Change At Any Age
Dankura Kyalepuo was 72 years old when he applied for support from ATE to expand his farming business.
This is a ripe old age in Ghana, 12 years older than the current life expectancy. In the district of Lawra, it is considered an honor and enormous success to live so long. Dankura is definitely considered an elder.
During our screening process, I began to appreciate how impressive this man is - his quiet dignity, kind eyes and drive to succeed struck me as we arrived at his family home. Living in an extremely isolated traditional mud compound in the very rural community of Pavuu, Dankura runs an enterprising family home where he takes care of his wife and five children (the youngest being just 8 years old – impressive!) They grow almost all that they need, living a simple life, a life where at times of the year there is just one daily meal for the family. It was an easy decision to support him with a cash grant, training and mentoring to help him grow his business to the best of his ability.
Eight months since being supported by ATE, Dankura’s sheep business is thriving. Last week he proudly showed me the tiny lambs that have born by his healthy ewes, and the immaculate condition his animals live in. He has achieved his objective of being able to better care for his children; they now eat more meat and can sell the animals when they need money. Pleasure and satisfaction in his achievement shines through his heavily lined face. I don’t need a translator to understand how delighted he is.
Dankura’s story reminds us that there are opportunities to change our lives, at any age and in many circumstances. As someone enjoying a second career in development work (I was a primary school teacher until 2012), I often reflect on how grateful I am to have been able to make that move, which at my then age of 28 felt like a huge risk. I had thought I would be teaching forever, and would often worry that I would become stale, demotivated and ultimately bad at my job. Instead, I took a leap into the unknown, a massive pay cut and have now spent the last 4 years feeling out of my depth almost all of the time. It was by far the best decision I ever made.
Opportunities to make a life change, big or small, are few and far between for many people in Lawra. Poverty takes away choice. It leads to teenagers dropping out of school because they can’t afford exam fees of less than a pound, it causes women’s businesses to fail because their sewing machine breaks and they can’t afford to mend it, and it forces parents to choose between feeding their children today or saving the groundnuts to plant during rainy season and ultimately provide food for next year.
As we work to relieve poverty and empower communities, I am proud to be working with people like Dankura, to be giving a helping hand to those who dream of better and are willing to work for it. My advice to anyone who feels trapped in any aspect in his or her life is to remember Dankura, a man who stood up and told the world he wanted better.
Sarah is the Chief Executive of Action Through Enterprise (ATE) For more information go to http://ateghana.org/