Community Champion: Christabel Ofori’s IHAV Empowers Young People In Ghana To Envision Change And Act On It
Christabel Ofori is a Ghanaian social entrepreneur who has a knack helping young people achieve their dreams.
A graduate of Chemical Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, 26 years old Christabel is the President and founder IHAV (an acronym for I Have A Vision) and the only female Production Manager at Unilever Ghana.
Chrisatbel says of herself: “I love to explore new challenges, places, languages and activities. I feel great when I resolve issues and when I help people feel better and overcome challenges.”
Through her organisation, Christabel is supporting youth development and leadership by inspiring and challenging youth across Africa to envision change and Act on it.
“It is my dream to build the capacities of African youth to empower them to envision sustainable change in their societies and guide them to put it to action. This is sparked by my passion to see improved living conditions and quality of life through informed, action-oriented youth change makers,” she said.
Rural Reporters shares her experience and gives us an insight in the life of a young entrepreneur breaking barriers affecting young people dreams in Africa.
What is IHAV and what problem[s] do you hope to solve with this organisation?
IHAV is a youth-run organization whose goal is to inspire change among the youth and build their capacities to effect this change by putting their vision into action. IHAV is an acronym for I Have A Vision. We do this through different volunteering opportunities as well as our annual conference.
The capacities of young people in Africa are under utilised. I want to provide entrepreneurial-nurturing opportunities that will inspire, challenge and empower the African youth to become smart thinkers who will act to contribute to sustainable development.
At the conference, we give participants challenges to tackle that are in line with current economic situations and issues affecting communities. The projects they come up with within the days of the conference will meet our societal needs. These are also projects that will generate revenue and create employment for the members involved who will also employ others.
Did you have a rough start especially since it featured youths from different Africa countries?
Great things usually do not come easy. We’ve had our fair share of challenges, but the passion to execute has always been more and motivated us to still strive to make it happen. There were times I had to literally sleep at the airport with some of my team members just to receive some participants coming from other countries. Another challenge is working with volunteers in different countries with limited face-to-face contact and different time zones.
What were the challenges you faced when you started and how did you overcome these challenges?
Generating funds to cover our conference expenses has been the major challenge. In the end my team and I still find ways to make the conference happen by pooling our resources together and getting contributions from friends and family.
Another challenge has been funds to implement the wonderful ideas that have come up so far, thus only the ones that do not require much startup capital have been started.
What are some of the projects your organisations have engaged in?
We also work to build on the project ideas from the conferences to see them implemented.
Your foundation deals with empowering the vision of young people. How do you do this especially for people living in the rural area?
For now, our main source of publicity and communication is the internet so any young person anywhere who has access to the internet is able to benefit from our activities, announcements and publications.
With time, we will move out more to the rural areas [which] have no connectivity.
How can people help or benefit from the vision of your organisation?
There are a lot of opportunities and spaces for people to volunteer their time, money and other resources to support our cause. They can also help by sponsoring our conference activities and expenses. Most importantly, we need their commitments to execute what they promise to do.
People can also benefit by participating in our conferences or charity projects, partnering our organization or specific projects from the conference, or generally volunteering as members.
The second edition of IHAV centered on the theme: “Creating an Agribusiness Revolution with Africa’s Youth”. For people who are unable to attend this event, what are key recommendations that young Africans can imbibe?
There are countless opportunities for young Africans in the field of agric. There is a long value chain with so many gaps we can easily identify and fill to create revenue for ourselves whiles improving our agricultural management systems and increasing productivity. The first step is to keep informed, learn as much as we can, and initiate ideas that can fill those needs.
When is the next foundation summit coming up?
Next year. The conference is run every year in July.
What are the lessons you have learnt as a social entrepreneur since you began IHAV?
It takes persistence, perseverance, patience and determination to get what you want and achieve the targets you set for yourself. And it takes God’s favour to thrive where other easily fail.
If you are to change anything as a young African visionary leader, what will it be?
Young people’s commitments to their duties and assignments. We still have a long way to go in being very efficient and effective in our activities and dealings.
What advise will you give young people who also want to make significant contribution to the development of Africa?
Go for it. Make it happen. Partner and collaborate with others who share similar goals. There will be lots of challenging situations but by all legal and moral means, keep pushing, don’t give up, and don’t just sit back. Put the vision in action.
IHAV, an acronym for I Have A Vision, was founded in October 2012 under the Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179) of the government of Ghana, as IHAV FOUNDATION, by a group of young African visionaries who saw the need to create a forum where the youth would come together to share ideas on addressing the challenges in our societies, not just by thought or word of mouth, but through sustainable actions as well.
IHAV has since October 2012, grown and expanded to reach many young people, spreading out to over 10 countries across the continent.