We all have a list of people who’ve changed our outlook on life. Meet Yakootah! Photo by Carla Kweifio-Okai.
I’ve never really been one for numbers. When it comes to issues of poverty, I know that stats and figures are important, but it’s people’s stories that stick with me most.
When I visit Ghana, where my dad was born, I always meet the most generous and inspiring people, many who I think about often.
But of all the hundreds of people I’ve met on my travels in Africa, there’s one little girl that sticks in my mind.
Her name is Yakootah and when I first met her she was seven years old. She lives in a remote village in Ghana’s north, where I happened to be visiting friends.
Overseas visitors often attract a bit of attention in rural areas of Ghana, especially from children. So I wasn’t surprised when I first arrived and a horde of children ran over, wondering who their new friend was.
Yakootah stood out from the beginning. She was clearly popular among her sisters and cousins since they followed her around wherever she went. She was loud and vivacious and her face lit up whenever she laughed.
We didn’t speak the same language, but my friends would translate our conversations. She told me that her favourite colour was yellow and that she liked to sing and dance.
During the visit I learnt that times were hard for Yakootah’s family. They were farmers, like almost everyone else in their village, but the crops weren’t doing as well and it was getting harder to feed everyone.
Plus, the farmers had some extra large obstacles to deal with – elephants would often roam from the nearby national park and trample their crops. (I couldn’t quite believe it until I saw the aftermath of one of their evening strolls!)
Here’s one I spotted on a walking tour not far from Yakootah’s village.
While most of the boys in the village go to school, many of the girls have to stay home to help their families.
Yakootah would look after her younger siblings, helping her mother prepare food and collect water.
When I left, I wondered what would happen to this bright little girl. She deserved the world, so why couldn’t she have it?
It wasn’t long after meeting Yakootah that I left my job as a journalist and went back to uni to study international development.
She’s the reason I now work at World Vision. And the reason why I believe that investing in girls is so incredibly important.
When I speak to people here at World Vision who see our projects up close, without doubt they always have a story about that one person they met who will stay with them forever.
For me, that person is Yakootah. And when I last spoke to her family I was overjoyed to hear that she was getting an education in her village. I know she’s going to do something special.
So yes, numbers are important. We should be horrified at the fact that 1.4 billion people are living in poverty, or that 134 million school-aged children are currently deprived of an education.
But it’s the stories of the children behind those numbers that really bring the issue home.
At World Vision, we share these stories with our supporters on a daily basis. Whether it’s Dodik in Indonesia who is walking again thanks to his child sponsor Andrew, or little sisters Beauty and Belinda in Zimbabwe who finally have enough food, they’re the stories that matter.
Carla Kweifio-Okai works in social media at World Vision.
Do you have a story that has inspired you to make a difference? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!