|Cellcom’s Changing Lives In Liberian Millionaire Campaign Winners Tell their Stories|
|Published on October 27, 2009||Email To Friend Print Version
After entering the postwar Liberian GSM service provider’s market in 2004 and broke the exploitative monopoly—making cell phone communications cheaper and affordable—Cellcom, five years later, has heavily involved itself into sharing its turnover with its valuable subscribers and the Liberian people in general.
Cellcom’s people-driven and humanitarian services have concretely changed and continue to have greater effect on the lives of Liberians, most of whom are poor.
The giant GSM Company hit the Liberian market in November 2004—with the mission and conviction of making telecommunications, not only available, but also radically affordable to all Liberians irrespective of their status in society. As the company its 4th anniversary last November, its management proudly announced to the Liberian people that “Cellcom’s mission is overwhelmingly accomplished”.
Indeed, more than any other GSM company in Liberia, Cellcom has irrefutably spent the highest amount of resources, reaching out to the poor population in Liberia, actualizing its motto: “With Cellcom: Your Are Always Number One.”
The most famous and astonishing of these Cellcom give-away campaigns was the “Be A Millionaire Campaign” that ran from March to June 2009. During the campaign, Cellcom gave out US$10,000 weekly to a lucky subscriber, through a very transparent, well-organized and entertaining Raffle Draw that pulled hundreds of spectators in Monrovia and other parts of the country that the draws were held. The grand prize of the raffle held on June 29, 2009 was USS15, 000
Besides the huge sum of money (in Liberian standard) given out weekly, Cellcom also engaged in other humanitarian programs such as empowering educational institutions with chairs, stationery and office equipments as well as computers and internet facilities. On top of that, “The Number One” GSM company used the Millionaire Campaign to promote, empower and showcased the performances of Liberian cultural and musical artists—bringing them closer to the public.
Cellcom spent at least US$130,000 in total, most of the monies going in the pockets of the poverty stricken: students, farmers and petty traders among other—many of them struggling with life below the poverty line of US$1 a day.
However, about four months after the Cellcom Millionaire campaign came to a close, the lives of its 15 winners have tremendously changed, and many of them may never go back to the dungeon of poverty from where they walked into the hall of fortune. A survey conducted (including visitations and telephone calls) observed that the lives of many of the winners have moved to another stimulating level. They now tell their stories—reminiscing their struggling past, celebrating the presence and looking into the future with bright optimism. The following relates how the lives of these Liberians have been transformed for better.
“I am in school, and everything is all right with me,” twenty-year-old girl, Tupee Tequah, the second winner of the Cellcom millionaire campaign said in a telephone conversation Monday.
Tupee resides in Grand Bassa County with her parents and attends the St. Joseph High School of the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC). She was an 11th grader when she won the US$10,000 on March 16, 2009, seven days after 25-year-old Samuel T. Bowin, a 10th grader at the David Lumeh Academy in Monrovia, became the first winner of the campaign. “I’m in school now, I am in class right now and all is fine with us here,” Tupee said.
When she won, Tupee’s thrilled father, Morris Neasain – Assistant Manager for Extension and Replanting at LAC - said the family would use the money to foster Tupee and her sisters’ education, because Liberia needs more human resource capacity.
Tupee’s impressive father indicated that because Liberia lacks adequate human resource capacity, it was unable to manage its abundant resource, thereby borrowing human resource to do what Liberians should be doing. “That’s just what he has done,” she said.
“I want to commend Cellcom for coming up with such raffle draw and thank God for making my daughter a winner … I want to assure you that I will use the money wisely towards my children’s education,” Mr. Neasain who said none of his four girl children are any longer a burden to him noted.
Three of his children are college products, two working in government while Tupee is now a 12th grader.
