“Honouring Obama’s Invitation Was Awe-Inspiring!” - Akosua Afriyie
Diane Mariechild was unmistakably spot on when she said “A woman is the full circle; within her is the power to create, nurture and transform”. And off such promising women is Akosua Afriyie Osei-Appaw; founder of the ‘Dare 2 Dream Ghana’ foundation, who is helping the youth to develop their intellect through arts education and reading African literature. The 30-year old Christian was born and raised in Koforidua (the capital city of the Eastern province of Ghana); a photographer by passion and a social worker at heart.
Akosua is extremely passionate about arts and everything associated to it in a world that she believes, education can be made more fun by using arts instead of memorizing to pass standardized tests. For Akosua Afriyie, being kind to others doesn’t only change you but rather, changes the world; and it’s with this strong conviction of assisting others to make the world a better place, inspired her to join ‘The Young African Leaders Initiative’- YALI.
What is YALI?
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was initiated by President of the United States, Barack Obama, as a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. For Akosua, it was on the Facebook page of the US Embassy that she got to know about the YALI programme and with encouragement from family and friends; she submitted an online application and subsequently earned herself an invitation for a face-to-face interview at the Golden Tulip Kumasi City, Ghana. Together with other thirty-nine (39) successful Ghanaian applicants and one (1) Cameroonian resident in Ghana, a fully paid 6-weeks trip to the USA was the reward of her desire to be part of the YALI project under civic leadership, energy, business and entrepreneurship and public management tracks.
On YALI, Akosua Afriyie recognises the program as a great opportunity for young Africans to hone their leadership skills, learn from outstanding leadership practices that have worked in the United States and adapt it to the current state of affairs in their respective African countries, as well as networking and sharing ideas with other young leaders across Sub-Saharan Africa. She notably remarks: “Through YALI, I have been able to formulate a leadership development plan to guide me in my work. I have also made contacts and friends which would last me a lifetime. I have a couple of projects on-going, including the ‘African Literature Reading Clubs’, which was established in basic public schools to help the young ones develop their love for reading because like they say, ‘there are many ways to enlarge your world but the love of books is the best of all.’
It was also during the YALI summit that Akosua Afriyie met US President Obama in-person and according to her, that moment will forever stay priceless as she witnessed the 44th USA President addressed her and other colleagues during the symposium. “Honouring the YALI Program invitation was awe-inspiring and I have no regrets off being part of such a brilliant summit. President Barack Obama is an inspirational leader and the entire world would forever remember him for his leadership style, his love for his family and his legacy for Africa,” she reflects on the moment of seeing the first ever USA Black President.
“For me, he's the epitome of a charismatic leader. It was unreal being in the same room with him and listening to him [talk to us]. I'm motivated to do more because he believes in my vision and that of 999 other young African leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa of helping build a united Africa. He told us that after this [YALI] experience, he wants us to do more for Africa. We have no excuse to fail and I’m very determined not to.” And the icing on the cake for all the participants of this years’ YALI programme was a certificate of completion signed by President Barack Obama himself.
RETURN TO GHANA
The six weeks stay in the United States for the YALI program is over and Nana Akosua Afriyie has returned to Ghana after her life-changing encounter with other YALI alumini from other participating African countries. She has already hit the ground running with new ideas in her dream of lending a hand to the younger generation in developing their enormous talents through arts education and reading.
On her latest projects, she says: “At the moment we're building collaborations with poets, musicians, writers and others to go to schools and mentor children on their passion and talents. Arts has a way of making kids more confident, outspoken and helps them to improve on their academic performance. Our hope is that through these initiatives they can get in touch with their God-given talents and make the best out of it.”
Akosua Afriyie remains optimistic of the future of the arts industry in her homeland Ghana but argues there is room for improvement. She adds: “I think the arts industry in Ghana is still growing. There's a lot of awareness now about arts and the immense possibilities it offers. We still have a lot to do. I would not place so much emphasis on the government. Arts is something you feel as the change we're looking for comes from within. If you ask a lot of artists about their journeys, they would definitely tell you that it has not been easy. But that's what makes it beautiful and worthwhile. That passion to defy all the odds and go for what you believe in makes artists formidable. ”
Come December 7th, Ghanaians will go to the polls to elect a President and Members of Parliament and with Ghana being among the few African countries that have not experienced large-scale political violence, Akosua and her ‘Dare 2 Dream Ghana’ team are embarking on a crusade of educating the youth not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to stir up trouble in the coming elections. She reveals by adding:” As young leaders, we ought to desist from violence. It is imperative for us to vote on policies which would influence our future and the future of the unborn generations. Most of us as young people do not exercise our civic right to vote. We need to change this. The future of our country depends on the decisions we make today.”
Just like everything that is off great value has a price, so are there financial challenges for young Akosua and her ‘Dare 2 Dream Ghana’ team when raising funds for these projects but she remains very positive of getting co-operate Ghana to come on board to lend a hand. She adds:” Most of our funding have come from ourselves, family and friends but we are hoping to have other individuals and companies [come on board] soon. At the end, it’s not how much we give but rather, how much love we put into giving. ”
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