Changing Lives in Ghana: Meet Osman Yakubu, The Education Warrior
"Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world" may be Nelson Mandela's quote, but to my friend Osman, it's the core value that leads his life. He has made of changing lives in Ghana not a dream, but a reality. The Youth Action on Development is the early education school that reaches out to those in need but beyond that, is a commitment to relentlessly creating a better world.
Taking the next step always requires a certain level of boldness. Persevering when the odds are definitely not on your side takes strength. But pursuing a goal that has the potential of changing lives in a tangible way requires something different: the guts to challenge and disrupt the system. Claiming your voice, owning it and sharing it with others...
Empowered perseverance and creating opportunities
Osman, as he tells us in the video, was born and raised in Tamale, Northern Ghana --West Africa--. A quite isolated region, far from the coastline dominated by Acra, the capital. Many people from his area have no access to early education. He included. Osman learnt the alphabet, the numbers and to speak English when he was 13 years old.
As he says, it was extremely hard but he was willing to bear with the difficulties of getting into school being already a teenager. Osman persevered and made it through school until he was able to go to the University. And then, he joined a volunteering youth program where he met a friend that opened the doors to get the scholarship that brought him to Denmark. That's how he learnt about project management and solving issues. Once he was back home in Tamale, Northern Ghana, he devoted to bringing his dream to life.
Travelling and the International Triangulation of Resources
5 years ago Osman and I were in Denmark. I was leaving the day after we met and he had just arrived. A mutual friend introduced us and I remember being blown away by his warm smile and his curiosity. He even shared mate --our South-American version of tea-- with me!
Years went by and as the proud traveller I am --wink wink--, I decided to contact Osman again to see what he was up to and check what I needed to do to volunteer in Ghana. But what started as a catch-up message ended up in me and some of my good folks here in New Zealand gathering books, letters written by kids and a box with gifts that we shipped to Osman's school, in Tamale, for Christmas.
A while after that, I decided it was time to share some of the amazing experiences and perspectives travel and living abroad have exposed me to. That's how The Global Curious was created and now, here we are again connecting the dots in this International Triangulation (?) of resources.
The butterfly effect: the whole world can relate to the issues Ghana is facing
When Osman went to Denmark on a scholarship at the International's People College, he knew what he wanted to get out of that opportunity: to create an early education school for kids that otherwise wouldn't have access to education until they reach teenagehood.
The problem is that, for many kids, that's already too late. This branches out to youth dropping out school because it gets way too hard, more when you also need to provide for your family. Kids moving into bigger cities such as Accra and Kumasi to do jobs that harm and kill not only them but the environment as well. Ghana is one of the biggest electronic waste dumps in the world. From climate change --which is hitting Ghana hard-- to teenage pregnancy, addictions and no options beyond surviving another day.
I've seen this in my own country, Argentina. I'm sure you have too.
But then, I have seen people do unexpected, amazing things from scratch. Starting with nothing in the material sense of the word but holding onto an amplified vision of who they want to become. And, most of all, what the needs of their communities are.
Youth Action on Development - changing lives since 2012
"Youth Action On Development is a youth organization that aims at creating a society where there is equal opportunity to access quality education and environmentally friendly atmosphere to in-cooperate the demand of the future generation"
Osman started the YAD in 2012. This early education school and kindergarten teaches kids ages 3 to 11 the English language --which is the official language in Ghana--, to read, to count and has become a social centre in the life of the village.
Already 70 kids have finished the full cycle of school. And now, Osman has taken his mission a step further and created what's called Rural Role Model Camps, a project that every summer takes him and his folks out to rural villages to teach high school kids trades and skills they can use later on in their lives.
Because where there are issues, there are opportunities for solutions.
The more we share, the more powerful we become.
Volunteering in Africa? Think Ghana and get your visionary bums over there!
I've gathered resources and useful information for you to dip your toes in this topic.
If you've ever thought about volunteering in Africa but don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for a volunteer program, then this is a great opportunity. As Osman says it in the video, you are invited to become part of this project.
You can do so by reaching out and organizing your visit to teach English or do whatever you reckon would be worth for them and learn how things are in Tamale. As Osman also says, they are more than open to new ideas!
If this resonates with you, get in touch with Osman. Join the Facebook group and contact Osman, he will give you all the details.
It’s quite standard to pay thousands of dollars to be part of volunteering programs but this is not how collaborating with YAD works. You would only be paying for food and accommodation to the family that will host you, that all adds up to $ 250 - $ 300 for a whole month.
What I find so interesting about this is that it’s not a high-profile type of volunteering –which I’m cool with, but this just feels closer to me--, it’s just friends being there for each other.
Collaborate with some moolah!
The YAD is a non-governmental, non-religious association that receives sporadic donations from friends.
It happens to me that I’m quite wary regarding where I invest the money I have allocated for good causes. I want to be 100 % that it will end up in the right hands and not lost in a chain of administrative mess.
I know that I’m saying something quite personal, but it’sthe true.
Contact Osman if you want to fund the school, become a sponsor or if you are well connected and know someone that would be willing to participate. Osman would make a really good use of resources as they are working in growing the Rural Role Model Camps to have a larger reach and get more kids to go to school and learn skills.
How amazing it is to be part of something like this? It just blows my Soul.
Know before you go to Ghana
All travellers need to get the Yellow Fever vaccine before entering Ghana. Find out more on this website, the section that says "all travellers", or here!
Most visitors need to apply for a visa to visit Ghana, this website is quite extensive regarding visa requirements and all topics related. I always recommend though, check with your local embassy!
The best times of the year to get there as Osman tells me are either August or December through to March.
Mole National Park is the closest nature reservoir to Tamale.
Tamale, where the school is, is 600 km north of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Before visiting, you'll arrange with Osman how to get from Acra, where the international flights arrive, to Tamale.
I found this article about Acra and social etiquette in Ghana and really enjoyed it. When I was in Denmark, I was hanging out with Ghanaians quite a lot so I resonate with some of the tips the author writes about.