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A little unassuming plant stood budding under the African sun, her sibling buds scattered around her, all of them, taller than her. She was the tiniest. She was comfortably swaddled in layers of green healthy leaves, buried within the thorns of their mother’s stems and waving her head gently. The elements favoured her. A small brush of the frivolous wind, a small drizzle of rain, sometimes a splash, a dash of dazzling yellow sunshine, the soil she grew in was rich in nutrients; everything she needed to bloom. Tiny butterflies fluttered around her, wished they could practice their feeble suckles on her. 5 The Birthday Journal

“ s can be deduced from my name, ‘Helwan,’ which means, ‘Sweetness of Heaven,’ I come from a devout Muslim background. Born on 9th March 1983, to the late Ismail Atta-Boakye and Rosemond Hawa Peprah, of Ashanti and Eastern Regions descent, respectively. I was the last in a family of five children. Our family was very nuclear and shielded. Perhaps this was the only snag in my upbringing because I was very reserved as a child, which sometimes came off to people as being aloof. We had a very happy childhood. My mom was a secretary by profession and loved to bake, cook, and plant vegetables in our backyard. I have very pleasant memories of being dressed up nicely for ‘Our Day,’ carrying my basket of goodies, of which the cake was most special, and walking proudly to school, feeling so on top of the world. We never lacked. As a child, I loved being at home and loved cooking. I was a normal, playful child but was also very quiet, which is probably my nature. I may have been the youngest and was very much loved, but I think I must have taken on a bit of responsibility, for I carried myself in a certain way and must have come across as ‘fussy’ to my two older sisters, who would have a tiff with me every now and then. They probably thought I was a snitch because I was the ‘go-to person,’ whenever my mom wanted information on what had transpired in her absence. I told it like I saw it. Actually, I like to think that I was the one who could be trusted, in terms of getting things done around the house when we were kids. Our family was a close knit one, but of all my siblings, I was closest to my sister Ramlat, probably because of our closeness in age. I have heard her tell people that we were like a team. That, I was her chatter partner. That is so true; people saw us together and went like, “Ah there they are at it again,” and we two would burst out laughing. Even ourmother knew that A As a child, I loved being at home and loved cooking. I was a normal, playful child but was also very quiet, which is probably my nature. 1. US and Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to reduce tensions and avoid nuclear war risk. 2. Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer, marking the beginning of personal computing era. 3. Margaret Thatcher won a landslide victory in UK elections and Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín became the President of Argentina through democratic elections. 4. Tragedy marked the year with the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut (63 casualties) and the US Marine barracks bombing (241 US military casualties). 5. Pop culture highlights included “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” and the introduction of the first mobile phones by Motorola. A Year of Epic Shifts and Unforgettable Moments that Changed the World Forever 1983 6 The Birthday Journal

we chatted about her. Ramlat likes to say that our mother wanted twins but never had any, so she treated me and her like we were twins. I mean, we wore the same type of dresses and shoes; it became annoying at times. It was really nice to hear Ramlat say that I am her rock and best friend. I feel the same about her. I remember the night I was leaving Ghana for the US; it was sweet and bitter at the same time. I would miss my sister, and I knew she would miss me too. I remember we spoke all night long before the day, we talked about our adventures and shared our dreams, I couldn’t wait for her to join me in the States. I also had a very special bond with my brother Idrissu, because even though he was a whopping ten years older than me, we shared the same birth date. He was born on the 9th of March, 1973. There was something very special between us, and I still remember him pushing me around on my bike when we were younger. Mariama is the eldest of us girls, and she carried herself with a quiet grace that commanded respect from everyone around her. Even as children, Ramlat and I looked up to her as a role model, admiring her strength and kindness. I also had a very special bond with my brother Idrissu, because even though he was a whopping ten years older than me, we shared the same birth date. He was born on the 9th of March, 1973. “ 7 The Birthday Journal

