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Opinions of Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Columnist: Akpah Prince

The Journey So Far With Christable Ofori

Christable Ofori is one of Ghana's youngest social entrepreneur who dedicates her life to see the change she desires through her own initiatives. I had an opportunity to spend a day with her and below is the conversation we had about her life, passion and future. This publication is also to congratulate her on the just ended IHAV conference an initiative she has being driving for two years now.



PRINCE Can you share with us when and where you were born?

CHRISTABLE: I was born in Takoradi, on August a lot of years ago.



PRINCE Actually we are very interested in the year, so that other young people could judge themselves.

CHRISTABLE: Ok 1988.



PRINCE When did you start schooling?

CHRISTABLE: I’m sure as soon as I was born (laughter).



PRINCE How was it for you to start schooling at that stage?

CHRISTABLE: I enjoyed school and my parents were working, so after six months, I was put in school. And right from the beginning I liked school. So I enjoyed it.



PRINCE Can you share with us some of the schools you’ve attended?

CHRISTABLE: I attended my Primary and JHS at Chapel Hills Schools in Takoradi, my Secondary education at Wesley Girls and tertiary at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).



PRINCE What have being some of the achievements during your school days that you can share with us?

CHRISTABLE: Ok, In JHS I was the Sports Prefect, in SHS I wasn’t really a prefect but we have several clubs that I was part such as Read Wide, Drama and Debate club, etc and in the Tertiary I did chemical engineering, so I was part of the engineering college and I was the vice president for Ghana Engineering Students Association. I was also in several clubs, such as Gospel Explosion, a singing ministry and part of the organizing team for my church in the University PENSA.



PRINCE I went through a website you shared on Facebook which featured you as the best chemical engineering student from KNUST.

CHRISTABLE: That was outside school.



PRINCE How did you achieve it?

CHRISTABLE: Ok. I didn’t have any idea of that award when I was in school. Unilever Company of Ghana normally award outstanding female students or leaders. This was after school during my National Service and they deal directly with the school, they don’t even inform us the participants. They just go to the school to ask for certain courses especially in engineering and sciences and then ask the school for their best female students who have graduated, so the school gave them my name and then I was called that there was going to be an award ceremony so I have to turn up.



I don’t joke with my studies and I was in school to get a certain degree and mine is that I want the best of what I strive for, so my target was always for that and I didn’t know there was anything as an award but I was learning because I needed to learn. I read chemical engineering and I loved the course so I was always reading around it making sure my projects were on point. Hard work just pays well so my hard work was recognized and I was awarded.



PRINCE But back to our main agenda for coming here. You are into social entrepreneurship, how did you start IHAV Foundation if that is your first venture?

CHRISTABLE: Ok. IHAV is actually an acronym for I Have A Vision. I had a vision and started IHAV. I realized that, young people have a lot of potentials, ideas and visions but are not making good use of it. All we do is to sit down and complain that things should work out for us. I attended a certain conference in Argentina, where young people came together and in that conference, I just realize the sort of potentials we have and how if we really come together to work, we could achieve it. Coming back to Ghana and looking at the challenges we face as Africans, I just decided to start IHAV to bring together young people in order to tackle issues that are around us and not just to tackle for tackling sake but to make some money out of it so that we do not depend on corporate entities and government.







PRINCE What is IHAV foundation?

CHRISTABLE: It is a nonprofit organization, nonprofit because we didn’t want people to be part of it because of the money. We want true and passionate people, if you know it is non profit and you still want to be part, we will understand your passion. Basically, the goal is to get young people to collaborate, to bring about change in their environment or their communities where they find themselves. It is more about improving the quality of life around us, so that is what IHAV is about; to inspire and challenge young people to be the change they want.



PRINCE You made mention of having had a vision, how did you explore that vision to get to this stage?

CHRISTABLE: Oh ok, the vision has always been there but it really came alive when I was travelling to the Brong Ahafo region. I just noticed the bad state of some of the villages along the road and how the people lived yet they were blessed so many resources around them such as farms, trees I mean quarries and all those things, so that’s how it came to being. My first step was to research and anytime you have an idea, it is not just about having an idea, you can sell it the first time but to be able to sustain it you need to research more on it. I researched into how young people in Africa are suffering which I contacted a few friends to assist me and I searched for people who are movers and shakers in Ghana and Africa so that they can assist me.



PRINCE How has the journey being so far?

CHRISTABLE: It’s being tough and challenging.



PRINCE Challenges are bound to be there, so can you share some challenges you’ve being facing as an organization?



CHRISTABLE: I work full time, so IHAV is like a part time, but the way it started and the vision we have really demands a lot of time, relating to time management. Another thing is getting young people’s commitment. They complain a lot, you give them an idea and they like it, but for them to really put them into action and stay committed to it, it becomes a problem. Another is disappointments, people will promise to support you and later, you go back and they can’t make time for you, because of my busy schedules, it is really hard doing follow-ups.



PRINCE What has being the achievements so far?

