This time last year I was huddled over a computer in an internet cafe in Cusco, Peru, Skyping to YCI staff about an upcoming Youth Innovator position in Accra, Ghana. Here’s what happened after that conversation.
In February 2012, I signalled my first share taxi to the Ghana YMCA where I was to spend the next six weeks in collaboration with YCI. With branches across eight of Ghana’s ten administrative regions, the Ghana YMCA serves approximately one million people in 75+ communities across the country, its facilities ranging from early childhood development and care centres and community clinics to vocational training institutes.
As Marketing and Communications Innovator my primary role was to streamline a marketing and communications strategy for the Ghana YMCA, prioritizing the use of social media towards growing membership. Over the six weeks I was privileged to visit several of the Ghana YMCA’s key outposts across the country — I photographed, I interviewed and I profiled towards spreading the good word about the Ghana YMCA’s diversity of service and programs.
I visited the YMCA Vocational Training Institute, where primarily female students are gaining valuable skills towards employability in hospitality and fashion. I travelled to Kumasi, Ghana’ second largest city, where I learned the Ghana YMCA’s membership extends not only to women, but Muslim women. In both places, like in Koforidua, home to the Ghana YMCA’s Eastern Region Secretariat, what impressed and inspired me was the absolute passion and tireless commitment coming from staff and supporters.
My time with the Ghana YMCA was short-lived but the experience anything but. Part of the reason I wanted to go to Ghana was to gain some professional experience in Africa towards prioritizing an international development focus in my career. I’d never worked in Africa until that point, and felt the YCI Innovator position would greatly contribute to my longer-term professional and personal objectives.
I’m happy to say I’m now working as a Research Consultant with the Division of Communication at UNICEF Headquarters. With a strong presence in 190 countries and territories UNICEF is a respected United Nations agency working in support of the world’s children. Under the Direction of the Brand Management Section Chief I’m involved in several projects on brand management best practice, brand performance and reputation risk, and I’m headed for New York in January 2013.
It’s been an incredible year since that Skype conversation — from Cusco to New York via Accra. And I’ll forever be grateful for the welcome words I heard, the enthusiasm I saw and the encouragement I repeatedly felt at the Ghana YMCA. You can take the girl out of Ghana, but you can’t take Ghana out of the girl.
-Veronica Lasanowski, Youth Innovator, Ghana 2012