One of my fondest memories of Mariama was her habit of buying us biscuits whenever she came back from running errands. It was a small gesture, but it meant the world to us. She would bring us each a packet of digestives, which we would savour with delight, relishing every crumb. But Mariama was no pushover. She had a firm but gentle way of disciplining us when we misbehaved, and we knew better than to cross her. If she asked us to do something and we didn’t do it, we knew not to expect any biscuits from her. Primary school was at the Christ Missions School and was a bit stressful because I was kind of bullied. My schoolmates made fun of my name and I hated being made fun of. Secondary school was much better. It was fun. I was excited to be admitted into the prestigious Mfantsiman Secondary School, where I was assigned to the Scotton House. I must confess, though, that the first few weeks were a struggle; I literally cried each of those days. Our seniors woke us early each day, and we had to walk a very good distance to get water for ourselves and our school mothers. That was two trips to fetch water! I mean, at home, all I needed to do was step in the shower! Also, we had tomake sure to iron our clothing or risk being punished. I was sometimes punished because of this. I had to go a far distance to get red sand, which I was expected to carry on my head. By the time I arrived back at the dormitory, I had red sand all over my face. It was all so horrible and embarrassing. As time went on, I adapted to our SchoolMotto, ‘life is how you make it.’ If I was going to enjoy it at school, then I had to adjust my attitude to meet my expectations. And I did come to enjoy it so much, together with my three friends, Sandra, Stella, and Doris. We were never found one without the other. I read Animal Science at school, which was not surprising because I love animals, but from a distance. Actually, we had so many animals at home: dogs, sheep, and many others. Perhaps this love for animals was the earliest indication of my caring attitude. I had a lot of love to give. Visiting days at school were delightful. We would sit under the summer huts and wait for our families. It was a day to eat home-made meals. There were days when I missed home so much. I missed my family. Oneday, aswe sat under the summer hutwaiting for our parents, I saw a man walking towards me. There was something about him; he looked like my dad. But my dad was far away in the States! I had not seen him in seven long years! Was it him? Was it someone that looked like him? When I saw my sister Mariama walking just beside him, I flew off my seat and gave him the bestest hug ever! Oh, how I missed him! I cried so hard that he asked why I was crying. I told him I missed him, that I missed home, and that I wanted to go back to the States with him. My dad’s reply was, “I would have taken you straight away, but your mother wants you to finish your secondary school in Ghana before you go.” That day, I think I made thousands of friends. My father brought somany goodies and candies to go around the whole school that I became popular overnight. 8 The Birthday Journal

I really whiled away my time at secondary school, knowing that I was destined for the States afterwards. One thing I really enjoyed in secondary school was entertainment. Although I was quite the shy type, most of my friends participated, and I had so much fun just watching and cheering them on. I made some good friends in secondary school, many of whom I am still in touch with. Actually, Pearl, Abigail, Anthia, and a few others are in Atlanta with me. Secondary school brought me out of my shell a little bit and changed my perspective on life. It made me appreciate what I had, for I had more and many other people did not have any. Likemost parents, our mother wanted us to grow up to be responsible adults — the kind of mom who expected everyone to be home by a certain time and who, if she sent you, and you spent more minutes outside than she expected, you would have questions to answer. My mom had such a strong personality, which she ought to have 9 The Birthday Journal

because she had five kids to raise. When it comes to Islam, we were devout Muslims. We were born into Islam and believed in its basic principles. My two brothers and mother are still Muslims, but all three of us girls have transitioned to Christianity. Ramlatwas thefirst to transition when she got married to a pastor. I suppose that paved the way for us sisters. Later, she would tell us that transitioning had not been easy and that it had caused friction between herself and our dad. Even our mom was not too happy about Ramlat’s transitioning, but she gave her blessing all the same. Eventually, our dad also eased up on his stance. Love led me to Christianity. I fell in love with a Christian who wanted me to attend church with him. This was no problem for me at all; I was in love. However, the effect of my decision was a bit fracturing. My dad was quite disappointed with my choice. As time went on, I began to love Christ. My husband started to take me to church, which I enjoyed, but it was a struggle because I did not know much about the Bible. However, we started going to Redeemed Church of Christ, in Las Vegas. Even now, my husband helps me a lot with my Christian faith. When we had kids, they were automatically Christians. I have not regretted my transition to Christianity. It would surprise those who knew me as a child to learn that I am part of our church’s prayer team, that I am on fire for Christ, and that I take an active part in outreach. 10 The Birthday Journal

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FEARLESS The budding plant opens slightly, revealing a deep dark colour of redness, pure and beautiful. Day by day, little by little, she begins to open up. The leaves give way. They can’t hold her in. She unfolds, spreads out, unfurls, one petal at a time. She marvels at the brightness of daylight, marvels at the birds, and the grasses and the rivers and streams. Marvels at the endless possibilities. She can sway, she can dance in the wind, she can be still and take it all in. The world is at her doorstep. Then she shivers at the darkness of night, for times when it seems that the daylight would never come. And when strong winds threaten to tear her apart, she steels her youthful neck all fresh and green, and clasps herself, holds herself against the force of the wind, her tendrils pulling tight. How something so delicate and fragile can hold itself against powerful gusts of winds. Could it be sheer strength? or will power? Or perhaps both. 13 The Birthday Journal

