Sylvester Atitsogbe’s OC 2019 Experience - Opportunity Collaboration
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Sylvester Atitsogbe:  My journey Before, During, After and Future of Opportunity Collaboration

Titled: All I can say is Opportunity Collaboration passed through me and me not passing through Opportunity Collaboration.

 

BEFORE

 

Background

 

As a co. founder and executive director of a grassroot organization (Volunteers for Amelioration of Rural Areas (VARAS) ) which I started when I was 12 due to abject poverty my family, neighbours and community members were in, the abuse from my dad and the neglect from him due to the fact that, I defended my lovely mother as he abused her, the death of my sister due to treatable disease,  I came to the conclusion that, my purpose in this life is to help one another and put smile on the faces of all.

 

So in my village, Kpetoe located in the Volta Region, I started with my peers how best we can assist one another and the young ones after us by engaging in after school enrichment programme, holiday school, community health talk etc.  The contribution of our impact that time gave birth to the registration of my charity non profit volunteer non-governmental organization, VARAS in October 2007 when I was 19 years.

 

At VARAS, we work in three main areas, Education, Health, and Women Empowerment/Rural Enterprise. These missions came about due to the personal experiences we went through as directors of VARAS.

 

Our focus at VARAS is not to make money but to assist the best we can that is why we work directly with rural community chiefs, elders and the entire community folks. At VARAS we do not charge for project management and coordination, administrative cost and accommodation from our partners and volunteers. They only pay for transportation to and fro the airport and their food.

 

Just Before Opportunity Collaboration

 

I have never attended any conference before and when I read about Opportunity Collaboration from a friend’s Facebook timeline, I knew from the very start I had to attend. Why? Because, as a manager of a grassroot organization, it has always been difficult for me to have people (funders, executives of other NGOs, journalist etc) listen to my story for the purposes of advice and support. But after reading about OC, I thought to myself this is the right moment. But when I saw the participation fee and the calculated all the other expenses to be made, I was a bit down but never lose hope. I then started saving since 2017 from the only salary I earn as a classroom teacher teaching in a government school. It was difficult since I had to take care of my family and the children I support, paying for the rent and internet bill for VARAS’ office use etc.

 

Even though I saw the sponsorship opportunity from Cordes Foundation, I have had a lot of turned down sponsorship so though I was hoping to be selected, I never stopped saving just in case.

 

Unfortunately, I was not selected, but wisely I have been able to save USD 4,200.00 for my registration, visa application, flight and other related expenses. I was very excited when I was accepted to come to the conference.

 

Coming to the Conference

 

I have never travelled outside Africa, so I do not have any experience as far as immigration is concerned. Since I equally don’t have transit visa through any European country or North America, the only option is to have Mexico Visa. Due to the above visa issues I could go through Istanbul to Cancun by Turkish Airline. Unfortunately for me, I could only come to Cancun on Monday 14th of October and leave on Thursday 17th of October since the next available flight leaves on Saturday 19th October which I do not have the money to pay for a hotel. Therefore I can only stay have three (3) days in Cancun. In fact, this has not put me down because I believed these short days will definitely open doors for me. So I went ahead to make all the payments.

 

After traveling and long waiting from Accra to Cancun for more than two days, I was detained at the airport for no apparent reason. After three hours of humiliation and harassment, I was finally allowed by the Cancun immigration to go only to wait for another 50 minutes at the arrival for my shuttle.

 

Despite the fact that I went through all these and never thought of pressing charges, my main focus was to make good use of the time at Opportunity Collaboration.

 

DURING

 

Opportunity Collaboration, Monday to Friday

 

My main goal at OC is to make long lasting friends. Before my departure in Ghana, I have been able to reach out to few delegates myself and through Topher and have been able to arrange meetings. Again I was looking forward to joining the affinity groups and my colloquium and meet new people.

 

On my first day through to the third day, I was able to meet these individuals I had an appointment with and all was fruitful. Even though I was not able to attend any of the affinity group meetings, my colloquium was great!

 

Colloquium

 

My colloquium created the perfect environment for me where we were all regarded as equal and given equal opportunity to be heard and your views respected. Even though I missed the first day due to the aforementioned reasons, the rest three days at my colloquium gave me back my strength and the reason to belong and respected. I learned a lot about how we need to take care of ourselves as change makers and always continue to follow our passion. The colloquium gives meaning to why Opportunity Collaboration exist.

 

A fellow colloquium after hearing my story assisted me by booking a hotel for me to stay through to the end so I don’t have to leave earlier. Another fellow colloquium started a fundraiser page on his website to raise USD 5000.00 to support the construction of my project (Tailoring and Dressmaking Training Centre) in rural Ghana. This centre when completed will train 10 rural women for a period of 12 months who are marginalized due to cultural practices and belief system, abused and teenage girls who are out of school due to teenage pregnancy and women who are physically challenged. The link is https://ugandanwaterproject.com/campaigns/sylvester/

 

Conscious Market

 

I like the conscious market since it gave me the opportunity to sell some Kente (woven fabric) not for the purposes of making money but to put food on the table of the weavers and to showcase the authentic fabric to the international world and market for potential collaboration to sell the fabric since that is one of the major challenges facing the local industry.

 

Environment

I felt so safe in the environment I stayed throughout my stay in Cancun. The hotel was great and everyone was just super nice and ready to assist me.

 

AFTER/MY EXPERIENCE/THANK YOU MESSAGE

 

I am speechless and loss of words but I cannot let that overcome the expression of joy and completeness I felt at Opportunity Collaboration after joining this unique family.

 

I am very grateful to all of you for making my stay at OC a perfectly perfect one.

 

I have accomplished my aims and reasons why I came even before returning to Ghana.

 

OC is not just any other conference but rather interactive oriented, building relationships, one on one discussion with funders, global leaders, journalists, inventors, and chief executives about ways to fight global poverty.

 

OC creates the perfect space to learn, share ideas and develop personal long lasting friendships.

 

The summit will not only help my nonprofit build on what we already do but also develop and initiate new other effective sustainable ways of fighting global poverty.