of them in senior high schools. A gesture “I will always remain grateful to the GES for”.

Mr Appiah with some close friends.
Mr Appiah with some close friends.

Again, there was this boy from a very remote community without electricity who managed to get good grades, but the system placed him in another village school. Looking at his grades, Mr Appiah took it upon himself to at least change his story. Today, the boy is in one of the topmost secondary schools in the country. “I did that so that the whole community’s story will change,” he told The Mirror.

Simplicity

At first glance, one will consider Mr Appiah as a man of many words, but it does not reflect in his attitude. Simple and down-to-earth, he exudes so much passion about youth development and flashes a lot of smiles.

That attitude to life was one he acquired while in the United States for a conference.

“I went for a conference at Minneapolis in the USA where I met a man. He has his own private jet but judging from how he appeared and interacted with me, I realised nothing on earth should make anybody arrogant or boastful. He was so simple, and since that day I decided to allow simplicity to be my style.

A well-travelled child advocate who has the stamps of more than 60 countries in his passport, he does not let go of the opportunity to engage on children issues on any platform, be it local or international.

Childhood

Growing up at Kibi, the capital of the East Akim Municipal District in the Eastern Region, one would think little Bright, the son of a chief, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but that was not the case.
For a child who was timid and slow, he was considered to be the only child among his siblings who never showed any promise of becoming a great man.

 Mr Appiah receiving blessings from Rev Lawrence Tetteh.
Mr Appiah receiving blessings from Rev Lawrence Tetteh.

In order to position himself well for the future, his father, the late Okonforbour Kwame Sasu II, the Paramount Chief of Tapaman in the Volta Region, sent him to Togo to learn French, but he was quickly brought back after the family realised the poor living conditions he encountered.

Unfortunately for young Bright, he came back to Ghana only to hear the news of the passing away of his father. His elder brother, Mr Alfred Kofi Appiah, who was residing at Kibi, took responsibility for him and brought young Bright to live with him in Accra.

Education and awards

After elementary school, young Bright continued to the Holy Trinity Secondary School and later to the University of Ghana where he had his tertiary education.

His quest to have the law at his fingertips took him to Mountcrest University, Ghana, where he did his LLB in 2015.

Before then, he graduated with a Master of Arts in Human Rights and Education from the University of Education, Winneba in 2007, and followed it up with an Executive Master of Arts in Governance, Leadership, Gender and Development at GIMPA.

He is the winner of two awards--the World Cocoa Foundation Award for the Best Child Rights Activist in Ghana in 2008 and the Ghana Country Award for the Distinguished Child Rights Activist of the Year in 2009.

Mr Bright Appiah speaking at an international conference.
Mr Bright Appiah speaking at an international conference.

A staunch Christian, he is currently the Chairman of the Board of the Perez Kids Ministry.

To Mr Appiah, a man who fails to show honour has not yet passed the test of gratitude. The late Christian Atiemo, Mrs Yaa Peprah Amekuzi, Professor Anamuah Mensah and Madam Frema Opare Addo are few of the many great individuals God has used to bless him.

Hobby

When his advocacy gloves are temporary hanged, he enjoys watching football and gets sad when Spanish La Liga Club, Barcelona, and Kumasi Asante Kotoko lose matches. He is an author of three books.
Rice and goat meat light soup puts a smile on his face any day.