I remember my first 4-H meeting, in the basement of a small church. My Dad made it sound like it would be fun, and maybe it would have if they hadn’t expected me—ME—to stand and state my name, age, and where I went to school. As a child of 9, I had no idea how they could submit children to that kind of torture. As treacherous as that first meeting was, it was the beginning of a new life for me. If you had told me then that a few years later I would be founding a public speaking 4-H club, I would have called you crazy. My experiences in 4-H shaped me, taught me, inspired me, and directed my life. 4-H provides youth with opportunities to see new places, develop critical skills (like public speaking, for example), build relationships with youth and adults alike.
This week happens to be National 4-H Week in the U.S. I always remember promoting 4-H by saying things like, “and 4-H is in over 70 countries!”. If you had told me at that first 4-H meeting that I would now be working with 4-H Ghana, I would have again, called you crazy. Deep imbedded in the values of AgriCorps is the idea that collaboration and supporting local initiatives on the ground is the most impactful way of working. Given this, we have a wonderful partnership with 4-H Ghana—the organization that I would like to highlight today.
4-H Ghana was started by Kwaku “Boat” Boateng in 2000, after a chance meeting with an Extension Agent from Kentucky. Working with 4-H Ghana doesn’t just provide value to our work, but sustainability, knowledge, connections, and experience. Our relationship, as all good partnerships are, is mutually beneficial—and through this, we are both able to accomplish more than either organization could independently.
Boat started 4-H Ghana based on his experience working with the Ghana National Youth Council. His experience made him realize that the kind of impact he sought for Ghana, the kind of impact that youth needed, could be brought by 4-H. A couple of days ago, I asked Boat what he wanted to see for 4-H Ghana 10 years from now. He ultimately wants to see “4-H become like Coca-Cola—Everywhere”. I’ve been in enough rural communities to know exactly what he means. To find an area without electricity or water is fairly easy. To find a community without Coke…now that’s a challenge. Seeing 4-H in every community, rural or urban would bring vast change to the educational and agricultural landscape of Ghana.
Through projects like School Enterprise Gardens, record keeping, positive youth development, and health initiatives, 4-H Ghana is able to reach young people in Ghana to create a generation of active, informed, responsible, citizens. These young leaders can contribute to the growth and development of their clubs, communities, country, and world (wait…where have I heard that before?).
4-H Ghana might look a little different than 4-H in the U.S. The schools and communities are different, the culture is different, and the language. But, the goals of 4-H are the same. The impact on students lives is the same. The skills that are instilled in, the positive relationships that are formed between members and community leaders, the confidence that is built, and the pride and ownership that 4-H members feel when their projects are successful—all of it is the same.
So please, check out 4-H Ghana’s website and Facebook page to follow more of their work. Happy (Inter)National 4-H Week!