You meet him and you see nothing but inspiration. He has got brainchildren which are fruits of bold initiatives he’s taken. He dared to be different; he chose not to be an ordinary youth but used his brain and abilities to make a difference. I describe him as a Young Legend Of Inspiration.
Ato Ulzen-Appiah is his name. A young but vibrant ghanaian youth who has taken bold initiatives to impact on others in the ghanaian society. Around 2005, he founded the Ghana Think Foundation which has its slogan as “Less talk, more action!”. The Ghana Think Foundation is an Africa-focused think tank that seeks to mobilize and deploy African diasporean talent for the primary benefit of Ghana, and consequently Africa and the whole world.
Barcamp Ghana is a brainchild of his. Through the Ghana Think Foundation, he organised the very first barcamp in Ghana and in West Africa on December 23, 2008. Its aim was to showcase Ghanaian ingenuity, excellence, connect and network Ghanaian youth. The first event was held at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre and had over 150 attendees. There were awesome feedback after the event. It connected many together, drove and inspired many to take action. Dorothy Gordon, the Director General at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre liked the event so much that she encouraged Ato and his team to have it held in all 10 regions of Ghana. He led the organisation of the next event in December 2009, this time, with mostly a Ghanaian based team. The event had 350 attendees. The team has been at the core of Barcamp organisations and other Ghana Think Foundation initiatives ever since.
The team has organised 28 Barcamps in Ghana in the following locations; Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Cape Coast, Ho, Sunyani, Tema, Kasoa and Koforidua. Over 3500 have attended these events and a strong network of young change makers, doers and entrepreneurs has been built. Barcamp events have created many internship and job opportunities for attendees. It has led to the formation of many Google groups in Ghana; the Junior Camp program, Blog Camp Ghana and movie projects. People have created companies based on Barcamp Ghana events.
Ghana Volunteer program is another brilliant and patriotic idea cooked up by him and his team. He thought about what if many people in Ghana came together one day to volunteer in Ghana and make Ghana better? They conscientized many people in Ghana to organize volunteering activities. On September 21, in Kumasi, Cape Coast, Takoradi, Tamale, Tema etc., many people came together volunteered to contribute their quota to make mother Ghana better. Some activities were Painting the Bawleshie presby school, blood donations, teaching of students in Saltpond on the benefits of ICT and Entrepreneurship, building of play grounds and greening of the Nkwantanang Cluster of Schools etc.
The Junior Camp Ghana program is another initiative of his. It is a project run by the Ghana Think Foundation which is a series of career guidance and mentoring events for senior high school students. It was birthed on January 30, 2013 in conjunction with the Keta Senior High School SRC. It was created out of the impact Barcamp Ho and Barcamp Tema in 2012 made on the lives of some students from Keta High School. Junior Camp Ghana’s theme is “Living Tomorrow’s Career Today”. In 2014, the program expanded to junior high schools.
The Junior Barcamp allows industries and persons to share their stories, experiences and knowledge with students and connects students with mentors who provide their wisdom about their areas of expertise, management, leadership skills, career success factors, industry insights and communication skills. Through the program, students are inspired to match similar career goals, concentration, career fields etc. So far, Junior camps have been held in Keta Senior Tech. School, Kalpohin, St. Augustine’s College, World Bank Office, Dumasua Junior High School etc. These programs have really impacted the students’ lives and came at no cost to them.
Ato Ulzen-Appiah, born on 31st December, 1983, had his primary and junior high education at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology primary and junior high school. He then went to Presby Boys’ Secondary School, Legon. He moved to the USA to persue his education. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained his bachelor’s degree (BSc. Civil Engineering) and continued to Stanford for his master’s (MSc. Construction Management). In the university, he didn’t care much about his GPA; he cared much about the whole package; being smart, versatile, experienced, and able to solve problems and being able to handle many things at the same time. He learnt to do so by practicing proper time management, making smart choices, being skilled at things and leveraging others to study. No wonder he came out to be successful.
He could have decided to keep living in the United States because his education could have afforded him a comfortable life. Instead, he came down to Ghana, his homeland, to take bold initiatives, start movements and get people involved to take action! (Barcamps, Ghana Think Foundation, Volunteers day etc). Since his coming back, he has made the youth realize that they are the ones to make the country a better place through their initiatives, actions and contributions.
Ato Ulzen- Appiah is the “Ghanaian star I know”. Young but so inspiring. I am often fascinated about his initiatives and how he manages them. How he excellently handles and manages so many things at a time is so amazing! Knowing what he has been able to achieve and the impact he has made on others through his efforts and bold initiatives, I know he is worth writing about. Others have to hear about him, get inspired and take action. He is patriotic, has Ghana at heart and is still taking action in his own way to make Ghana a better place.
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This I Know a Ghanaian Star article was written and submitted by Mabel Blankson, a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism studying Communication Studies (journalism option) who loves to write.
She has published some of her stories in ”The Mirror” a weekly newspaper in Ghana. She is also a blogger and an avid reader. Her blog showcases interesting literary pieces brewed from her creative mind.Two segments run on the blog currently; “Young Legends of Inspiration” and “Super Wednesday”. She likes volunteerism and would do that for any worthy cause.