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hen I arrived in the United States, I realized that the opportunities were endless. I may have been a quiet person, but I was fearless. And ambitious. And determined. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to further my education, so I wrote my SATs and enrolled in Columbus State Community College for two years. It was quite a cultural shock to find out that I had to work and go to school at the same time. Nobody did that in Ghana! Well, I had no choice, so I took up employment at KFC and a grocery store called Giant Eagle. I remember my senior brother Gilbert came to pick me up from JFK Airport. I was so happy to see him. He bought me my first fast food, Burger King, and that is the reason why, till now, I prefer Burger King over McDonald’s. I had a special bond with my brother because he was always there for me when I needed him to help me adjust to my new world. My brother was a student who had finished with his Master’s degree. I have a memory of going to a Dillards store with my brother, and he would tell me, “Just look, we are not buying anything.” Like he was prepping my mind not to expect to buy anything because he was a student and could not afford any expensive thing at that time. With regards to academics, the schooling system in the US was different and very interactive — a far cry from the strict educational system in Ghana. With a little time to study, I still did well in my classes. After Community College, I did a double major in Healthcare and Business, and got my Associate degree in Healthcare. Healthcare was my favourite. I was, by nature, a very caring person and loved to take care of people. It was in my DNA. In fact, while pursuing my Associate degree, I did work as a Certified Nursing Assistant, where I worked with the elderly, went to their homes, and helped them by reminding them to take their medication, keeping them company, and taking them to their appointments. Comfort Keepers was the name of the agency I worked for. After my Associate degree, I thought, “Whynot goaheadandget aBachelor’s degree?” And that is what I did. I went ahead and got my Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration and Policy in Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2007. W 6. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on the Space Shuttle Challenger. 7. Political turmoil and human rights violations were reported in countries such as Ghana, but the country later restored democratic rule. 8. Rapid population growth, with China reaching 1 billion and the world’s population estimated at 4.72 billion. 9. Zimbabwe experienced civil war and unrest, but has since made progress towards peace and reconciliation. 10. Significant changes in music, including The Beatles’ breakup and Madonna’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. A Year of Epic Shifts and Unforgettable Moments that Changed the World Forever 1983 16 The Birthday Journal

Why Nevada? My sister and I had visited a family friend in Las Vegas and fell in love with the place. But there were also many educational incentives in Nevada, which were intended to motivate the locals, who didn’t seem to care much about education. The school fees were also much more reasonable compared to other universities. Moreover, the weather was beautiful. I mean, for someone who grew up in the tropics, the winters in Ohio were quite brutal. Besides, our family friend was willing to host me until I could find my feet. Of course, my dad wasn’t too keen, but I still went ahead with it. I bought my car (a red Mitsubishi Gallant), enrolled in school, and continued to work with the Nevada branch of Comfort Keepers. After my Bachelor’s, I decided to enroll for my Master’s degree in Health Care Administration and Policy at the same university, which I completed successfully. Now all that was left was for me to do an internship of a thousand hours with a Health Administrator, in order to get my Nursing Home Administrator license. Due to the shortage of Licensed Nursing Home Administrators, it was quite challenging to find an administrator tomentor me for my internship. It was really frustrating. Finally, one administrator, sensing my frustration, whispered to me that the Board of Health Administrators was having their meeting somewhere downtown the very next day. She said to me, “If only you are bold, you can go there and plead your case.” Of course I was bold! I was brave! Like a tigress, I fought for what I wanted! I did not want anyone to judge me by my quietness. The next day, well dressed and properly groomed, I set off for the venue of themeeting. When I got there, there was a police officer at the door who asked if I had an invitation. When I said “no,” he looked really surprised, and then he called the secretary, who also asked how I knew there was a meeting there. I told her I had heard it in a conversation. She then directed me to the Boardroom. As soon as I entered the Boardroom, everyone stopped to look at me. Even the Chairman looked surprised, but he asked me to sit at the back and wait. There was a tall list of Nursing Homes and Administrators to certify and a lot of citations to look at, but I sat through it all, not willing to give up at all, and determined to make a case for myself. After their deliberations, the Chairman turned to me and asked, “Can we hear from you?” I got up, introduced myself, and told them that I wanted to be an Administrator, that I was really interested in the profession, that I knew there was a shortage of Administrators in Nevada, that I had finished my Master’s degree, and yet, I was finding it difficult to find an Administrator to mentor me. Everyone was shocked; very few people had the courage to do what I was doing by coming to the board of directors meeting. The Chairman looked at me in admiration and said, “You are very bold.” And then he said the sweetest thing ever: that he would give me an Executive Director to mentor me. Fancy that! It was the best thing that happened to me that day. That was how I met Linda Gelinger, the Executive Director of all the Nursing homes in Nevada — a lovely, beautiful lady. She was in the Executive suite and I had my internship in the Executive suite! And I must say that I really enjoyed my internship; Linda taught me so many things on how to manage a Nursing Home and healthcare in general. After that, I wrote my Board Exams, and got my Nursing Home Administrator License. Linda was so excited when I passed my boards that she helped me get a job as an Administrator in Nevada where I practiced for awhile. She even came for the naming of my son. We are good friends to this day. 17 The Birthday Journal

