Leah's Dream/Afafanto Scholarship Fund Newsletter

Leah's Dream sponsors education and community develpment through finaqncial and mentoring support for young women in Northern Ghana

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Scholar News and The Generosity of our Donors

Hi again after a long absence. I have so much good news to report since my last posting in November. This new year has been full of wonderful accomplishments for Leah’s Dream both here and in Ghana.


Isabella Lambrecht showing off her new kente cloth present from Leah’s Dream.

This is Isabella Lambrecht. She is from Belgium and works in the Ghana offices of IFPRI, International Food Policy Research Insitute where Leah was employed before her tragic passing. She and her husband were recently married, They have decided to donate all the proceeds from their wedding to the Afafanto Scholarship Fund!  So far, thanks to generous donors like Isabella, this year we have collected over $17,000.00 which goes to fund our Afafanto Scholars, pays for administrative expenses to run our Ghana NGO and US 501c3. Your generosity has enabled us to fund 5 new Afafanto Scholars this coming year. That makes 25 young women whose lives have been impacted by our Scholarship.

IMG_2226.JPGPatricia Abrugrago, one of our 2016 graduates has just graduated from the Ghana Police Academy tops in her class! She has been in the Ghana news where she mentions the Afafanto Scholarship as an important part of her success. We are so excited for her new career. Mariama Iddrisu, our very first Afafanto Scholar has just been accepted to nursing school. She’s been working in the clinic at Larabanga. Next September, Mukarama, a 2014 grad will be earning her business degree from the University of Accra. She begins training as our new Executive Director for Leah’s Dream Ghana NGO. Emelia and I are bursting with pride for our girls!


Mukurama, Sandee and Emelia at University of Accra

I’ve set up a new page all about our Scholars and Alumni so that you can keep up with their accomplishments. It is a new link at the top of this page. Check out the photo of Rafaia Abdulai our newest graduate.She hopes to continue on to university as soon as she passes her exams. Also the lady in pink is Foriza Hazan who was just voted prefect of her class next term. Way to go Foriza.

Incidentally, Leah’s Dream US is pleased to be hosting a West African dinner at Kilamandjaro Restaurant, 48th and Chestnut on September 10 from 6:30-9:00 PM. Join us to help celebrate all of our progress. Click here to buy tickets:learn more


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Visiting Ghana with WIL

DN2Button-BlueSmallgiving-tuesdayI’ve just returned from leading a group from Women’s International Leaders or WIL of Greater Philadelphian on a marathon 10 days in which we toured Ghana from busy Accra, the capitol to the dusty Northern Region and back again (with a restful stop at the beach on the Cape Coast). 100_2280

WIL is an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in developing countries. Members contribute their time, knowledge and funds to support a broad array of projects  that raise women’s economic and social status, promote self-determination, and help women become community leaders. Leah’s Dream has been one of those projects. The 8 women who travelled with me in early November gained firsthand knowledge of the hardships that our women and girls endure.

Providing service was part of the agenda, and it was wonderful to witness the mentoring of our Afafanto Scholars and the  village women from Larabanga by these accomplished ladies. Meeting with the girls in our offices in Tamale, the WIL women talked about their lives and the work and sacrifice they made to become successful. Our Afafanto girls spoke about their aspirations as well. They all would like to continue on to university. Two want to be accountants, one a teacher, one a nutritionist, every one of the girls had big dreams to help their villages as well as themselves.

In Larabanga, 43 village women heard a presentation from WIL member Carol Cunningham on a new process for making fuel. Afterwards, the women broke up into smaller groups for a discussion on how the village women capitalize on this idea in Larabanga to earn money and save the environment at the same time. The village women were energized. All they needed was a tin drum, some organic material (they had plenty of shea butter waste) and some starch. The idea that they cold earn money and save the environment at the same time energized the village women and men alike. It will be exciting to see how they move forward with what Carol shared with them.


Ibn Kamara and Sandee

Traveling around Ghana is an arduous, expensive enterprise. Good roads are just now being built to the more remote areas. It took a lot of hard work and time for both Emelia Guo, Labrine Braimah, our NGO executive director and business manager and Ibn Kamara our coordinator in Larabanga  to organize these meetings. I deeply appreciate their efforts on behalf of Leah’s Dream.


p1040267The costs of food and transportation just to bring the scholarship girls into our Tamale office from their various school across the country are high for a small non profit and present significant roadblocks for getting our girls and women together. It costs Emelia 650 Ghana Cedis or about $160.00 and she tries to do this at least 3 times a year so they can get the training, mentoring and fellowship that goes along with being an Afafanto Scholar. Furthermore, Labrine and Emelia do this for no compensation!

Sadly, since our last visit nearly two years ago, life seems harder than ever. Food, energy and fuel costs have gone up since our last visit to Ghana. Life seems as hard as ever. People save by using less lights. Senior High Schools suffer along with the rest of the country. Our girls spend more time searching for wood and water. Costs of uniforms and supplies have increased. It costs closer to $1,000.00 per year to support a girl in Senior High School and offer her the training to succeed when she graduates.

