REVEREND Father Andrew Campbell, an Irish SVD missionary, brings joy to Ghana’s lepers.
Father Campbell arrived in Ghana on October 13, 1971 after having left Liverpool in MV Orion on October 1 that same year.
He was born in Dublin, Ireland, on March 27, 1946. He attended kindergarten at Sisters of Charity School and de la Salle Primary School, both in Ireland.
He studied Philosophy and Theology and through hard work and dedication, obtained his Bachelor of Divinity Degree from St. Patrick’s College in the United Kingdom on 20th October, 1970.
In December 1970, he was ordained into the Catholic priesthood.
During the long vacations, he worked in supermarkets filling shelves with food and sweeping floors. He also worked as a welder in a factory in London and worked as an auxiliary nurse at Walton Hospital in Liverpool.
However, after his ordination he volunteered to come to Ghana as a missionary priest. So on October 13, 1971 Father Campbell arrived in Ghana to work as Catholic Missionary Priest in The Society of the Divine Word.
According to him, his desire to help the poor and needy helped him to form Leper’s Aid Committee, a committee of Young People committed to assist the Cured Lepers by raising funds. Father is also a founding member and Co-chairman of Environmental Protection Association (EPA), West Arena, Accra, an NGO founded to help people become aware of their responsibility to keep their surrounding clean.
His public displays of solidarity are about rehabilitating Ghana’s lepers and breaking down the prejudice that makes outcasts of them. Ghana has about 10,000 cured and about 2,500 active lepers. Those who are active are on drugs to halt the disease’s ravages. Those who are cured cannot infect others but, on account of their scars, are still stigmatised.
Fr Campbell first encountered with a leper was when a man came to the Holy Spirit Cathedral 46 years ago to sell mangoes. According to him, he was frightened and didn’t know how to react.
In the years that followed, Fr Andy began to take an active interest in the plight of these people, and he noticed how they were treated, even by medical staff at the hospitals.
However, Fr Campbell believes Ghana, through church initiatives and government-led policies, is now beginning to handle the plight of lepers in a more compassionate manner. He actively champions the rights of lepers within his own parish, often inviting them to services where they are given the place of honour.
As a result of his lobbying, a number of government ministers and philanthropists have lent their public support to his work.
Fr Andy believes that some improvement can be made in the state subsidy to lepers and that charitable donations and fundraising have to play a part too.
“I’m called ‘the leper priest’ and have been told I’m a perpetual beggar!”
With the money he raises, Fr Andy has got a number of initiatives aimed at giving lepers a skill in order to help them make some money for themselves.
His organisation has set up a mill in the leprosarium in Accra and in about four other places in Ghana, where the men and women get paid for grinding corn. Other projects include a soap-making venture, mat-making,a poultry farm, in addition to dress-making for those who still have functioning fingers.
When asked why the lepers are so close to his heart he answers without hesitation, “If you are ever feeling down and out and you go to see the lepers, you’ll come back a different person. They have so much hope and they are grateful for the little they have materially. I see them as a sign of hope and encouragement – a blessing for our society. They are our treasure because they bring out the good in other people.”.
After almost 44 years of arrival at the Tema Port, Rev. Father Andrew Campbell, was granted full Ghanaian citizenship. He received documents to that effect at the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. He subsequently acquired the name Nii Lantey.
This noble man set a record by being the highest winner on the TV show, “Who Wants To Be Rich?”, by winning a record GH¢25,000, just an answer short of the ultimate. Interestingly, he donated the money to the leprosarium.
Between January to June 1972 he was assigned as acting Priest in charge of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Osu and between 1975 to 1980 appointed Youth Chaplain Catholic Churches, Accra. He was also appointed Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Accra. Catholic Chaplain to Ussher Fort and James Fort Prisons.
In 1982 Father Campbell was appointed member of Management Committee of Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital, Accra. He was also elected as Chairman for Conference of Local Manager’s for Catholic Schools for Accra and Tema among several appointments.
Due to his philanthropist works he was awarded with honorary membership of SOS in November 1994. In 2004 he received Millennium Excellence Award for Foreign Personality of the decade.
He received national ward in 2005 for being 2nd runner up National Voluntary Blood Donor.
In 2011, he was awarded by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice for his work in promoting and protecting fundamental Rights of poor and needy in Ghana
He received another award in 2011 for contribution towards enhancing the Destiny of The Ghanaian Child presented by Ministry of Women & Children.
Compiled By: Kofi OWUSU TAWIAH