After doing research about the history of Ghana, Dorcas Okyere realised she had to do her bit for her own country.
“We came to realize that way before international aid started going into Ghana, they were actually better off. Then I realised poverty didn’t actually start until aid was put into the countries. I found it sad that we have allowed other people to fix our problems for us. Only we can fix our problems.”, she said.
“I set up Afri-Can as I wanted people that have the same agenda as me to join forces and make a change. We have all the resources, we have everything on this one continent, and we have so many people on this one continent. By 2021 Africa will have the biggest and largest youth population in the world. And that is a lot.’’
Okyere is a communications consultant from Slough, United Kingdom. She works with a range of organisations across the globe in areas such as the UK, America, and Asia, in order to bring their products into Ghana and other African countries. She has worked with the United Nations to implement things like the recently established African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Overall, she has used her skills to bring more revenue to the continent.
In addition, she started a Non-Government Organization called Afri-Can which means Africa can. The organisation is committed to addressing African development and policy issues by working with the diaspora. They help Africans build sustainable, healthy, and productive communities. This NGO was created by Okyere, and later found a small team of people who have dedicated their time to help their country.
“Let us come together and see where the gaps are. Let us see where we can help and how we can help certain areas grow. Most importantly, let us do this together. It is time to use our skill sets to help our people. We made a mistake during colonization, but we can fix it now”, said Okyere.
However, Okyere says that starting an NGO is ‘’never easy’’.
“Not everybody is keen on starting charity work. The first thing that comes into mind is there’s not money in it. Which is why you get a lot of rich people starting their own foundations as it is easier for them. They do not have to go around looking for grants, funding, donors and stakeholders, because they are literally putting their own money into it”, explained Okyere.
As Afri-Can is a non-profit organisation, she had to fund the charity with her own money. Within the small team, they had to look for grants to help them with their projects. Of course, the grant can only go so far so they had to explore donors and stakeholders. This meant using social media, giving potential stakeholders and donors, reasons to work with them along with showing them what the charity can do for the people in Ghana.
“It was very hard. When I first presented the idea to the current co-founder he was on board. He supported everything, then came away from the idea. I think he realized that this is not going to be easy,’’ Okyere said.
‘‘We realised it was going to be hard as we need money to do this. We have to get funding; we have to pull people in.’’
Fortunately however, Okyere woke up one day to find out the charity had found donors and funders.
Afri-Can’s co-founder Herman is a young man who suffers from cerebral palsy. However despite all the odds against him, he pushed through it all. When Okyere met him, she realised ‘‘his writing abilities were beyond what was expected,’’ and that ‘‘he never allowed his disability to stop him.’’ Shortly afterwards, she chose to take Herman on. Okyere says the charity supported him by taking him on to ‘‘different programs and schools and stuff.’’ In addition, the charity has also recruited Herman onto the team.
Okyere says she advises those who are thinking of starting an NGO to “bring people that are passionate about what you do.’’
‘‘Just because they are your friend does not mean that you must give them a specific role in your team. You want someone that can do the job. You want someone that is an expert in that field, that enjoys what you want them to do. So, look out there for people that share the same visions as you on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram,’’ she added.
“It is not easy, but it is something I have always been passionate about. There is still a long way to go and I know it is not going to be easy. But I know that it is going to be very, very rewarding at the end. I am going to see so many of these lives change, I am going to see people being educated a bit more, I am going to see these campaigns being conducted forever, I just know it.’’