Won’t you please consider helping our girls and their mother’s in the villages to find new options and a path way out of poverty?IMG_8701.JPG

Click on the link below to help our girls and women achieve.DN2Button-BlueSmall


Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you.





Off to Ghana

Larabanga mosque

Larabanga mosque

Soon we will meet our newest Afafanto Scholars  and catch up with our friends in the villages!

Shea Butter women

Shea Butter women

We have a full itinerary from meetings in Accra to opening our new office in Tamale, not to mention a side trip to Mole National Park which is home to many elephants and other wild creatures. Most of all, however, I am looking forward to shaking the hands of our Afafanto Scholars and telling them how proud we are of their progress.

One of our 2015 Afafanto Scholars.

One of our 2015 Afafanto Scholars.

We plan on visiting and meeting with the headmasters of as many of their schools as we can fit in to our busy schedule. Stay tuned from Ghana…

Our Birthday Giving Campaign is now in full swing. We are 1/3 of the way to our goal of $10,000.00.  Won’t you please help us become sustainable and give a birthday present to Leah? She would be 35 this year.                                                                                                    

The link is also available on our website www.afafanto.org/donate.php. Give generously in time for Leah’s birthday which is February 22.

Wish us a safe trip.


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Its a New Year and a Milestone Birthday

Hi and hope you are having a grand 2015 so far.

If you missed  out on your year end giving why not give a birthday present to Leah? She would be 35 this year. Our donor page has a new look as we are now with Network for Good. The link is available on our website http://www.afafanto.org/donate. You can also donate here. DonateNow
This will make it even easer for you to make your donations to support Leah’s Dream. Look for our Birthday Giving Campaign to be in full swing in time for Leah’s birthday which is February 22. We are kicking it off January 22. bday cakeBut no reason to wait till then, give now!

Leah would be quite proud of all that we have been able to accomplish this year. Due to the Ebola crisis there was a slow start to the school year and testing was delayed. We did however, manage to begin 2 new scholarship winners in November. Their names are Abdulai Rafaia at Northern School of Business and Daakiyre Angelics at Lasia Touli in Upper West Regin. They are majoring in business and science respectively. We have 4 young ladies that are expected to graduate this year and 3 second year students. With our 3 graduates, that makes 12 girls whose lives have been impacted by our work.

In addition, we have started working with some local expert craftswomen as well as Engage Globally, another NGO organization based in Washington, DC and in Taha, Ghana. We want  to offer apprenticeships in the making of pocketbooks. This and our support of the Sangariku Shea Butter Cooperative expands our outreach to women in other ways besides education.

I am looking forward to my trip to Northern Ghana Feb. 9. It has been 3 years since I last visited my friends there. Now that we are an official NGO in Ghana as well as a 501c3 here in the US, we are busy setting up our Tamale office. We hope to have a place for women to gather and to offer computer training right there.

Leah's Dream Board Secretary

Accompanying me on this trip will be our newest Board member Sarah Lynne McMahon. Look for her bio and more news from our students in our next issue.

Till then “mah krow” or goodby in Twi, a language of Ghana,


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Happy Thanksgiving

So much has happened since my last post it is hard to know where to begin. Emelia Guo, our new Executive Director of the Leah’s Dream Ghana NGO was here for a visit in August. Together we made some daring plans to advance the sustainability of our little non profit. We hired our new consultant, Labrine Braimah to obtain official documents from the government of Ghana so now we are a legal NGO in that country and are eligible to bank under our corporate name. We have initiated a shea butter shipping process to new markets we have begun to develop in the states. Let me know if you are interested in purchasing all natural, fair trade bulk shea butter. We are expecting our first shipment soon. We are also working to establish an apprenticeship program for our graduates and other girls to train them to make lovely bags also to be sold in the States. IMG_0011With our profits, we hope that we can offer more Afafanto scholarships for eligible girls to attend secondary school. We have just enrolled our 13th young lady in school.

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Don’t forget Giving Tuesday

Now with all of our progress, we have to further our fundraising outreach efforts. So, we have become a part of the Amazon Smile program. Each purchase you make on Amazon via Amazon Smile will donate .5% of the purchase to Leah’s Dream. Check it out at: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/27-2986141. Look for more ways to donate online soon.

I will be making a trip to Tamale to our new office there and to visit the Afafanto Scholars. Despite all of the sad Ebola news out about West Africa, there has not been a single reported case of Ebola in Ghana. Keep your fingers crossed. More on our girls in the next post, which I hope will be sooner than this one. Sandee

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Future Sustainability

strengthAh well, summer is over. Our girls are on break until Oct. 1, then their new school term begins. The new Afafanto Scholarship applicants have finally received their test scores so we are now in the process of choosing our recipients. Thanks to Ibn Kamara, our second and third year girls have received their books and supplies and tuition is all paid up. Six wonderful Delta Kappa Gamma sisters have volunteered to write letters and to mentor our girls with words of encouragement. Mentoring is a big part of our philosophy for success.