FAMILY 18 The Birthday Journal

There are butterflies and butterflies. Then, there is this one butterfly. This sucker of her nectar; a clinging; it leads to a clasp of friendship and all that comes with it. 19 The Birthday Journal

“ loved it so much in Las Vegas, but LOVE was in Columbus. Not that I knew it then. There was this man called Emmanuel Okekeocha that my sisterRamlatwantedme tomeet. Sheworkedwith him.Well, I was in a relationship then, so I wasn’t really eager to meet him. I mean, it took a whole year for her to convince me to see him. She would often say to me, “Helwan, I am your sister, your best friend, I want the best for you.I know the man. He is different from any other man.” I remember asking her where he was from and she replied that he was Nigerian. I still wasn’t interested. She even took my picture to him at work and told me he was smitten with me. It is unbelievable, but my sister did not want Emmanuel to get a girlfriend. Shepromisedhimthat she would ‘catch’ me for him, but I did not take her seriously. However, I think Ramlat was so determined to play the golden matchmaker, because a couple of months later, she invited him to my brother’s party. It was as if she was saying, “You will meet him whether you like it or not.” Of course I couldn’t say “no,” when she asked me to go to say hi to him. And when I laid my eyes on him, hewas c-u-u-t-e! (Actually,when my dad first saw him, he thought he was in the military because of his stature.) And he was gentle. I remember walking up to him and asking if he was okay and if there was something I could get for him. Later, he would tell people that the first thing he noticed about me was my caring nature, then my physique. He is forever saying howhe used to tell Andwhen I laidmy eyes onhim, hewas c-u-u-t-e! (Actually, when my dad first saw him he thought he was in the military because of his stature.) And he was gentle. I remember walking up to him and asking if he was okay. I 11. US unemployment reached its highest figure since 1941 (12 million) but the economy later bounced back. 12. • UK saw the Brinks Mat robbery and a mass prisoner breakout from the Maze High-Security Prison. 13. Jerry Rawlings became head of Ghana and suspended the constitution, implementing conservative economic policies. 14. Nigeria expelled two million West African migrants, including Ghanaians, due to job concerns. 15. Dramatic rise in oil prices had global economic and political implications. A Year of Epic Shifts and Unforgettable Moments that Changed the World Forever 1983 20 The Birthday Journal

