by Stephanie IpSpecial to the Langley Advance
A man who has been living in B.C. for the last three years will soon return to his home country of Ghana to be crowned chief of his tribe and help launch an international charity foundation.
Eric Manu, 32, first came to the Lower Mainland in 2012 after marrying a Canadian woman he had met in Ghana. He now is a permanent resident of Canada, has a 10-month-old son and works for a Langley landscaping company owned by Susan Watson.
“I have several employees and one of my previous employees had met Eric at church,” Watson said. Manu then was hired by her Langley-based company and the pair soon began to work side by side.
“He was just a really nice guy and it was interesting to talk to him about his homeland. He had told me earlier on that he was going to go home to become chief of his tribe, but he thought it was going to be another four or five years away,” Watson said.
Manu’s uncle, the tribe’s chief for some time, died in 2013 and a long discussion as to who would be the next chief ensued.
In July, Manu received a phone call telling him he had finally been chosen to lead the 6,000-member Akan tribe, located in southern Ghana.
“In the tradition of my tribe, we inherit from the mother’s side. It gets to the point that I am the oldest nephew of my uncle. They also talk about my living abroad and what I had back home,” Manu explained.
“They called me one time in the afternoon when I was working and they said, ‘You are the eldest of the community and the family have mentioned your name to be the next of kin.’ “I said, ‘Are you kidding me or what?’ And they said, ‘Yes, for real. You have to come. This is your time.’ ” Manu said there was no question about what had to be done. He readily accepted and began making preparations to return.
“If you deny that, it means the inheritance has to go to a different tribe or family and we will lose that for the rest of your life,” Manu said.
“If I deny that, I am denying my ancestors – that’s something you worked for and inherited for years and years,” he added. “So I said, ‘OK. No problem. I will talk to my boss’. “
Watson said the timing of the news came as a surprise, though she had known for some time Manu would be leaving at some point.
“One day, we were working and he was telling me this. I said, ‘Oh, Eric. That’s lovely. Make sure you videotape it so I can see it,’ ” Watson said. “And he looked crestfallen. He said, ‘But Sue, I wanted to invite you!’ ” Touched by the invitation, Watson began learning more about Ghanaian culture and planning for a trip to attend Manu’s coronation, scheduled for early January.
“She said, ‘I feel guilty going into Africa empty-handed’, ” Manu said.
The pair began to brainstorm what Watson could bring with her as an appropriate gift.
Watson said what initially began as a simple plan to collect used books to help start a library quickly snowballed and became a massive donation drive, collecting anything and everything that might help a tribe in a developing area.
Over the past few months, Manu, Watson, her daughter, a few friends, and some of her employees have collected 40 laptops, eight sewing machines, 14 bicycles, school supplies, used clothing, bolts of fabric, baby high chairs, seeds and more.
Everything was packed into a 20-foot container that was shipped two weeks ago to arrive just before Manu’s coronation.
The cost of shipping the container, which was about $5,000, was covered through the generosity of Watson’s many clients, a donation from a local business and out of Watson’s own pocket.
Watson and Manu have since launched the To The Moon And Back Foundation, a charity they hope will continue to provide donations and training for people in Ghana, beginning with Manu’s tribe in 2016. Watson will help set up the donations and lend her agricultural expertise to teach locals how to grow produce they’ll then be able to sell.
“What we want to do in the future with the To The Moon And Back Foundation is to have people move to Africa for a month or two and take these women through vocational training,” said Manu.
He is set to return in early December, while Watson will travel to Ghana just after the new year. Manu’s wife and son will join him in a few months.
For more information on the To The Moon And Back Foundation or to donate, visit ttmbfoundation.wix. com/ttmbfoundation.
– Stephanie Ip is with The Province.
• Click here to see more stories in The Province or to watch a video of Eric Manu discuss becoming chief of his tribe in Ghana at theprovince.com