Thanks to Kipo Jimah for picking up some of the slack while Emelia has been here in the US awaiting the birth of her second child. She is due any day now and will be happy to get back to her family in Ghana. Kipo, a current Leah’s Dream Board member who was a colleague of Leah’s at IFPRI has taken a new job to be closer to his own family in Tamale. We congratulate him and wish him well in all of his future endeavors.

Since Emelia has been in the US, we have had some extra valuable time to plan our next steps for Leah’s Dream. Our little organization is growing. This year we will be managing the education of 9 young women in Ghana andcontinuing to mentor our recent high school graduate Mariama Iddrisu who has ambitions to enter the nursing profession. Besides our Afafanto Scholarship, we have also stepped up our efforts to provide some teacher training in the village of Larabanga. Ibn, our erstwhile Supervisor is also a teacher in Larabanga. He has earned his advanced teaching certification with a grant from Leah’s Dream. Congratulations to Ibn!

ibn and me

Ibn Kamara and Sandee Mandel Mole N.P.

Emelia and I met in June with Alice Lesnick, Director of  Education at Bryn Mawr College. She has sent some of her students to Dalun and formed a partnership at UDS which is the University that Emelia teaches at (how is that for serendipity?) We hope toexpand our efforts at teacher education with Dr. Lesnick’s help. Helping teachers to teach better will allow more girls who want a secondary education to pass their WAEC national exams thus expanding our pool of Afafanto applicants. All part of our strategy to make Leah’s Dream sustainable into the future.

Shea Butter Cooperative

Sagnarigu Shea Butter Processing Group

Our meager efforts at marketing shea butter from the Sankarigu Shea butter cooperative, has netted a total of about $200. We are thinking about the idea of marrying our two projects (shea butter/crafts marketing and scholarship) with the idea of offering micro loans to  groups of young women who are not choosing to get a formal secondary education. We are exploring the possibility of pairing some of these girls with mentors in Ghana who they will apprentice for and learn a craft or trade. Our fundraiser this year will be offering these products at local Philadelphia flea markets with dollars earned going for our scholarship fund.  The girls’ cooperatives will get a good start at a future and we finance our scholarship program. Sustainability in action. Please comment on these ideas, we welcome your feedback ( and your donations) always.

Anyway, as the lushness of our summer becomes the brilliant golds and oranges of autumn we look forward to putting our plans into action. As always, stay tuned…Sandee

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What a Gala Event

Our first gala silent auction and fundraiser was a success! We made our goal and beyond. We now have enough funds to provide 10 girls with a secondary education next year plus some funding for other projects we have in mind. Wow. I am amazed and overwhelmed at the gererosity of our supporters. Over 62 of them showed up this past April 13 at our gala event at Fleisher Art Memorial on Catherine St. to help raise funds. Many supporters found their way to our online Eventbrite donate sites as well. There was something for everyone there; enough food to feed an entire Ghanaian village, Tacie’s Bakery in East Coventry provided a most delicious french bread, dips, spreads and platters were provided by moi and we had some excellent serving help from the Sustainability Workshop students supervised by Myra Malis as well as  Keith Jarret and Nancy Koan tending bar. Over 50 art objects were auctioned off, most of which found new homes after some lively bidding. Lottery bags from Africa were filled with donated gift certificates from Philadelphia area businesses. Shea butter at $5.00 a pop sold briskly and there are orders to fill and best of all, the Dreaming Tree Trio consisting of Scott Horowitz, Michael Schiller and Ajinkya Joglekar added fantastic musical atmosphere. Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help make the event so terrific. Check out the photos taken by Leah Milito below.

africa bags  fundraiser Fundraiser2 fundraiser4 Fundraiser5 fundraiser9 Shea Butterscott's band2

May is graduation time and we have our first Afafanto graduate. Mariama Iddrisu is completing her final year of high school. She is now in the process of her 2 weeks of final exams which will determine if she goes on to the University. Her plan is to go for a teaching career. With her advanced high school certification, Mariama is much more employable than the average female of her age group. Way to go Mariama. As promised, a computer laptop is now hers to keep. I am planning a trip to Ghana in the fall and will officially congratulate Mariama on her great achievement. May is also the time that the Afafanto Scholarship applications are handed out. We have distributed 50 applications in at least 4 villages. We will choose our 3 scholarship winners from a list of 10 finalists some time in August. Congratulations are due to our 7 students from this year who are completing school this May through some trying circumstances. In a letter from Saaka Arabiata, one of our second year she students writes ” There is this problem we tried to solve but to no avail in our trials, and the problem is the studying of core-Mathematics. Anytime we learn it we do not understand. Mum, we want to know the secret in learning and understanding Core-Mathematics…Anyone have any good advice for Saaka? She could really use a good mentor. Our mentoring program needs strengthening and is one of the major goals for next year.

Mariama, Sandee, Ibn and Abusco

A proud Mariama Iddrisu receives our first Afafanto Scholarship Award

Until the next time, remember what Nelson Mandela wrote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”