Blazing Trails: JA Alumni Breaking Barriers
- November 5, 2019
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After participating in the Swiss Re Start Up Academy, organized by Junior Achievement Ghana in partnership with Aiduation International, Winifred Awinpoya’s life has taken a dramatic turn for the better, from getting fully funded to one of the most acclaimed universities in Africa and building a global network of passionate young people fighting for a more sustainable environment.
She recounts the relentless story of her journey, that was almost forced to a conclusion as a result of the economic difficulty she faced in the blog post below.
You are the first person to attend university in your family. What accounts for this success?
In Bongo, where I come from, girl child education is not a priority to most families. My father, who is a teacher in a basic school in my community believed otherwise, and gave me as much exposure an opportunity like the boys had. Although, he was usually chastised for “wasting his time”, I was challenged to prove him right, and encourage other girls to do same. For the first time in the history of my district, a girl was the highest performer in the basic education exams and in the first time in my family, someone passed the exams in just a sitting.
How did you participate in the Swiss Startup Academy?
I had always followed the activities of JA Ghana on social media. I was inspired by all the stories of the amazing young people who were bold to disrupt their communities with innovations and solutions. I wanted to be part of such people and those posts made me believe that I could do same. However, the invitation for the Academy didn’t come directly from JA but through CAMFED. I was a Mastercard Scholar from a CAMFED initiative in my region so when I saw the message about the academy in our alumni group, I embraced the opportunity.
How did the Academy impact you?
The Academy provided a chance to merge my passion for environmental conservation with business. We formed Borla Evangelists, a waste management company that collects plastic innovatively and sell to recycling companies. It exposed me to an external network of change makers on the shared platform of Aidulink some of whom have joined my current project.
Did the JA contribute to your entry into ALU?
Beyond their programs, JA Ghana has a heartfelt commitment to the individual success of all their members. I reached out to Mr. Abeiku Greene, the Programs Manager, about funding for a program in Canada I had been selected for few weeks after the academy to help me raise funds for my travel. Even though it was unsuccessful, he reached out to people in different organization and even tried to start a fundraiser on my behalf. Unfortunately, the time was too short to raise any money so he helped me with my applications for ALU scholarships after I had gained admission. He mentored me throughout the process and gave multiple feedback on my essays whenever he needed to. I applied for 3 scholarships and I got acceptances for all of them.
You are also a scholarship recipient from a JA Ghana partner, Aiducation? How did you get that opportunity?
Again, all the credits to the relentless efforts of Mr. Abeiku Greene. My scholarships from the African Leadership University were insufficient so he reached out to Aiducation if the could sponsor me. They reacted positively by setting up a fund for students to apply and again, I won the scholarship to cover the cost of my return ticket to Kigali and accommodation. Without this scholarship from Aiducation, my admission and scholarships from ALU would have meant nothing because my parents could not afford to pay for neither my flight nor accommodation.
You were awarded a Conservation Scholarship from ALU because of your efforts at creating a sustainable world. Can you speak to that?
The mentorship and support of the JA community cushioned me to start Conversation Leaders, a community driven initiative propelled by young people who are pioneering environmental sustainability in the world. Our members organize cleanups, training programs and outreaches to sensitize their local communities about environmental conservation as sustainability. I believe it was through these efforts that I won the scholarship.
Winnifred is a student of the African Leadership University in Rwanda, studying Global Challenges, with a focus in Environmental and Wildlife Conversation. She is passionate environmentalist and nature lover who eager to create a more sustainable Africa and through her initiative, Conservation Leaders, and other initiatives she’s involved in, we have no doubt she would achieve her dreams.