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God that he wanted tomarry a woman who looked like a model and how I fit that description. I was not so sure of him at that time. Well, we exchanged numbers and talked. Actually, we talked for four months, and thenhe came toLasVegas to visit. He was gentle. And lovely. I was still at the family friend’s house, so he checked into a hotel and came home with me to eat. I had prepared some spinach sauce with eggs and plantain, which he enjoyed so much. The rest is history! He didn’t even go back to sleep in his hotel. We did a long-distance thing for a while before he relocated to Vegas. He loved Vegas as much as I did. In 2009, we rented a place together. Of course, we struggled for a while. I had just finished with my Bachelor’s degree and did not have a good job. Like any normal couple, we had our good days and bad days. I remember when he proposed. We were on a cruise to the Bahamas. I knew something was coming because he had asked for the size of my ring finger earlier on. However, I did not know when he would propose. He kept me in suspense. At first, we went for a nice romantic dinner; that was where I thought he would propose, but he didn’t. Then we drove all the way to California, and still nothing happened. Then we went for the cruise on December 24th, 2011, and it happened! Of course I said “yes!” We got married in 2012. We have been married for eleven years. My mom really loves him, my family adores him, and even my father warmed up to him later on in our marriage. Our wedding was a small, intimate ceremony with just family and close friends. Emmanuel always says that he thanks God for giving him a naturally caring and loving wife. Once, he told me that I exemplify God’s heart in an exceptional way. That was nice to hear. I think that in our marriage, I am the one who is more open to communication. My husband is quiet, but I don’t like things to fester. I always ensure that the air is cleared early. I created an ‘open door policy’ in the house that allows us both to open up when there is a misunderstanding. I am a family person. Family was one of the greatest values my mother instilled in us. When it comes to my kids, Kenechukwu and Keonna, they are my heartbeats. They make me want to take better care of myself and live longer. I was nervous when I first found out I was pregnant with my son. For one thing, I didn’t want to grow big, but I was also scared of the unknown; I had heard a lot about post-traumatic stress. My husband was happy, and of course his body went through no transformation. 22 The Birthday Journal

My pregnancies were terrible, especially the first. At that time, I saw a Specialist throughout my pregnancies. I loved to work out then, but the doctors discouragedme from doing so, which also made me sad. I am glad I heeded their advice because after I had my son, I passed out. It was only God who brought me back to life. After I had my son, my doctor told me not tohave anymore kids because the complication was too grave, but we believe in a superpower; the Holy Spirit gave me a new life. When my son was two years old, I got pregnant with my daughter. I was high-risk. I had a little fear, but I knew who was the author and finisher of my life, which is God. Whenmyduedatearrived, it tookfive hours to give birth to my daughter. After I delivered, I developed “The HELLP Syndrome.” All my organs were fighting against me. But my God was for me, so I survived! A good number of women go through this episode and don’t survive, and mine was such a bad case that most of the hospital staff thought I would not make it. In fact, there was this 23 The Birthday Journal

pleasant Ghanaian nurse who thought I was not going to make it. She just stood in front of me and whispered desperately, “So somebody’s beautiful daughter is not going to make it.” The medical staff told my husband that my prognosis did not look good and that they were trying to stop the bleeding, but it was impossible. “If this doesn’t work, there’s nothing we can do,” the doctors told him as they administered my final treatment. Thank God I didn’t hear this. My husband immediately called my pastors and my brother-in-law, who is also a pastor, and they prayed and prayed. The next morning, when the Ghanaian lady sawme, she was surprised and was overjoyed that I had survived. It was a miracle, because at night, when everyone left, God breathed new life into me. That is why I don’t hesitate to help others. I appreciate all God has done for me, and I see everything I am doing as doing it for God. He gave me new life. I personally know a couple of women who have died from this syndrome. Anytime I think about the fact that I survived it, I smile. My life has a purpose. It informs the zest and zeal with which I do things. My daughter is a very healthy girl. Thank God. I think my husband is still fascinated by the resilience I showed during childbirth. I remember the look in his eyes when he first held our son and daughter in his arms. It was priceless. My sonKene is a proud 9-year-old author of “The Adventures of Super Dog.” He loves to read and write, and I literally have to take his books away because he sometimes gets up at night to read. My daughter is an artist. She has the greatest heart. She is a caregiver like her mom. She is like a little butterfly so sweet to everyone. I say all this to the glory of God. I love to spend time with my nephews; seeing them running around and playing brings joy tomy heart. Ramlat calls me a ‘super aunty,’ because I am always looking for a chance to spoil the kids. She complains that I overbuy gifts for them. Ramlat thinks I over pamper the kids, and that I am weird because sometimes I have too many kids around, screaming everywhere and she is thinking that the noise level is bad but the truth is that it sounds like music in my ears. She always tells me that she is glad I am not a musician. 24 The Birthday Journal

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If thou know not, O thou fairest among women Helwan , go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents. I have compared thee, Omy love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. I will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. Helwan my sweetness of Heaven on earth and in heaven. You have brought favor to my doorsteps. I am forever grateful to the Most High God A letter to my love 29 The Birthday Journal

