Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Strengthening a foundation of youth taking charge of development via Barcamp Ho #bcho

Over the past weekend, I attended the 2nd Barcamp Ho event. This was also the 6th Barcamp to held in Ghana this year. Yeap, the Barcamp Ghana project has been highly visible and the GhanaThink team has been tres busy. The event happened Friday, 21st September at the Ho Polytechnic SRC Junior Common Room. A major Asogli Yam Festival was happening in Ho on the Saturday, 22nd and luckily the 21st was a holiday in Ghana - Founder's Day. This was the first ever Barcamp on a holiday or Friday and it turned out to be a great decision.

"We are not allowed to talk about the problems and not offer solutions, especially solutions we can implement ourselves". Before the Barcamp started, I walked upon a heated discussion on "Free senior high school education" amongst some guys who had just finished a game of football. I had just one question for them "How are you going to solve the various problems you are talking about?"
As is becoming the nature of Barcamp Ghana events, the first major session was a speed mentoring session where various selected and invited resource personnel served to mentor and share insights with attendees over a 10 minute (or less) period. This speed mentoring initiative was a major hit at Barcamp Ghana and has been made a feature at subsequent events. By doing it early, it ensures that the resource personnel are there early too. Many Ghanaian events don't start on time and/or have the attendees come late. By having a mentoring session early, it takes advantage of the small numbers to give the early birds some quality time and value. Now that's a smart thing to do.

The mentors included Eyram Tawia (Leti Games), Florence Toffa (Mobile Web Ghana), Anne Amuzu (Nandimobile), Maximus Ametorgoh (PopOut), Tsonam Akpeloo (Techcom Visions), Sheila Bartels-Sam (InCharge Global) and myself. Donald Ward Diaba, the emcee, shared their various disciplines and topics we could share insights on and we talked to about 6 attendees each. I loved understanding what the passions for these people were and sharing with them some moves and plans they could make to improve what they are presently doing and what they might want to get up to.

It was refreshing to hear Charles Nyante from Voice Ghana talk about the importance and relevance of supporting the disabled to contribute greatly to national development. What struck me were the stats and info he shared, especially around how 737,000 Ghanaians were persons with disabilties, such a telling stat. He didn't stop at the challenges facing disabled people in Ghana but how Voice Ghana was working to meet and surpass those challenges. This communicated the event's theme well. The theme for the event was "Youth Taking Charge of Development". This was front and center of the panel moderated by Donald which featured panelists as Shirley Bartels-Sam, Maximus Ametorgoh and Anne Amuzu. 

Various sponsors and partners made the event possible. Big brother Google supported with funds with messages about the "Africa, Get Your Business Online" program, Google+ and the Outreach Work. We run a number of Google+ Hangouts On Air to afford various people the opportunity to watch the Barcamp live! It worked pretty well off a mobile internet dongle. Voice Ghana supported with some funds while the Centre for Creative Youth supported with some funds and countless hours of service. Nandimobile managed the SMS registrations, while DonaldWard Initiatives, Leti Games, Fienipa contributed too. A new private station, US FM, gave some publicity while the MyJoyOnline & the Ghana News Agency came aboard the Barcamp Ghana train for the first time, with extra support from Modern
As we waited for lunch to arrive, we got into celebrations and reverence of the Founder's Day Holiday itself. Kwabena Akuamoah-Boateng, 1 of the true Ghanaian patriots, gave a speech about Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, talking about some of his achievements. We then sang the Ghana National Anthem which thankfully most of the attendees could sing. At other Barcamps, we sang "Yen Ara Asaase Ni" which is a popular patriotic song composed by Dr. Ephraim Amu. But at this Barcamp, we tried something different, singing "Miadenyigba lɔlɔla" which is the Ewe (or the original) version of "Yen Ara Asaase Ni". Personally, I have always known of the lyrics of the song as we've had it on but I never knew to sing it. Seeing various attendees of Barcamp Ho sing "Miade Nyigba Lolo La" was a very powerful moment. I am going to take a stab at singing the song in private too. We rounded up the singing with "Arise Ghana Youth (for your country)", a song I hadn't sang in years since my primary school days.

The breakout sessions are always my favorite parts of Barcamps as it offers a voice to everyone who's attending. It's almost an opportunity to notice those who are taking charge and want to address the issues and projects for development. The sessions were about reversing the poor performance in BECE exams;  environmental sanitation; technology entrepreneurs solving problems; risk management in entrepreneurship and drama as an educational tool. When the sessions were ended, reps of each group who weren't those leading the sessions provided brief summaries and action items to the full audience. 

The Barcamp ended with another rendition of Miadenyigba lɔlɔla, this time with the lyrics on the screen which hitherto was showing real-time Twitter updates from the #bcho hashtag. This time I could help sing, though I realized I can't read Ewe as much as I would like. So Ewe language, I am officially coming for you.  with vim. Just the way Volta Is Moving with VIM. A young gentleman showed me a Volta Region focused magazine he had published. A couple of people I met at Barcamp Ho 2011 talked to me about seminars and events they had been working on since. 3 of the Barcamp Ho 2011 attendees volunteered and help with the organization for Barcamp Ho 2012. The Centre for Creative Youth had made progress towards their community centre in Ho. Others offered to make the Volta Crusader blog more active. And we had our various breakout action items. Now, that is the "youth taking charge of development".

#Dzolali! Now or never! More vim to all youth taking charge of development, especially in the Volta Region of Ghana. I have to leave you with a video that should go viral. 3 Patriotic songs renditions. We livestreamed Barcamp Ho via Youtube and Google+ hangouts. Groundbreaking. Taking charge. It's the vim.
Photos from the Volta Crusader blog post.
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