Not only are they young at heart but also kind at heart. Two young friends, Martin and Josephine, were touched by what they experienced from an outreach programme they undertook while in the university. That programme formed the beginning of something that will eventually touch the lives of many. Read on as Martin, one of the founders of Young at Heart, shares how it all started with the B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.
Martin Bruce was born in Kibi, Eastern Region, but spent all his boyhood years in the region’s capital, Koforidua. He is a product of the St. Peters’ Senior High School, Nkwatia-Kwahu, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Land Economy.
His partner, Josephine Marie Godwyll, also grew up in Koforidua. She is a product of Wesley Girls in Cape Coast, Central Region; and a Geomatics Engineering graduate from the KNUST.
Both had known each other since childhood and attended the same church so they engaged in a lot of activities together. In 2014, together with other colleagues from the same church, they organised a programme called Rural Development and Education project. They visited different communities and educated residents on various issues.
During one of these outings, Josephine visited a village in the Ashanti Region, where she saw something that forever changed the course of her life. She observed that even though the pupils were learning ICT, they had never physically seen computers before; they only saw them in books.
When Josephine got back to the team, she told the volunteers about it and they decided to visit that village and use their personal laptops to teach the pupils; and they termed that exercise: ‘Project Discover ICT’.
This was the point where they decided to form Young at Heart, Ghana.
Young at Heart formed
After the success of Project Discover ICT, they didn’t end there; they decided to launch another project called ‘Project Utilise ICT’. The goal of this project was to help the pupils know what they could do with the computer after discovering it.
In this project, they grouped the pupils and ask each group to identify a problem in their community and see how best they could use the computer to solve it.
“So, we tasked every group to form a company that will solve the problem they have identified in the community using the programmes on the computer. So, they will type the work on Word; use power point to present it, and do some graphs with excel,” Martin said.
After the success of this project, Martin and Josephine taught about how to improve their teaching of the subject, this time with a local touch.
After brainstorming, they came up with an App which they called “Ananse the Teacher”. This App imbeds local culture with technology so that pupils can readily and easily identify with it.
Again, they partnered other organisations to create science content for the App. This content also had a local touch to help the school children understand the subject better.
For them to know whether its programmes are yielding the intended results, Young at Heart has a set of questions to examine the pupils on their ICT skills. The feedback, Martin says, has been positive, indicating that the programme is bearing fruits.
In terms of numbers, over 6000 pupils have benefitted from the programme since its introduction in August 2013.
Again, since the launch of the Ananse the Teacher App in June 2017, there has been about 2000 downloads of it on google play store.
And above all, more and more volunteers are showing interest in joining them in this noble course. They have four permanent volunteer bases, three of which are on university campuses—KNUST, University of Ghana, and the University of Cape Coast. Then, they have a volunteer base in Koforidua which pools volunteers from the various tertiary institutions there. In all, over 250 volunteers are working for Young at Heart.
The NGO, initially, was funded by the two founders from their own pockets. Then, they extended invitation to some family and friends who also supported.
They joined the Tigo Digital Change competition in 2015 and fortunately, they won and were awarded GH₵70,000.
Last year, the same competition invited former awardees to apply and Young at Heart again won and was awarded an additional GH₵30,000, and these have been the company’s major sources of funding.
Going forward, the company has transitioned from an NGO to a social enterprise where it has developed modules for raising money to sustain the business. Last year, it organised a ‘Digi Fair’ where money was raised through entry fees.
Mode of marketing
The number one mode of marketing for the company is through social media. Of course, a tech company cannot afford to miss the opportunity social media offers for startups. Young at Heart has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where it shares pictures of the activities it engages in.
Then, the volunteers personally go to schools to pitch the project to the headteachers and if they show interest and give their approval, they carry it out.
According to Martin, Young at Heart has the vision of “empowering the young generation of digital innovators”. It wants to tailor technology to the needs of the African continent to solve problems.
Surely, every social enterprise at this tender stage will have finance as its major challenge. Well, thanks, to the help from Tigo, Young at HeartHeartHear has some funds to run its activities in the meantime.
Another situation that has become a challenge is what Martin calls a ‘disconnect’ between policy makers and companies. Cooperation from public schools have been a hurdle to them, as their efforts to get approvals to help public schools have often been frustrated by the Ghana Education Service. Due to this, at some point in time, they had to direct attention only to private schools as they did not insist on any needless bureaucracies.
How government can support
The best way, Martin says, government can support initiatives like theirs is through cooperation so that the kind of frustrations they go through trying to help pupils will be entirely removed or significantly minimised.
Martin advises that young and upcoming entrepreneurs should not to be profit-oriented from the onset but do things that will touch the lives and bring smiles to the faces of the poor in the society.
Contact young at heart on : 0546239935