Lily Kudzro is the award winning Executive Director of Devio Arts Centre, a nonprofit organization in Accra, Ghana.
Devio Arts Centre empowers young people to express themselves and improve their learning outcomes through creation and recycling. The organization provides a series of after school learning through play programs designed to nurture children’s creativity, self-esteem and life skills.
Recognizing the lack of well-trained creative teachers in Ghana, Devio Arts Centre offers a teacher training program using a play teaching and learning framework centered on the key role of creativity.
Lily shares how dropping out of school due to financial difficulties and quitting her first job led to a life changing career breakthrough.
My greatest passion is to help children develop their creative potential. I’m a highly self-motivated and passionate social entrepreneur with lots of experience in the nonprofit sector. All my life, I have been personally affected with issues that concern children. I believe this is natural calling is why I founded Devio Arts Centre. It feels great to be on a journey with future heroes, who are currently so vulnerable to all the chaos in the world.
After studying general science in senior high school I had the opportunity to study for a degree in nursing at Central University College. My dream was to study medical science and become a pediatrician in future, but I decided to study nursing first and work for a while so I could afford my fees whiles in medical school.
While I was in university I became so passionate about social issues, especially those related to Africa, the future of children and the progress of our dear continent, that I started writing poems. I even tried to produce my first poetry magazine. Unfortunately in my second year, having come from a separated home, I dropped out in of school due to financial difficulties.
Oh how, I loved my first job. I was employed a gas station attendant, with a thirty dollar monthly income after leaving the university. One morning, on my way to work, I asked myself, ‘’what future is there, in a nation or a continent, if the potential of its young people, its future leaders are determined by where they come from, who they are born to, and where they get educated?”
I believe this question is on the lips of the thousands of children roaming the streets of Africa every day. This question is on the lips of jobless young graduates, who are struggling to either create their own businesses or find a job. This same question is on the lips of all the children who are doing menial jobs, that are detrimental to their wellbeing and health. After pondering for several minutes, I made a bold decision. I would not be a victim of where I am from, I would be a changemaker and bring change to Africa. My question now was “how?”
I decided to quit the job in the gas station after my first salary. I then started my research journey about the educational system in Africa, what it used to be like, and the difference now after over fifty years of independence.
MY FIRST BIG CAREER BREAK
My writing skills were very important to me, so I registered to write for an online magazine in Accra that collects articles on business and social issues. I also attended entrepreneurship seminars and networking events that were related to my ideas. It was through such events that I connected with a nonprofit organization in Ghana and I began working as an Administrator and Programs Manager.
I now had a better job, thanks to the power of creative writing. This new job gave me lots of experience, internet access and time to do more profound researches. One day I came across an interesting article in the China Africa Report on why education in Africa lacks creativity and practical engagement. Immediately, I fell in love with the story because I could very much relate to it. I went through this same system from my very early years as a child. It was at this point, that I found the answer.
I concluded all our problems in Africa are as a result of our broken educational system. A system that only prepares its young people to manage existing systems, when all these systems are occupied with old methods and abilities. So here my aha moment evolved. I decided to establish Devio Arts Centre, to provide a creative and explorative learning space to nurture the creative skills of children, who can also create their future, reach their full potential and solve future world problems.
MY TYPICAL WORK DAY
A day in my life is a very busy one. As a young entrepreneur, I’m filled with extreme passion to bring change to my continent. Sometimes I wake up to a huge task of meeting policymakers, implementers, stakeholders and potential partners to help sustain and scale my work. Or, I run through various training workshops to build my skills, so I can achieve both short and long-term goals. But because I love what I do, I carry this around with ease. Even though there are sometimes a few challenges here and there I always find a way to bounce back.
Right now I’m busy working on a kids television production and finding partners to scale our teacher training programs. The goal of the television program is to reach all children everywhere with practical creative activities to boost their explorative and problem skills, while developing social skills like empathy and teamwork skills in the process. The goal of scaling our teachers training program is to help equip African teachers with the right tools and skills they need, to help their students acquire lifelong learning skills and improve their potential.
When I am not working I love to do some gardening and spend time with my family.
MY SECRET TALENT
My secret talent is speaking. I love to motivate people and empower minds.
MY BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT
I think my biggest achievement so far would be the impact stories from my work. Even though I have won several awards and recognitions, both locally and internationally, I owe it all to the impact I have on the amazing children I meet every day. Last year, when I received the Future Awards Africa prize in education a twelve year old girl walked up to me after the event and asked me to put my autograph on the back of her palm. Then she said, “when I grow up I want to help children like you.” For me, that’s the biggest achievement so far.
I am inspired by the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Divine Ndhlukula of Zimbabwe and all the amazing black women on our continent who are fighting for the change that we are hoping for. I just can’t wait to add to the history.
As a Christian, I think, the only thing that makes my life meaningful is my spirituality and faith in God. I think, that’s the only thing that I can’t live without, because it is what defines me.
Do what you love, and money will chase you. Chase money, and you kill what you love.
Looking ahead, there are a great deal of powerful ideas for execution. I am looking forward to scaling to five African countries in the next five years. This year, we scaled into Kenya. My goal is to create a movement where Africa’s next powerhouse is its children and young people.
I LOVE WHAT I DO BECAUSE…
This is my message to the world. Africa has great talents, and young people, but lacks great education and opportunities. We show the negative, because the positive is buried inside us. But as the seed sprouts so would our young people, bringing out the best, with enabling environments and opportunities. I love what I do because it’s my passion and from my inner soul.
Interview by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema