Greetings from the Ghana YMCA, where I’ve happily been working for the past three weeks as Marketing and Communications Innovator with Youth Challenge International. The core business of the Ghana YMCA is empowerment; its core aim to develop the potential of young Ghanaians by helping them become productive citizens in their communities, their country and more largely, their continent.
With branches across eight of Ghana’s ten administrative regions, the Ghana YMCA serves approximately one million people in 75+ communities across the country, with its presence particarly strong in the greater Accra region, as well as the Eastern and Western regions. Its facilities range from early childhood development and care centres and community clinics to vocational training institutes — one of which I was lucky to visit this past week.
What I find most interesting about the YMCA Vocational Training Centre in Sekondi-Takoradi is the fact that management, operation and student enrolment is almost 100% female. What this means is that despite Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) branding it is very nearly an all-girls place of empowerment — speaking volumes, I think, about the reach and breadth of diversity of the Ghana YMCA’s programs and services.
Established in 1989, and set to celebrate its 22nd anniversay next month, Takoradi’s YMCA Vocational Training Institute aims to improve the quality of life for young Ghanaian girls by helping them become self-sufficient through the development of employeable skills. It predominantly serves girls aged 16-24 from the Shama Metropolitan Assembly with the opportunity to gain employable skills such as catering and dressmaking.
According to Kwabena Nketia Addae, Ghana YMCA National General Secretary, the Ghana YMCA established vocational and technical training centres like the one in Takoradi in response to a high number of young people who were unable to further their education after completing basic education. This was either because of financial constraints — their parents’ inability to pay for their education at a higher level — or their inability to meet the academic grades for the next level. The large number of unemployed young girls was of particular concern, he says; hence, through the support of CVJM, one of Ghana YMCA’s international partners, the Takoradi YMCA Vocational Training Institute.
Principal of the institute is the formidable Emelia Boafo, an alumnus of Canada’s Coady International Institute, as well as the Institute of Education, Winneba (Kumasi campus). Under her tutelage, demand for places is high; student enrolment is double what it was 20 years ago, largely due to reputation. 85% of graduates are currently employed, with many others self-employed in and around the Sekondi-Takoradi area. After tasting the practicals of the first year catering class this past Friday, a menu which consisted of French rolls, “Russian” salad, beef stew, butter braised cabbage and fruit salad, I can personally vouch that the proof in the pudding is in the eating.
As Marketing and Communications Innovator my role during my six weeks in Ghana is to promote all the good work being done by the Ghana YMCA. In an effort to grow its profile, I’ll be visiting various YMCA branches and highlighting the diversity of their services — including perhaps surprisingly to some, women empowerment programs. Next up: a visit to the Koforidua and Kumasi branches, to interview some of the YMCA staff and supporters involved in early childcare and youth development.
I’m also hightlighting the strength of the YMCA Ghana’s international partnerships, one of which is Youth Challenge International. I’m doing this partly through the use of social media — so don’t forget to “like” us on our new Facebook page!
-Veronica Lasanowski, Marketing and Communications Innovator, Ghana 2012