The Birth of Ahaspora
Five years ago, on Saturday, April 16, 2011, an initiative named Ahaspora Young Professionals was born. For many who are new to the organization, you may not know how it all started.
I first moved to Ghana on June 1, 2010. I wrote about my story, which I will share with you as well, but the gist of it was that as I made the radical move, which I themed “Joining the Progress Train”, I had a dream that the Delta airline plane that I was on would be filled with Ghanaian young professionals like myself with one-way tickets heading home. But alas, as life would have it, I was the only one I knew! Fast forward to getting home, I realized quickly that I had many mixed emotions, from apologizing for having left; to being frustrated with everything that didn’t work under the hot Ghanaian sun; to enjoying deep forward-thinking conversations with ‘Aha’ and ‘Ahasporan’ young professionals I met; there was a need to find a support system that would ensure I stay home; one that would also fulfill my urge to give back to society.
I tested a few similar organizations and just couldn’t find the exact two things – Support for returnees, and a channel for giving back to our society. I decided to start my own!
Quick explanation – “Aha” is a Twi (Akan) word for “Here” and “Spora” is a stem of Diaspora. This name befits our status of being home as global citizens. The group aims to bridge the gap between those who are “Ahas”, Ahasporans, and Diasporans, by sharing ideas and experiences to build a true “Gateway to Africa”…
I knew very quickly that there was no way I could do this on my own (an important lesson for our young entrepreneurial minded individuals – consider getting a partner or a team, earlier on in the game), so I organized a lunch at my mum’s house (thank you, Mummy, you’ve always got my back!) and told 12 friends about the idea I have. Between the delicious food and their own convictions, we ended up spending several hours discussing all the things we could do together (I still have that list!) from reading legal documents and summarizing them for parliamentarians to building a real estate community for returnees, the sky was the limit for the ideas that we discussed! At the end of the day, with very full bellies, we decide to begin the network by building a listserv (thank you David Hutchful, aka our Techie Superman) where members could ask any questions – this would serve as a major support to folks that are thinking about it, transitioning, or have already joined the progress train! From 12 members, today we can boast of over 1300 members. Here are some of their observations from members on the listserv
I love Ahaspora because I can find all the info I need from a really supportive community – Dzifa of Dziffa.com
For me, Ahaspora is an opportunity to strengthen and build my network both social and business – Nii Lantei Sunkwa Mills
Ahaspora helped me to get job opportunities, found reliable services to use and I have had the opportunity to mentor 5 students through the Ahaspora Mentoring Program – Ato Ulzen-Appiah
The Ahasporan vibe is phenomenal – Brian Frimpong
Ahaspora to me is a resource centre, a source of inspiration – David Tabi
In addition to the listserv, we started a monthly happy hour that would serve as a social networking forum for our members; no agenda for the first few years, just come, wind down, meet new people, and if you have energy, discuss key issues – politics; economics; professional development; etc. These social networking fora gained traction and what was most joyful for me, was people-watch at every meeting, hearing at least one story of someone who had recently come home and was looking for a support system. Well, welcome to Ahaspora!
5 Years Later
As I look back over the past five years, I have learned three (well many, but I’ll focus on three) major lessons:
- Like the Nike ad, if you have an idea that you’re passionate about and you find a gap in your life that you need to fill “JUST DO IT!”
- Find like-minded people (they always exist) who believe in your idea and vision, bring them together in one room, let your heart out, be vulnerable, and ask for support!
- The old adage ‘little drops of water make a mighty ocean’ couldn’t be more accurate!
… After its inception, over the next two years, we discussed in detail what kind of Give Back forum we wanted to undertake (among others) as a flagship project. After lots of back and forths, we decided to go with mentoring, something we were all passionate about, and settled on mentoring of high school (versus university) students. We knew it would be challenging for this younger age group, but we had seen a gap in access for this cohort and decided to take the plunge! We focused on honing professional and personal development – critical thinking; citizen engagement; leadership; taking initiative; etc. among our mentees.
With this and our deep desire to assist our future leaders in approaching life through a different lens, the “Changing Mindsets” Mentoring Program was initiated in 2013. We learned so many lessons! From not realizing that students would be completely locked away from the world once they are in school, to not keeping tabs on the mentor-mentee relationship, three years down the lane, we’ve built a solid (still has a lot of room for improvement) mentoring community and have reached over 300 high school students in Ghana.
I have to pause for a moment to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to this self-funded initiative over the past three years. Special thanks to CitiFM for their support, as well as Kimathi Foundation for their consistent substantial contribution. We couldn’t do this without you!!!
Today, my eyes get wet when I think about how far we have come, and how there is absolutely no way I could have done this alone: Major shout out to our Executive Team: David Hutchful (Co-Chair); Freda Ampofo (Programs Manager); Francis Appiah (Finance Manager); Mary Tabi (Knowledge Management Officer); Nii Shippi-Quaynor (Business Development Manager); Yaw Attua-Afari (Strategy and Partnerships Manager); Erica Daniels (Communications Manager) Also many thanks to the various planning committees we’ve formed over the years. These dedicated individuals have given so much of their time (for a three-month period in 2013, 2014, and 2015) we would meet every Tuesday evening to plan fundraising events and the mentoring program. That kind of dedication is rare to find!
In the last few months, one of our members has started the Lagos Young Professionals and Ibadan Young Professionals; and another member is about to start a group in Kenya, while two other members in Canada and Grenada, respectively are looking to get set up – for me, this really warms my heart, and demonstrates that the Progress Train is on course!
In the next 5 years, our goal is to strengthen the mentoring community in both depth and vastness (reach and quality); to document the stories of Ahasporans across the continent; to expand on our giving back community; to better document the reintegration process; as well as revive our Speaker series. So lot’s of work to do, particularly since we all have daytime jobs, but as they say, ‘we make time for important things’ and ‘to whom much is given, much is expected!’
Here’s to another five years of positive impact for our country Ghana, and our Continent as a whole.
If you are interested in helping out in any way, do reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Ahaspora Young Professionals