Dispatches from Home - Rita Kusi
If you have spent your adult life away from home, the idea of returning to a place that might feel like only a distant memory is a hard thing to fathom. Whether home is New York, Ghana or London, returning after a long absence is a move that requires strength, faith and a good amount of travel miles. As part of our Dispatches from Home series, WomenWerk spoke with women who have moved back to live and work in their home country after a long absence. They shared with us everything from what pushed them to return, what other returnees can expect and what the most surprising thing about moving home is.
Rita Kusi is the Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Kusi Consulting, she is also a Human Resources and Marketing Professional with a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz. In 2011, she received a Professional HR course completion certificate from the HR Certification Institute at Pace University and is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Rita has over ten years experience in the field of Marketing and Human Resources.
WomenWerk: Tell us about yourself?
My name is Rita Kusi, however my family back home in Ghana call me by my given Akan name, Akosua Akyere. “Akosua” meaning born on Sunday and “Akyere” was the name of my paternal grandmother, which I inherited. I was born in the upper east region of Ghana, Bolgatanga to be exact, where we lived until I turned one years of age. I spent most of my childhood in Kumasi and Abidjan until the age of 8 when we relocated to the United States. I maintained a very close relationship with my immediate and extended family until we moved to Davenport, Iowa when relationships with my extended family slowly started to fade. After Davenport we relocated to Brooklyn, New York, and then the Bronx. With every move calls to my grandmother became few and far between. I spent 22 years of my life in the United States until I took a leap of faith and relocated 2 years ago.
WomenWerk: Why did you make the leap and relocate?
I knew one day that I would move back to Ghana. I remember the very moment my dad told us we were going to America. Oh the excitement and leaps for joy. But I will never forget what he said immediately afterwards. “We are going so you can all receive a better education. Always remember this is home and one day you must return.” I knew one day that I would return home but was never certain when. In 2012, I ended ties with my then employer after almost 8 years. For a second it seemed like the world was caving in but I knew this was the sign I had been waiting on. I knew it was time to head home. There was nothing really holding me back, no major ties to the U.S. Of course my family and friends were there but I figured I could always come back and visit and also communicate with them on regular basis via Facebook, What’s App, Skype, and other means of technology.
"If you plan to relocate, one thing you must know is that you could possibly be starting all over again, new job, new friends, and new place to live, basically a new life. You have to be prepared for it."
WomenWerk: Tell us three WomenWerk Moving Back Musts to make the experience the best it can be?
Must Pack: I wasn’t oblivious during my move and knew the transition would be quite a challenge. To help make it easy I always keep things around me that serve as a reminder of my former life. Some of the essentials I packed were photo albums. I love photos and I love taking photos! They are a great reminder of memorable moments in life. When I miss my friends and family I look through albums and a smile magically appears on my face. Photos also help to reassure me that everything will indeed be all right and that there are more memorable moments to come.
Must Know: If you plan to relocate, one thing you must know is that you could possibly be starting all over again, new job, new friends, and new place to live, basically a new life. You have to be prepared for it. I didn’t realize all of this until I relocated.
Must Do: Living in Accra is a new experience for someone who spent her childhood in Kumasi. It is essential to maintain old relationships and establish new relationships. I don’t believe in burning bridges and I also like to learn and grow. Who better to learn from than other people?
"As a female entrepreneur it’s tough to be taken seriously and get the respect you deserve."
WomenWerk:What unique challenges have you faced as a woman ?
Not sure if this is a unique challenge because I’m sure most women face it. As a female entrepreneur it’s tough to be taken seriously and get the respect you deserve. Not to say it’s affected the way I do business but it happens. Africa is a man’s world, however I see things slowly changing as women are fighting for their place and commanding respect. Ok I guess I can share this one too. Honestly speaking, as a marketer I have to stay connected at all times to clients and potential customers globally. My number one challenge when I arrived was with the network and Internet connection. It took some time to find a reliable source.
WomenWerk: What has surprised you most about returning?
What has surprised me most is the work ethic of young Ghanaians. They work nonstop and are very creative. Not sure what I was expecting but that was a nice surprise. They continue to inspire me and it kind of makes it hard to give up and move back to the states, although I don’t see that as an option anymore.
"The return has liberated me! I feel free in a lot of ways."
WomenWerk: What has the return done for your career?
The return has liberated me! I feel free in a lot of ways. I recently read this quote, “Happiness is the new rich”, and it’s a perfect summary of where I am in life. Financially, I’m still striving and that’s really by choice. A lot of my initiatives are not yielding a return yet but I believe they will in the long run. I’m certain that if I focus only on one area the money will be pouring in. The problem though, is that I’ve never in my life focused on just one thing. Plus I don’t do what I do for money. I do it because of passion and the fact that it needs to be done. Besides it makes me very happy that a difference is being made. Hopefully, there’s a difference being made.