Young children have the ability to learn quickly and absorb new information and skills that can change their lives, as long as they get access to exciting learning experiences. In Ghana’s rural communities, this was a key challenge. But one woman entrepreneur, Jospephine Marie Godwyll, is changing that through her high impact social enterprise, Young At Heart Ghana. Today, she is bringing digital learning experiences that are truly game-changing to young people’s minds and futures.
LoA spoke to founder, Josephine Marie Godwyll, to learn more about this social entrepreneur on a mission to change lives through digital learning
What does your company do?
Young at Heart Ghana has over the past 3 years championed the use of digital platforms in creating exciting learning experiences for Ghanaian children. We have reached out to over 5000 children since 2013 through ICT outreaches, Digital Learning Clubs, Running ICT learning Hubs, Fairs and e-learning platforms. Our core mandate has been to empower children in our program with practical digital literacy skills and encourage the use of these skills to explore learning other subjects! “Ananse the Teacher” is the latest addition to our program. It is an all-inclusive practical science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M) app, running on android phones and web platforms. The app makes use of local content, through Ananse Stories, to encourage practical and fun activities built on (S.T.E.A.M) lessons. This allows children to easily relate to the lessons they are taught in school, as they are guided to conduct practical activities with items they see around them every day!
"I founded Young At Heart Ghana to empower children and youth especially in rural communities to become the next generation of digital innovators, solving community problems with practical lessons they have acquired in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics."
What inspired you to start your company?
My work as a Geomatic engineer allows me to interact with a lot of digital platforms creating Geographical Information Systems for developmental projects. I came to a harsh reality at a point in time in my career when I urgently needed information from a rural community I was developing a system for. I thought the data I needed could easily be sent to me via email, yet the reality was no one in the village could use a computer or any digital device for that matter. I realized my ability to make the best use of technology is limited by the next persons ability. I volunteered as a teacher in a rural school and noticed that students there were taught Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and other subjects like Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M) with little or no practical lessons. I founded Young At Heart Ghana in 2013 to empower children and youth especially in rural communities to become the next generation of digital innovators solving community problems with practical lessons they have acquired in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
There is a big divide between rural schools and urban schools in access to developing technical capabilities. The lack of, or inadequate, access to IT facilities, coupled with the lack of suitable learning platforms stifle the ability of children in rural/deprived communities to learn about technology and apply it to everyday situations. All these contribute to lowering the life chances of children in rural and deprived areas. I was determined to change that. Young At Heart Gh is changing this narrative through our digital fairs, IT Hubs and Maker Spaces and Ananse The Teacher App. The great thing about our services and products is that they are relevant for children in urban communities as well, who pay for the services we render in order to offset costs of programs in rural communities. Our e-learning platform, Ananse The Teacher App uses folklore stories to encourage users to see the world as an exploratory hub. Ananse, a local popular character in Ghanaian folklore has been integrated into the app as a teacher. This coupled with his stories and experiments allows children to engage, relate and participate in educational activities in a manner which they are very conversant with.
"Our core mandate has been to empower children in our program with practical digital literacy skills and encourage the use of these skills to explore learning other subjects!"
Tell us a little about your team
Young At Heart Gh is made of a team of passionate change makers focused on championing a digital literacy and utilization revolution. Our volunteers focus on championing digital literacy outreaches and fairs, our partner teachers are responsible for running IT Hubs and Maker Spaces, while our programming and content creating teams focus on developing engaging e-learning platforms to ensure children have relevant educational experiences they can readily relate to.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I was raised in an entrepreneurial home! My mom created the first internationally recognized catering agency in my small town in Ghana, starting from nothing! She served exquisite continental meals which where not so common in small towns, and was super successful at doing that. Growing up I have always been thought to look out for the missing gaps and look for innovative ways of filling such gaps. In doing what I love, I have found the power to dig deep and be innovative in generating the needed funds to continue driving change.
“Ananse the Teacher is the latest addition to our program. It is an all-inclusive practical science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M) app, running on android phones and web platforms."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
In the next few months we will kickstart our mobile laboratory project. This will comprise a mobile cart that visits rural schools, giving students the opportunity to engage in reading clinics and do basic experiments. The cart will have mobile phones with Ananse The Teacher App, laptops and everyday materials with which they can engage in S.T.E.A.M inspired experiments.
We also look forward to launching a more global e-learning app that can be used all over the world, using heroes and stories particular to different countries so that students from other countries can learn through stories and heroes they are familiar with. This will allow for a shared platform where children can learn from other cultures while have an engaging experience!
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The most satisfying thing for me as an entrepreneur is my ability to provide much needed services using innovation as a tool an the satisfaction expressed by the populations I reach.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Success is not Gender Biased. It is not more prone to a particular gender at the expense of others. Being a woman does not limit you. That means you are capable, all you need is to figure out how.
Contact or follow Young At Heart Ghana
Why LoA loves it….
There is so much potential amongst young children and the youth of Africa, but that potential needs help to emerge, and education is the essential building block. In today’s fast moving world, getting access to high quality education that brings the power of technology to Africa’s children is key. Social entrepreneur, Josephine Marie Godwyll, is making it her life’s mission to change young lives and minds in Ghana through digital learning, opening up a wealth of possibilities for them in the future. She is proof positive that one person with a big vision can make a huge difference. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa