23rd July 2024

By Nana Kwasi Asuman-Frimpong (SayItRight)

It was one hot afternoon, a few days after completing Senior High School (SHS), when I found myself sitting in a small classroom with unfamiliar faces. My mission was simple: take an aptitude test in hopes of securing a teaching position. Little did I know, I was embarking on a journey with an organization that has been a pillar of community and personal development for 180 years—the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

 

First Encounter with the YMCA

In 2007, I began working as a teacher at the YMCA Akyem Oda Basic School. Intrigued by the organization, I delved into its history and principles, which inspired me to become a member. My involvement with YMCA extended beyond the classroom, attending regional and national events, building friendships, and gaining experiences that would profoundly influence my life.

The Akyem Oda YMCA was in partnership with Mampong Akuapem YMCA and Hilchenbach Germany YMCA. This collaboration connected me with individuals from these branches, broadening my perspective and network.

The Transformative Impact of YMCA

As I explored the association, three core aspects struck me, shaping my life’s trajectory for the better.

  1. The Rich History

As a church-going youth, YMCA’s mission to put Christian principles into practice through programs fostering healthy spirit, mind, and body resonated deeply with me. This alignment with my personal beliefs motivated me to become part of an organization founded by George Williams in 1844. Williams aimed to unite young men escaping the perils of street life under one supportive umbrella. Years later, I and a group of young people would establish the Oda Network of Christian Youth (ONCY), bringing together young people from various Christian denominations in Akyem Oda to focus on spiritual growth and community service.

Relating to the young men of 19th century London, who sought to improve their lives amidst industrial challenges, I saw a reflection of my journey. Coming from a modest background, I was determined to shape my future positively, just as those early YMCA members did.

 

  1. Mission and Values

YMCA’s dedication to enriching communities through comprehensive programs aligned perfectly with my passion for community development. This alignment led me to join a group of young men and women for the formation of the Akyem Oda Concerned Citizens Association (AKOCCA), where we led various community projects. Notably, we successfully advocated for the construction critical projects to address local infrastructure issues, organized educational events to boost education, particularly at the Basic School level in Oda and initiated impactful community sanitation, health development projects and tree planting programs.

The YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility inspired me to establish the Evening Mail Gh, a platform for budding journalists to hone their skills. Furthermore, My lifelong ambition demonstrated through activism and leadership roles, led to the establishment of the Environmental News Agency (ENA), a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing relevant environmental content for news, generating well-researched reports for academic and industrial research, collecting essential information for public interest and environmental protection, and building a passionate team of young people committed to environmental sustainability and climate change.

My dedication to environmental protection saw me advocate for the development of the Akyem Oda Big Tree as a tourist site, the protection of the Atewa Forest Reserve, and the revitalization of the Ghana Consolidated Diamonds (GCD) Company Limited. In recognition of these efforts, the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) honored me as the Best Journalist in Environmental Reporting in the Eastern Region in 2018 and 2019.

 

  1. Youth Organization and Leadership

Before joining the YMCA, I had never been confident enough to actively seek leadership roles. However, my involvement with YMCA, especially the opportunities to lead events at Akyem Oda YMCA, significantly boosted my confidence and public speaking skills. This newfound courage propelled me to various leadership positions, including becoming the first level 100 student to be appointed as a Junior Common Room (JCR) executive at my university hall, President of the Local National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) at the University of Education, Winneba-Ajumako Campus, and later a Senator at the University of Ghana Graduate School.

Nationally, I served as the Press and Information Secretary of NUGS, General Secretary of the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG), and Chairman of the Editorial Board of GRASAG. My advocacy efforts included challenging the proposed Public Universities Bill, addressing scholarship distribution issues by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), and launching the GRASAG Green Campaign to promote forest conservation and tree planting in senior high schools.

The experience and confidence gained from YMCA enabled me to lead significant student advocacy efforts and contribute to policy changes that benefited students across Ghana. During my tenure as GRASAG Secretary, proactive leadership ensured timely payment of bursaries and thesis grants, a practice that regrettably lapsed after our administration.

Celebrating 180 Years of Impact

The YMCA has had a monumental impact on my life, instilling values and providing experiences that have shaped my journey. As we celebrate 180 years of the YMCA, I extend my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for this remarkable organization.

 

The writer is a member of Akyem Oda YMCA

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