Bucket of Eggs to Bucket of Hope: Gbarnga 5th Grader in Priceless Encounter with Veteran Broadcast Engineer

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Christiana Johnson with Madam Hedy Zussman.

As a popular Liberian proverb says, “man’s luck is under his feet,” so it was with little Christiana Johnson, a seller of boiled eggs, who was recently dotted in Gbarnga Bong County by an American Broadcast Engineer, Hedy Zussman, to help her study in the United States of America to realize her dream of becoming a pilot.

Ms. Johnson, 12, and a 5th grade student of the Gbarnga Free Pentecostal School in Gbarnga, informed Madam Zussman that she wants to be a pilot, “because pilots go many places around the world every day.”

“I want to be a pilot, because pilots are people who go to many places, even though I have no idea of an airplane, but I really want to be a pilot to go many places,” little Christiana Johnson said.

Zussman, who herself is not a pilot, but a broadcast engineer with the National Broadcast Corporation (NBC) in the U.S., said she developed interest in Christiana because of her courage to become a pilot. Zussman is the first American woman broadcast engineer.

“I can be a help for her to achieve her dream by becoming the first Liberian female pilot. I guess she is able to withstand the study,” Madam Zussman said.

Christiana Johnson being interviewed by Madam Hedy Zussman.

“I don’t want her to go back in the streets, and sell boiled eggs anymore, I’ll pay her school fees,” the American Broadcast Engineer promised.

Hedy Zussman who visited Christiana’s home in the Far-East Community in Gbarnga, did not say how soon the girl will leave the country for the U.S., but informed her parents that she will sponsor Christiana Johnson in school, and Christiana may go to the U.S. to spend the vacation, adding, ‘I don’t want her to go in the streets and sell, I will pay her school fees.

How was she spotted?

Christiana, who usually sells boiled eggs on the streets of Gbarnga, visited the compound of Radio Gbarnga on her normal selling route, where she encountered this broadcast engineer along with her colleagues, who went to Gbarnga to assess the television facility of Radio Gbarnga FM initiated by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.

She had a little over L$3,000 worth of boiled eggs and her entire bucket of eggs was paid for on that day by Madam Zussman; it was a happy day for employees of Radio Gbarnga as each employee was carrying about five eggs.

“I have been selling the eggs to pay my school fees since the age of nine, because my father and mother live in the village making farm, so they are not able to pay my school fees,” Christiana informed her new-found ‘godmother.’

“I am living here in Gbarnga with my aunt. I have to come from school, go sell before we can eat late in the evening,” she said.

Catherine Vesselee, Christiana’s aunt, said she could not believe her ears when she heard of the offer from an American lady to her niece, noting, “this is a miracle from God, and I trust and believe that God works in so many ways.”

Hedy Zussman is a behind-the-scenes television professional who has been breaking down barriers her entire life. She has worked at WMAQ-TV/NBC5 in Chicago since 1972. Hedy currently serves as Archivist/Librarian Supervisor in NBC’s digital media world.

Her path to WMAQ-TV began in the Chicago area where she studied at Proviso East Township High School in Maywood. She soon went on the road, first to the University of Miami where she studied drama and then she transferred to Miami University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

Hedy’s journey to television then took a long detour to the other side of the ocean. Hedy studied conversational Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1968 and then joined the Israel Broadcasting Authority Television Studios and took a lead technical and editorial role in what appeared on Israeli television. She served as a technical director, an assistant producer, and director of transmission, as well as directing news department interviews and acting in film documentaries for television.

She was the first female studio audio engineer, first studio female lighting director, first female mini-cam tape engineer, first female in the Bears, Sox and Blackhawks locker rooms and first female sports editor for WMAQ both in house and in the field. Hedy worked on a wide variety of programs including The 10-pm News with Floyd Kalber, Tilmon Tempo, the Kup Show, Sorting It Out, Bubble Gum Digest, the Today Show with Barbara Walters and Frank McGee and Midnight Special with Wolf Man Jack.

In 1989, as weekend editing supervisor, Hedy oversaw WMAQ’s final broadcast from the Merchandise Mart and debuted the first broadcast from the NBC Tower. Hedy won the prestigious Emmy Award for “Technical Excellence in the Field Tech Crew” for the Chicago 2002 Marathon coverage and she edited the Emmy award-winning sports special, 39 year itch. She is also the proud recipient of three Ovation Awards from NBC for “Work Above and Beyond the Ordinary.”

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