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FORTY-FIED There she stands, in perfect full bloom. She knows what she is. A beautiful rose flower. Elegant. Her colour, deep red. Her fragrance, rich, with the light headedness of musk, and the sweetness of fruit and yet the alluringness of flowers. Her presence is calming, soothing; her appearance, beautiful. She loves to give. She knows to give of herself. To the birds and butterflies who rely on her for food. To the people who rely on her to make their living spaces beautiful. To nature which regales in her beauty and fragrance. She was made to give. But. She can be thorny. To those that manhandle her. Her stem, powered by the strong thistles. Beware! She should be treated with care. That is what she is. A rose in full bloom. 33 The Birthday Journal

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“ y life has had its ups and downs, but thank God I survived. I inherited tenacity from my mother and father. I have had my struggles in life, but by the grace of God, I have held on. I am grateful to my mom and dad for all their sacrifices that paved theway forme to have the life I have now, which is all by God’s grace. I remember the last picture I tookwithmy dad before going to Ghana and unfortunately, he passed on in 2021 during COVID. For instance, my Master’s in Healthcare Administration at the University of Las Vegas was a struggle because I was pregnantwithmyson, aroughpregnancy. My thesis and presentations were tough. I really wanted to do my thesis over the phone, but I was still asked to come in. I was really nervous, but I did well, and it was a celebration. My mom helped tremendously during this time. She was my support system. Thank God for her. Like previously stated, I struggled to get an Administrator to mentor me in order to get my licenses. Yet I did not let weakness stand in my way. Currently, I am a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) and hold two Nursing Home Administrator Licenses to operate in Georgia and Nevada. Even getting married to a Christian as a Muslim woman was a big challenge. Over the years I have become more prayerful and now have a stronger relationship with God, which has made me a better person. Being married to a Nigerian as a Ghanaian is a challenge of its own. I have had to learn the Nigerian culture and even learn how to cook some Nigerian delicacies. We have had some challenges in my marriage. For one thing, my husband was a Consultant and travelled a lot. This took its toll on our marriage at a point in time. We struggled as a couple with some things, but we went on our knees and prayed to God to heal our marriage, and YES, God did! I woke up one day to find that my husband had been transformed by the Holy Spirit; he had started to fast and to pray for long hours. I could never have achieved this on my own. It was God’s doing. Now my husband’s time is devoted to his family; he is such a giver, he has a heart of gold, and he blesses anyone who comes his way with whatever he has. In spite of all these challenges, we have been so blessed. We have been through our ups and downs, but we have been blessed all the same. By the grace of God, my husband and I are blessed with fulfilling careers that we love. I am a Senior Business Analyst in IT, while my husband is an IT Solutions Architect. Despite my success in the tech industry, I have never forgotten my roots in healthcare and continue to work as a consultant using my licenses in nursing and healthcare. We try to bless others as well. My husband and I are givers. I love to help others, and I hate to see others suffer. “To whommuch is given, much is expected.” M In spite of all these challenges, we have been so blessed. We have been through our ups and downs, but we have been blessed all the same. By the grace of God, my husband and I are blessed with fulfilling careers that we love. 36 The Birthday Journal