Fatumatta Konneh—doing petty trading, then—was the third winner of the life-changing campaign. She was struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis, but things are never the same: “I went Guinea and bought a car, I bought land to build my house in Guinea”, she said during the survey. “Thank God for Cellcom,” she furthered, “who made it today I have car in my life,” the St. Francis Junction (Paynesville) resident said. She said her life would never be the same, because “Cellcom has changed everything with [US] 10,000 dollars.”
William Blamo, the 5th winner of the draw held on April 4, 2009, said there were no difficulties in paying his whole year school and tuition fees this year. “I paid all my fees down,” the 9th grade student of the Breath of Life SDA High School in Congo Town, Old Road, said. He was an 8th grader, deeply buried in poverty, when he won. His father had passed off and two of his younger siblings were not in school. “All of us are now in school, and I’m getting ready to build my house during the dry season,” the teenager said. Blamo says he no longer knows what poverty is and he will complete his three-bedroom house in months ahead.
“For me, my life has changed totally; I will never be what I was before, and I give God all the praise and thank Cellcom for the opportunity,” Bill Sheriff, the tailor, said. Bill was the 6th winner of the Cellcom millionaire campaign. “I was sitting behind my machine sewing clothes for my children to sell that Saturday, when my Cellcom bonanza phone rang…Then T-Max told me I have won 10,000 dollars,” Bill explained as he walked to his expanded tailor shop at Red Light. Bill has bought a new sewing machine for his shop, bought a taxi cab, and renovated his father’s house in Jamaica Road. “As I speak to you right now, I have my boys in the bushes burning coal for me,” he noted. “So I now have a taxi running; I have bought new machine, I have renovated my father’s house, I have people burning coal for me, and I will build a new tailor shop next year,” Bill explained the transformation in his life.
Matenken Bayo, the 7th winner is no longer a “cassava gravy seller”. She currently deals in dry goods which she buys from neighboring Guinea. Listen to her: “I go Guinea to buy goods to sell. I buy slippers, watches and plenty small, small things and do sell-pay [a trade in which customers takes goods and pay later].” Most interestingly, Madam Bayo said she no longer lives in the Mataldi in the mat house she lived when she won the US$10,000. “I finished building [one-room apartment on Robertsfield Highway; I am now living there building the big one,” she said. She said her life has been changed from hard time to better life. “I’m very happy for Cellcom, let God bless them for what they’re doing,” she concluded.
As for the book seller Robert Baryoyar who emerged as the 8th luckiest winner on April 25, 2009, he has invested his money into several ventures. “I bought one taxi. It is in the traffic and wrote on it “Cellcom 8,” because in was the 8th winner,” Robert noted. Robert said he has established another branch of his business and paid all of his 8 children’s school fees (primary to university). Interestingly, Robert now owns a four-apartment house (one-room each) which he is renting. Besides, for the first time in years—because of the US10, 000—Robert has cleared a rubber farm left by his late father, and people are currently working there. “They are working for me, and I go there to pay them,” he said at his business site under Ministry of education on Broad Street. After all of these developments, Roberts said he still has some of his money in the bank, and he is building on it every day.”
Amos Korkollie, the 10th winner resides in Kakata City in Margibi County. The young businessman is near the completion of building a three-bedroom house with his money. “I only need to buy zinc for it now, and pretty soon I will be a very proud man living in my new house,” Amos said. He said “many people hardly believe that a young man like me is building such a decent house”—three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage and front and back porches. Amos continues his business at the Cosmos Pharmacy in Kakata City He says life is very fine with him and family. “Indeed, Cellcom has made me a proud man,” he boasts.
The 11th winner, Decontee Togba: “I thank God that things are fine in my life. I have bought two cars that are running in the traffic.” Decontee said she travels to Togo the first month of next week to buy another car. She will begin the construction of her house in the dry season. “Thank God for bringing Cellcom to this country. Some of us were nowhere and nobody but Cellcom has brought us somewhere and made us somebody, the 29-year-old Soul Clinic resident said.
