Just as some young people develop their physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights, so do other young people like me also develop our character muscles by overcoming life challenges and adversity; one can never overcome without taking up a Challenge. This thought has haunted a young man who for a very long time has built a heart fulfilling aim of making some positive impact in his society.
Pat Riley, through his famous quote strengthened my passion as he stated “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” my best effort was responded to positively to be part of young Volunteers who has similar ambitions, my training at Suma Court built up my interest in volunteering and making impact in society. Seeing the passion in our UKV (UK volunteer) counterparts when they finally arrived and their response to our welcoming drumming and dancing energized our level of enthusiasm to face challenges in a country which is widely seen as the “Gateway to Africa” and has many prospects in every business area. Most Ghanaians are employed in the informal sector which is mostly owned and managed by private business men and women who face enormous difficulties of understanding their business environment in which they operate. Training finally came to an end and I was paired with a Lady whom I knew barely anything about throughout the training period, the only thing I knew was her name, Stella was my counterpart and the first challenge was to know her better before we even leave Suma Court.
Our first interaction started with a wave at each other, we later on met again to have a chat which was more fruitful and I saw in her eyes a smile full of skepticism, she was not sure about her counterpart (me) and how I will cope and support her to face and conquer the bigger challenges ahead but what she never knew was that, our aspiration for the task was mutual. In our introductory chat, we discussed our placement which was a Shea butter company called Strictly Roots located in Osu, a very busy town in Accra.
The next challenge was to know about our Business placement and know what they do, before i could enter my phone’s pass-code, Stella informed me she had earlier checked the website of the enterprise and was already briefing me about the business. I was amazed, I joined her to read about the business and how our placement would be very beneficial to the enterprise and sustainability of the business. By the time we concluded our first encounter, my thoughts about my counterpart was more of positives because her high sense of pro-activeness. Saturday came and we were informed about our host home which was in Nungua, another Challenge of Settling in with new a family, roommate and Two UK counterparts pairs was smiling at my skeptical face, fortunately or unfortunately the final hour came for us to be picked up by our host Family. we were the first team to be picked up, leaving our new found friends at Suma Court was a bit difficult but my upbeat for the task ahead always raised my head up. Training made us feel like the best consultants on earth but it never took out the difficulties we will face in our quest to make a change in our respective enterprises.
Our chartered taxi brought us safely to our host family and we were warmly welcomed by Auntie Alice whom herself has had an experience of being placed in a host home when she traveled to the US; her cross-cultural experience was very in-depth with a long stay in UK. Our welcoming exchanges were climaxed with a delicious Lunch, we went on to introduce ourselves to her and told her much about our background and she exhibited great understanding for the programme, it seemed i had tackled my challenge of settling in and feeling accepted by my host mum. I continued my chat with my counterpart pair, all in an attempt of building a good relationship between us, notwithstanding, I considered these challenges to be lesser ones and that there is a bigger one which needs a united force of UK and GH intellectual collaboration in order to be triumphant. Monday came and it was time for our first CMI session, getting to the Office for the session sent us through ‘Circle’ for the first time on a busy Monday morning, the looks on my counterpart’s face wasn’t amusing because of what she had earlier heard about Circle, we manage to cross that hurdle of street vendors trying to sell phones and other gadgets to us and we finally got to the office but a little late because of huge traffic. Presentations and other activities went on as planned and the day finally ended in a tiring mood.
Tuesday was a working day, it wasn’t just a normal working but the day volunteers would be meeting their business owners for the first time. “Strictly Roots” was the name of my business. The owner was a woman who has had a lot of international exposure, my counterpart and I placed a call to her and we managed to schedule a meeting with her for 1:00pm, the immediate hurdle was to get to the correct location under a scorching sun. A walk from Danquah roundabout to the office of “Strictly Roots” was a bigger challenge for my counterpart than me. I saw her in an exhaustive mood with her face turning red after walking for about 25 minutes trying to locate the office around Osu.
Our walking trip was not done without heckling from traders because of what I termed the ‘White Effect’, people were just saying ‘hi’ to me simply because I’m walking with a white lady and they would always approach us with stuffs to buy, something I wouldn’t have experienced if I was to be walking alone. But it was fun, I felt some pity for my counterpart, as she would be facing it for the next 10 weeks. We finally arrived at the flagship shop of Strictly Roots.
Fortunately, the room was fully air-conditioned, Stella looked relieved and from the expression on her face that was what she really needed, because we arrived earlier, we had to wait for the CEO, after some minutes Ruth finally arrived and we exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves to her. She invited us into her house for the actual meeting. Our faces gave away our exhaustion and Ruth was kind to offer Coconut drink instead of water which was exactly what I needed to quench my thirst. At no point in time was I carried away by the treat but had in mind the bigger challenge of fitting in and being accepted by the business and the owner as well, our meeting started on an interesting note where Ruth told us about herself and her mission in Ghana, she continued to tell us about how she started the business and the challenges she has faced over the years to get her business running. From my viewpoint, Ruth was an astute business woman but her business in Ghana was a start up which needed serious brand awareness and market analysis.
The meeting continued with my counterpart first introducing herself and I followed same, we went on to tell her about Challenges Worldwide and their plan for developing economies through the support of SMEs in a more inclusive and sustainable manner through young volunteers. The meeting ended with Ruth introducing us to her Operations Manager, who was a friend from the US, Jennifer assured us of the utmost cooperation for the programme which made me happy because I felt our initial exploratory meeting had been convincing and I was on the right path of making a positive impact in my society. The meeting was followed by an email from the business, expressing how happy they were to meet us and how ready they were to work with us, the next meeting was scheduled for Thursday at our CEO’s request.
Next meeting day finally came; I was really ready for the second encounter of knowing my business and my counterpart was equally geared up for it, Ruth opened the meeting with some concerns which had been bothering her the night before, ‘Issue’s of confidentiality’. This was really a tough one for myself and my counterpart, we did our best to convince her about our utmost good faith with dealing with her, she looked a little convinced but other interconnected issues came up and our high hopes of a fruitful meeting was going down the drain, this was really a tough challenge to handle alone. The pending issue wasn’t solved and my business sadly pulled out through an emailed and I was duly copied, I was devastated and saw it as failed attempt of facing a challenge but this was not new to our Programme Coordinator as he has faced similar cases in earlier cycles. I was now expecting to be placed in a new business, the long wait was finally over as my counterpart and I was informed about our new business.
Amab Fine Snacks was the name of the enterprise and they produces KeleChips (plantain Crisps). I was very happy to be once again an active citizen after the earlier disappointments but I motivated myself with this quote, “A goal with no challenges is one which is not challenging enough”. Strategies were reviewed and we are now quietly settling in our new business hoping to conquer that bigger challenge and make that positive impact society needs from young people like myself and Stella. The challenge never Ends !!