“I am always inspired or influenced by the scriptures from the Bible and see Jesus as my role model and a character that has influenced my life as a Christian. My favourite Bible verse is from Mark 12:31 Love your neighbour as yourself”, says Apostle Fred Osei Annin.
Apostle Fred Osei Annin was born at Obo Kwahu in the Eastern Region of Ghana on the 28th of November 1955. Fred completed his elementary school education at the age of 17. Due to financial challenges, he did not get the chance to continue his education and had to start working as a Field Assistant Grade 3 with the Ministry of Agriculture a job that was meant for adults and not a teenager at the age of 17. He asserts, “By the grace of God I managed to keep this job despite the numerous challenges as a teenager until I was lured into a band as a singer and adopted a wild lifestyle coupled with excessive drinking and drugs.” After facing all these life challenges he became an ordained reverend minister in a Pentecostal church in Ghana.
In 1990, Fred was invited to the UK to hold series of revival meetings across England on worship by the Chalk Farm Baptist Church based in London. He says, “It was through this missionary trip that God spoke to me that he would bring me back to the UK when I return to my home country to do a special ministry which was not disclosed to me then.” As per Fred, When he returned to the UK, he opened the Pneuma Outreach Ministries in 1997 as a church and also the Pneuma Community Link as an NGO to organize charitable programmes and activities to address sensitive issues such as teenage pregnancy, drugs and substance abuse, HIV prevention and many more to make a significant difference in the lives of the vulnerable people in the BAME community.
Spreading Awareness along with Much Needed Support
Fred discovered that Lambeth was the highest HIV prevalent community in the whole of the UK seconded by its next-door neighbour Southwark where the headquarters of Actionplus Foundation is based. He also learned that the black African community was also one of the communities at risk of having the HIV infection and Southwark also was the second community with the highest HIV prevalence in the whole of UK after the MSM group. He says, “It was through this discovery that made me gain more understanding about the reason why God brought me back to the UK to set up the charity right in the heart of Southwark and no other place.”
Fred therefore, decided that the charity was going to spend more time to concentrate on HIV prevention by creating awareness of the infection in London to reduce the spread of the infection in churches because most pastors then were ignorant about HIV and were unaware of the mode of the transmission of HIV and therefore for lack of knowledge, thought HIV was a taboo or a curse from God. This situation therefore created stigma and discrimination among people living with and those affected by HIV in churches in the UK.
In Ghana, Actionplus started by focusing on people who are not having gainful employment, who are vulnerable and are therefore getting involved in a growing level of prostitution and awful behaviours. The project was developed to focus on two specific client groups: These are people who are at immediate risk of acquiring HIV because of their ignorance about the infection and those who were involved in prostitution. The strategy of the project was to focus on creating awareness of HIV and also the prevention of the infection from growing in the country.
Actionplus Foundation realized that there were great challenges because of stigma in people’s minds. The project therefore gradually got more involved in creating modules to use in breaking stigma and prejudice. This module included Challenge and Break HIV stigma, ‘Your Health is Your Life’, including the major ‘Take Action Now’ Module which since its launching has grown to become a global tool in addressing HIV intervention within the faith communities.
Renowned for Exceptional Charity Services
Actionplus from the initial stages of its operation had determined that it would deliver sexual health messages on a sustainable basis not only in one particular church but rather to build capacity in faith leaders by training them to deliver the rightful messages about HIV by themselves in their various churches and denominations where they pastor. This project is called “Take Action Now”. It is about supporting faith leaders to address sexual health issues in churches and is not about addressing sexual health for faith leaders. Actionplus works with faith leaders and the faith communities to address sexual health and HIV issues within the whole context of health to help normalise and de-stigmatise HIV for the church to know that HIV is neither a taboo nor a curse from God but rather one of the health conditions we have in our world today.
Actionplus Foundation has trained over 6,000 pastors and church leaders both in the UK and Africa for them to know and embrace the facts about HIV and through this project ignorance in the church is removed and stigma is broken.
