Introduced in December 2002 by Volvo Cars of North America (VNCA), the Volvo for life Awards became the largest-ever national search for and celebration of everyday heroes. Since 2002, VCNA received more than 10,000 nominations from all 50 states, provided more than $1 million in awards and contributions in honor of heroes, and more than $5 million to help hometown heroes continue their extraordinary work in their communities.
Throughout the summer, we will re-tell six heroes’ amazing stories of inspiration and fill you in on what they’ve been up to since Volvo named them America’s Greatest Hometown Heroes. Here is the fourth of six Volvo for life Award winners that we will be checking in with during the month of July.
Dr. Ingida Asfaw
In 2006, Dr. Ingida Asfaw of Detroit was named America’s Greatest Hometown Hero in the 4th Volvo for life Awards (VFLA). Dr. Asfaw, an Ethiopian-born heart surgeon who kept a half-century promise to himself by creating an international coalition to address his homeland’s medical crises, received a $100,000 contribution to the organization he founded and a new Volvo every three years for life.
Dr. Asfaw founded the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA) in 1999 with the goal of providing healthcare to the people of Ethiopia, a country where the ratio of physicians to population is 1 per 100,000. Today, ENAHPA is a network of more than 1,000 medical and non-medical professionals and volunteers from the United States, Canada, Europe, China and South America who donate their time and talents to address the Ethiopian healthcare crises through medical and surgical mission trips, other social initiatives, and the transfer of knowledge, skills and technology.
In recognition of his efforts and dedication, judges selected Dr. Asfaw as the winner in the quality of life category and the overall grand prize winner. “Winning the Volvo for life Award has been a great honor. It has had a positive effect on me and my organization nationally and internationally,” said Dr. Asfaw. “It has really raised ENAHPA’s visibility, and that is good.”
Shortly after receiving the Volvo for life Award, Dr. Asfaw and his team were also honored by former President Bill Clinton, who dedicated ENAHPA’s ALERT Hospital Pediatric Ward for HIV in July 2006. ”I commend you on all your efforts to support Rwanda,” Clinton said. ”I’ve been working hard with my [William J. Clinton] Foundation there and across Africa, and I’m glad that you’re so committed to making your voice heard on these important issues.”
About Dr. Ingida Asfaw
A teenager in 1958, Ingida Asfaw left his native Ethiopia to study medicine in the United States. At the time, knowing his homeland possessed no formal medical schools and no semblance of an advanced national healthcare program, he promised himself he would become a doctor and return to Ethiopia with healing hands. Now, more than 50 years later, Dr. Asfaw is a world-renowned cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon based in Detroit running ENAHPA, the international network of more than 1,000 medical and non-medical professionals who donate their time, talents and treasure in Ethiopia.
Volvo’s $100,000 charitable contribution has helped enable ENAHPA to continue its important work and build new programs. Since 2001, Dr. Asfaw has led ENAHPA on bi-annual medical and surgical missions in efforts to address his homeland’s profound healthcare crisis. In 2003, ENAHPA performed Ethiopia’s first-ever historic open-heart surgery. It then created a sponsorship program to support children orphaned by parents who suffered from HIV/AIDS. In 2004, ENAHPA distributed the first major free anti-retroviral drugs and initiated community-based holistic HIV care for people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2011, together with the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), ENAHPA launched the Maternal Child Health Center (MCH), a pilot facility in Ethiopia working to prevent and reduce maternal, neonatal and childhood deaths and illnesses. To date, Dr. Asfaw and ENAHPA have delivered more than 50,000 textbooks, journals and teaching aids to professionals and students throughout Ethiopia in the fields of medicine, law, engineering, nursing, pharmacy and social work.
Since winning the Volvo for life Award in 2006, Dr. Asfaw has chosen to receive the Volvo XC90, Volvo’s popular luxury SUV, for all three of his leases because it’s his favorite. “It’s a good, reliable car with a good name.”