CHRISTABLE: We are really young, we are just a year old, but we’ve had the first project conference, which was a huge success and it is something we will be doing annually. We had about 50 young people come across eight countries in Africa, they came to deliberate and come up with projects. Within the four day conference, we asked them to come up with entrepreneurship programs, projects or ideas to be implemented, so ten ideas were brought up. We are currently implementing three and have promises of implementing two more. So that’s a major achievement, at least we had the likes of Dr. Abu Sakara, Mr. Charles Sam etc coming to speak to the people. Another one is what we are putting up, the Pieces For Peace project. That is part of our social responsibility. Our vision is to improve upon the qualities of life around us and this is targeting orphans this is something we are likely to be doing every year, but we are also going to reach out to the needy people around us.



PRINCE Basically your target is young people, what has being the impact that you’ve received so far?

CHRISTABLE: Ok. Our target is 18 to 28 years we want under 30 people but people who are old enough to make decisions on their own. So the major impact has being through the conference with about 50 participants. We get constant feedback from them on how they have being motivated, because of how I started on my own. I’m young just like them, so they’ve been motivated to know that when they have their vision they can implement if they take the first step. A lot of them complain, they do have ideas but they think it won’t work, so they don’t even try at all. The conference was also on agric and we’ve gotten constant feedback from some of them who started their agric projects, young people thought agric was boring but now we have people engaging in agric and even in 2014’s conference, we are going to explore more of opportunities in agric.



PRINCE What has been the biggest failure in terms of IHAV if there is any?

CHRISTABLE: We have not had anything I will call failure, as I mentioned, it is challenges we’ve had, for instance we had in mind 100 people for the conference but due to some of the challenges we had with communication, people disappointed us but we had 50 people showing up. It was just a challenge and then it was the first time so it made the fifty really handy.



PRINCE Can you redress the social causes you are passionate about? And what you are doing towards it and if there are other ones that you are trying to bring up?

CHRISTABLE: Youth unemployment, so we want young people to be at the helm of affairs, and to determine their own courses or destinies. Young people come out of school these days waiting to be employed, so we are solving it from that aspect that there is something they have that if they actually try to put into action. It can develop into something that they would rather end up hiring others. So we want to tackle youth unemployment along that line, the sort of employment or enterprises they come with will improve the lives around them.



PRINCE All we’ve being talking about is about rebuilding Africa, do you see that as achievable?

CHRISTABLE: It is very achievable, because of IHAV, I try to get into contact with a lot of young change makers, and it is amazing that there are lots of things going on in Ghana. Currently we have young people as fashion designers who are making it not just in Ghana, but across Africa. We now have made in Ghana shoes, and bags they are not doing these things just for the money, most of these people are social entrepreneurs, they try to give it back to their communities by organizing charity events, and this is how Africa is going to rise, I mean when you have young people who don’t think just about themselves, but think about the people around them.



PRINCE So what are your future plans and IHAV in terms of future aim?

CHRISTABLE: As I mentioned, it is part time, the teams we have are all just volunteers, and they all work or school full time so are just assisting. In future we are looking at IHAV being full time, been the hub for youth development in Africa, being a whole training center on its own nurturing young entrepreneurs and helping communities develop.



PRINCE So what are your personal future plans?

CHRISTABLE: Now I am working with a company, so I also have my own ideas that I am trying to put into action, I am going to be an entrepreneur of my own and work for myself.



PRINCE You’ve had inspirations and you have mention names of some honoring your event, could you please share with us your mentors, people who are really inspiring you to just go higher and higher?

CHRISTABLE: I can’t really mention names, what inspires me is stories of people that I read, I read articles a lot, not necessarily big books, but articles, I am constantly on the internet and looking through the papers, Goggling about young female achievers, young African achievers, etc. So the stories of these people inspire me because I realize that they are female blacks just like me, making it. But in terms of mentors and people who are guiding me with IHAV then I can mention Mr. Charles Sam and Mr. Philip Abayori, he is the president of the National Fishermen and Farmers Award Winners Association. But as for inspiration I draw it from everywhere.



PRINCE If you should be ranked by Forbes or Times magazine which category will you prefer to be ranked?

CHRISTABLE: Young female leaders, promising female leaders, promising social entrepreneurs, young social entrepreneurs.



PRINCE What acknowledgement do you have for people that have really helped you far?

CHRISTABLE: First and foremost it is God, because I don’t know how I got here, I started with so many people, and now some of my friends are just amazed at what I do now, my parents, they support me, a lot of people try to do certain things, and they don’t get their parents supports, so that’s one big thing, and all the speakers that graced the IHAV conference the first time, because it was my first time, I had very little experience, some of the invitations were late, but they all graced it. Rene was one like, that, so I had so many speakers, Mr. Charles Sam, Mr. Philip Abayori, Esi Yankah, Dr. Abu Sakara, Kwame, I mean I get a lot of support so, I think when you are just passionate about what you do people feel the passion and they just support you, so if I say, I am mentioning names, I will forget most of the names.

PRINCE Your final words to the youths out there?

CHRISTABLE: They should back their ideas or vision with action, and then they should be committed to what they are doing and they should be persistent. People give up so easily, they try one or two times, when it doesn’t work, then they just give up, if it will work nothing good comes easily.



Thank you and hope you were inspired.

Akpah Prince

akpahprince@ymail.com