Actionplus Foundation is the first organisation in both the UK and in Ghana to open free HIV testing centres in churches where HIV has been a “No go” Zone. Since 2015 Fred has won many Local, National and International Awards which includes: Southwark Major’s Civic Award, The Diversity Champion Award For Charities (UK). The Heroes Award, The African Prestigious Award and the latest being the 2020 Best HIV Prevention Service Award (UK)
Devotion always gets Reward
Actionplus started small from the beginning in Southwark but has grown over the years to become one of the leading HIV organisations with branches in the UK, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Every Charity or NGO cannot operate or function well without funding because it does not make a profit but Actionplus throughout its operation has not received any major funding to support its work both in the UK and Africa. Fred says, “We sometimes are fortunate to receive off grants and small donations to support our work but despite these tough financial challenges, we have managed to sustain the work by God’s grace through our passion and the sacrifices we make.” With its unconditional love for helping others, Actionplus has developed over the year and has seen uncountable miracles happening on daily basis. The organization has operated in the UK for 24 years and 14 years in Africa and throughout this journey it has never had the opportunity to employ one staff because there is not enough finance to employ paid workers.
All the work the foundation does is done with the help and support of its volunteers with Fred himself being the main person driving the project to safety by God’s grace. Fred has seen many big HIV organisations which he first met on the way closed down for lack of funds but Actionplus is still working and growing daily despite its lack of financial resources because God at every critical challenge provides. He opines, “We know that a car without petrol or gas cannot move but, if a car without fuel in it can run faster than the one whose engine is filled, then you should know that it must be God behind it.”
In 2019, Actionplus miraculously received a donation from the Richard King Bequest, and with that, it has managed to run its community work in Africa till now.
Services during the Pandemic
During the Covid -19 pandemic, Fred again took the lead in organizing online training programmes and conferences to create awareness of the infection here in the UK and Africa. Actionplus’ volunteers also led the Foundation to distribute free PPE’S to schools, institutions, traders in market places and the general public in Africa. Though the Lockdown impacted the projects of the organisation yet Fred managed to use every opportunity the foundation had to develop new strategies to confront the impact of which the pandemic had had on the project. He says that measures were also put in place to engage with the clients online and on the phone as there were no one on one intervention programmes or physical contacts to help sustain the gains which the organisation had made through the HIV prevention project.
Values and the work culture that drives Actionplus Foundation
“The values of Actionplus Foundation in our intervention is connected to our faith in God and seeing HIV as a human issue and the devastating effect it has brought into the human race since the beginning of its interception in the year 1980 make us believe that we are called of God to fight it until HIV is completely eradicated from our world,” says Fred. He further describes that it is a calling from God to him personally, and so it is his responsibility to share the vision with everyone who is part of it to know and understand the purpose of this battle to make it a reality. He opines, “We are all going to be accountable to God one day if we fail to win.”
Future Plans for Actionplus Foundation
At Actionplus, Fred plans to build an Ultra Modern Social Empowerment Centre in Ghana. According to Fred, this Centre will be the permanent headquarters and the administrative base for its operations in Africa. The team will build different facilities to host Actionplus’s empowerment programmes such as an HIV Clinic for testing and treatment, a vocational training school to train disadvantaged boys and girls with skills to attain jobs opportunities. It will also host the Campus HIV Empowerment Programme (CHEP Programme). In this centre, the team will recruit young people to be trained as peer health advocates to work with young people in the community. These young people that will be trained, will be those who are willing to set themselves apart to be empowered with health empowerment goals to change behaviours known to cause ill health and premature death among young people such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits, physical inactivity, drugs and alcohol, and other health issues.
Success demands Time and Commitment
Fred advises the people who are facing their career challenges that success can’t be achieved on a silver platter. It starts very small with the little things one does in life and when he adds extra value to it, he will succeed in that great ambition. He says, “It takes time but, with God on your side, every dream comes through at the right time.”