The most prosperous man that won the campaign was Eugene David—manager of the Metro Car rental on Broad street. The 29-year-old businessman said he doesn’t blame people who doubt the Cellcom give-always, because the money is too much for many Liberians. “Ten thousand bucks is a lot of money for an average Liberian; so they doubt it, but I’m a living witness, it is for real,” Eugene said. “As for me, that money has helped me a lot. It helped me to improve my business and my life.” He said he received too many calls from people around and friends to confirm the report. “I told them it was true, it is for real and I, as a business man, had no reason to lie to the public to promote other people’s business Cellcom could not pay me to lie.”
Eugene said his next wish is to win the hummer jeep in the Cellcom new give-away campaign named “Live Your Dream”—in which Cellcom is giving out expensive 2009 model cars weekly to its lucky customers through a raffle draw. “I now have 400 tickets, and I will win one of those cars from Cellcom, the Number One GSM Company.”
Charles Lincoln, an accountant by profession, was the grand prize winner of US$15,000. Lincoln has bought a new taxi that takes his wife to work and children to school. “That 10,000 dollars brought about significant change in the lives of me and my family, and I am very grateful to Cellcom for the opportunity,” Lincoln said. He said the money has enabled him to underwrite the cost of educating all of his children and other extended family members. “I invested the money into education, the best thing we can give our children, and things are just moving fine with us.” Lincoln said they (family) hope to win one of the cars that Cellcom is giving out weekly. That’s why all of us are now using Cellcom, the best cell phone company in the country.”
When the campaign was officially launched on March 7 this year, Cellcom’s CEO Avishai Marziano noted that “We wanted to make a campaign for the people that reflects exactly what Cellcom and its products and services are all about - innovative, uplifting, and, more importantly, it reminds our customers that we care about their needs.
“‘You are always No. 1’” he noted, “is not just our motto; it’s what energizes our business direction.”
He said in addition to numerous new value-added services, the company will continue to initiate life changing programs for subscribers in the country.
“One of the biggest surges in Cellcom satisfaction comes from the business community, where corporate solutions include free international roaming, Closed Employee Group Calling at a fixed monthly cost with low tariffs, a menu of internet bandwidths including dedicated lines, quality satellite (VSAT) service and maintenance, vehicle tracking and fleet management services, and more,” he noted.
“We are enormously proud of the positive role that we played in changing people’s ability to communicate with each other, whether for personal or business reasons, at a price they could afford and with a quality of service they continue to depend on,” continued Mr. Marziano. “When someone hears “Cellcom,” they think of two things - our accessible, reliable and innovative telecommunication solutions, and “You are always Number One!”
The Millionaire Campaign, he said, was the company’s way of giving back to its customers.
Support To PRS
The Chief of Operations of one of Cellcom, Mr. William Samoa, said the company’s “Be A Millionaire Campaign,” was a step to support the Liberian government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
He said the campaign was designed in line with the PRS, to create an enabling environment and opportunity for winners’ life to drastically change for the better.
Liberia's PRS articulates the Government's overall vision and major strategies for moving toward rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth and development during the period 2008-2011.
The government sees this period critically important as Liberia shifts from post-conflict stabilization to laying the foundation for inclusive and sustainable growth, poverty reduction, and progressing toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the PRS paper states.
The donor-dependent US$1.6bn program is crafted with four major pillars including enhancing peace and national security, governance and the rule of law, economic revitalization (where Cellcom and other investment activities are counted) and rehabilitation of infrastructures and delivery of basic social services.
“Our program is part of the government’s PRS; Cellcom is transforming the lives of people which is the ultimate intent of the PRS, that why we are proud supporters of the government’s initiative, and we feel all Liberian should support it,” Mr. Samoa noted.
He said the GSM Company was proud to share its overturn with its subscribers in a very special way that will have a lasting impact on those who win the “Be A Millionaire Campaign.”
Meanwhile many persons in the public have praised Cellcom for its numerous campaigns aimed at changing the lives of Liberians, but others continue to doubt—a group of people who the Cellcom’s Pro T-Max Jlateh brand “Doubting Thomases.”