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I have been blessed to be a blessing to the less fortunate who come across my path. I also have a heart for children, including orphans, widows, the homeless, and the physically challenged. God has given me so much that the least I can do is give to the less fortunate and also expand God’s kingdom. My husband and I currently serve in our prayer Ministry at our local church, Victory. It is an absolute blessing. I believe my ministry is giving and helping others. I am neither a pastor nor a singer; mine is to give. I love to give, and I struggle to receive because my nature is just giving. Giving is my calling; my heart beats for it. It brings me such joy. One day, when I am no more, I want to be remembered as someone who gave, had good character, and had faith in the Lord. People who are close to me see it in my actions. That is the kind of legacy I want to leave. I am grateful for the changes that God has wrought in me through his son, Jesus Christ, and how He is using me. In fact, God is the highlight of my life. I am grateful for salvation. I have enjoyed coming to work in His vineyard. I am very goal-driven and know how to set the pace. I am also a natural leader and very self-motivated. During the COVID lockdown period, everything was depressing but I could not allow the situation to wear me out. I went to my sister and convinced her to take aCertificate in Project Management along with me. Now we have our PMP. Ramlat likes to call it our COVID achievement. When we started out, we had nothing, as I say to those women who want established men right from the get-go. With my husband, we had to build it together. Now, people who don’t know our story only see the success, but they don’t know we had to go through the process! My hobbies are family time, shopping, cooking, fashion, travelling, and experiencing newplaces withmy family.MyGhana Jollof rice is amazing is the truth, I am not bragging, ask my husband, Nigeria Jollof rice, doesn’t stand a chance. My husband is very diplomatic; he would always say that Ghana Jollof is the best. Another thing I love doing is working out and staying healthy. I enjoy working out 4-5 days a week. I remember when I was going through the stress stage in my marriage, my faith and working out kept me at peace. Sometimes I don’t feel like working out, but immediately I hit the gym, I feel so energized and relieved. Initially, I started working out because I wanted to be a model, and I was offered the chance to model for a local African magazine in Columbus called African Weekender, but that didn’t really go anywhere. Anyway, I love to look good, and working out keeps me in shape, and the health benefits are endless. I also try to eat healthy most days. I eat lots of salads, beans, and grains. My breakfast is mostly juice, kale, spinach, ginger, beets and pretty much any other vegetables or fruits available. The first thing I take in the morning after working out is warm water and raw garlic; in fact, ninety percent of the liquid I drink is Crystal Punch which is water. My discipline and consistency are innate. Even when I feel a little under the weather, I still go to the gym; I just don’t like to take a break from working out is my passion! Spending quality time with my kids brings joy to my heart. I love baking, painting, and doing the simplest things in life with my kids. My busy life sometimes makes it a challenge to spend time with close friends, but I amworking on it. I have no regrets in life because the setbacks and life challenges have made me the woman, wife, mother, daughter, friend, and sister that I am today. I give God all the glory for how far he has brought me, and I know God has amazing things in store for me as I enter the next chapter of my Forty-fied blessed life. 39 The Birthday Journal

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Emmanuel Okekeocha I have known you for 16 years and you have blessed my life with grace, love and two beautiful children. When it comes to family, you love your family and care for them. Thanks to Mother, she has taught you to be a loving woman and caring. Over the past years in our marriage life, my observation of you with regards to marriage, career, parenting, approach to life and challenges - You are a leader, you know how to lead and direct. You are a goal driven person and with such attributes, you are an angel the Lord gave me. You are blessed and have brought favor into my life. I love you so much. More blessings and grace, more years with good health and happiness. Ramlat Boamah In every aspect of my life, you are my rock. I remember I used to fight with her over household chores; interesting memories. From the very begining I learnt of your humble nature of how you worship the floor momwalks on even after the demise of your father. To you family comes first, very protective and prayerful. In one word I will describe you as selfless. Helwan my partner in crime May the Almighty God enlarge your path, may the one and only God who blesses and no one can curse you. May you continue to flourish in favor. Welcome to the 4th floor. Happy birthday my sweet sister. Continue to be you. Mariama Olama Happy Birthday Helwan! Today, we celebrate the amazing person you are and the incredible journey you have had so far. From the moment you were born, it was clear that you were going to be a special little girl, and I was so proud to be your big sister. I remember carrying you on my back and feeding you with so much joy and love. Watching you grow into the amazing person you are today has been a true joy and privilege. We have shared so many great memories over the years, from growing up together and always being there for each other, to the countless laughs and fun times we have had. As you celebrate this milestone birthday and enter a new decade of life, my wish for you is that you continue to experience all the best that life has to offer. May you be surrounded by love, happiness, and success in all your endeavors. Turning 40 is a testament to your strength, resilience, and unwavering spirit, and I am so proud of the person you have become. Once again, happy birthday Helwan! May your day be filled with all the love, joy, and happiness you deserve. Pearl Osei I love you and admire you Helwan, for your love for God and mankind. There isn’t any definite memory I could point out for we share an uncoutable memories together. I amwishing this great lady a life time of happiness. A heritage of God’s super grace! May celebration never cease in your life and in your home. Above all May God satisfy you with long life. Happy forth floor Helwan. Mauricia Agyemang Life adventure with Helwan started way back in our childhood days, and although life has put us in different We love you HELWAN 44 The Birthday Journal

places and we hardly keep in touch, but what i admire most is when we get in touch it’s like we just talked the previous day. She is easy to talk to and filled with genuine love and concern for her friends. Helwan, I love the fact that you care deeply about your friends and make it easy to maintain your friendship. I remember we used to walk back and forth our area in the name of “were seeing each other off” after visiting the other, just chatting. Helwan, I wish you nothing but good health, wealth, and happiness. Enjoy this new chapter of your life. Madina Palmai Your respect for me and the patient you always have with me makes me love you so much Helwan. Your great personality and loyalty is second to none. I miss our moment of hanging out together when we were single, it is a great memory to behold. I wish yoy many more blessings years to come and happiness life with your family. Macdonald Okekeocha Such a genuine, kind, and compassionate person I know. Your presence in our family brings us so much joy. I hope you know how much I appreciate all the things you do for my brother. A bunch of memories too many to put down. The wedding day was a special day seeing them you both happy and excited about spending the rest of their lives together. Continue to be you, want to wish you good health and all the success in the world. AnitaWilson There are many things I love about you Helwan, but one impeccable attribute sees me the most, her Loyalty. Over the years I have known Helwan, her Loyalty as a friend remains. I share many memories together, such as family gathering, party and more. I want everything and more for Helwan. God is faithful to you because of your faith in God. God will bring new heights in your life. God is always with you Helwan. Anita I admire how you have always been bold & sophisticating. Stay true, bold & beautiful, Happy Birthday Helwan. Jennifer Donkoh Helwan and I went to school together. Your kind and caring nature makes me admire you. I wish you long life, good health and all the good things in life. I pray for God’s favor for you. Ruki Attaboakye Everyday with Helwan has been a memorable one. There’s never a dull moment with her. But the best of it was when i first met her, she was the first to accept me into the family. May this new chapter of your life be the beginning of greatness, May everything you wished for come to pass in the Lord’s name. You are such an amazing human 45 The Birthday Journal

with the purest of hearts. You are yet to experience all that you ever wished for, Welcome to the 4th floor. Sandra Amissah Our paths crossed at Mfantsiman campus where we happened to be in the same class and sitting mate. We did everything any student will do at her age together, sing, dance, gossip, laugh and, see who can scarf better ( curls). we have fond memories together. What more can I say than God continue to bless you. You have a sweet personality, as you begin life, may life be kind to you, the next 40yrs will be more glorious. We would be talking about our children and grandchildren’s achievements together. Chinelo Okekeocha It’s hard to pick one thing to love because you are a wealth of love. If I could pick just one, it is your great love for family. Your love is so pure and genuine, it seeks no reward just to give love. We are truly blessed in our family that we have our Angel Helwan. So many amazing memories that always make me smile. Helwan’s Home! Every time you step in, it feels like home. I love every visit. She has filled her home with such warmth, love and amazing memories. It is incredible to always be home and just feel the love. My wish for Helwan is to continue to live in the destiny God has planned for you, for all your dreams to become reality. I pray that you continue to be blessed, have even greater wealth, have more joy, happiness, great health and lots of love. Nikky Ugwuoke An honest and trustworthy child of God you are. Truly a virtuous woman that is so rare to find. I enjoyed celebrating my 30th birthday with you Helwan in 2014. I also enjoyed celebrating New years with Helwan and Buchi in Vegas. Interesting memories I always have playing in my head. I wish that the lord blesses you with many more years of Favor, Prosperity, Peace, Perfect Health, Joy, and all that your heart desires. Olivia Taking a stroll on Las Vegas strip in year 2012, remember that? I will always remember this Helwan. I wish you long life, good health and to achieve your God given purpose. Stella Amarkie Dabblah A kind hearted soul! You’ve been there for me through thick and thin. I remember your achievements of making trips to the neighboring hospitals to show our benefolence because you were very compassionate about humanity. You were selfless, outspoken and generous. We also enjoyed our favourite Boiled Cassava and cassava leaves sauce.We queued to fetch water at “ our parents”and manage within the shortest possible time. Our motto was Obra Nye woara bo. Meaning Life is how you make it. My wish for you is to be blessed beyond measure and attain greater heights. Linda Gelinger I love many things about Helwan but mostly her beautiful smile and caring heart. I love her smile because she lights up a roomwith her smile and beautiful energy. Her smile is contagious and brings joy to everyone. My wish for you Helwan, is that you should always have love, peace, happiness and all that you desire. Ashley Chuke Happy Birthday Helwan, Wishing you a day filled with love, laughter, and joy. One thing that makes you so special is your thoughtfulness and super caring nature, which have touched the lives of many. I still cherish the awesome memories we’ve made, especially the time we spent together during my sister in law’s birthday in Orlando with our hubbies. May the good Lord continue to empower you as you take a leap into the next decade, and may you make many more wonderful memories in the years to come. 46 The Birthday Journal

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