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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Another fiscal year ends

June is the end of our fiscal year. Financially it has been a very successful year. We raised enough money to send 10 girls to high school next year. Yay! Now our attention needs to turn to our future plans. How to we grow? In what direction should we go? Our mission to educate more girls in Northern Ghana through providing scholarships seems to be fulfilled. Yet, there is still the problem of getting more girls prepared for high school. Not enough girls pass their B.E.C.E. exams to gain entrance to school. We need to help to improve the teacher education as well. To that end, we have formed some connections with local educators who will be travelling to Ghana to work with teachers to improve their teaching. On our upcoming trip we will also visit the high schools that our girls are attending to meet with the headmasters. We want to explain to them how important the mentoring portion of our scholarship is and brainstorm ways that we can accomplish this as they do not permit the girls to have cell phones or computers at school.

Teaching  is still an uphill battle because the classrooms are just hard wooden desks and old chalkboards.IMG_1812 If there is electricity, maybe there will be one computer in the entire primary school complex. Internet is via cell phone towers and often spotty. And the girls are begging for textbooks which they sorely need. We can get lots of old textbooks donated. The problem is the huge cost and complexity of shipping them. We can get equipment donated, the problem again is getting it there. We need manpower (or womanpower) to move forward. I am just one person and far away.

Our Shea Butter cooperative seems to be moving in a good direction. People love our shea butter. We just need help to package it once we overcome the problem of shipping the raw materials. Should we put more of our resources towards ensuring the Shea Butter Cooperative success?

Less than 1000 days until the 2015 UN Millenium Goals in education are to be met. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  of Liberia has said that Africa has greatly improved its primary education rate. 51 million more children started going to school in sub-Saharan Africa between 1999 and 2010, as a result of African leadership on education, backed by increased aid and debt cancellation(yes in some countries they actually charged a fee to go to primary school). Let’s put our heads together and figure out ways to keep it moving to the older girls. Educated girls raise healthier families. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of eIMG_1749ducation, she marries four years later, and has 2.2 fewer children. Every year of schooling decreases infant mortality 5-10%. Mothers are also more likely to reinvest into the health and education of their children.

From the letters I receive from the girls, they are so grateful for our help but as they describe their day at school, each one tells me about spending an inordinate amount of time going for water. For women in the world’s rural drylands, life is defined by the burden of collecting water. For the old and the young, the sick and the healthy, it is a chore with no relief. If the lack of water is a roadblock for education, then should we look into assisring the of building more wells?

And now for budgeting. We need constantly to guard against increasing the percentage of money we use for administrative costs. Yet, I fear, if we do not spend to hire staff we will not be able to grow any further. We made a promise that for each girl we support, we will bank the full amount for 3 years of education. So each year our surplus looks deceptive. If we only give an education to 13 girls over 4 years, is that enough? Anyone with answers please speak up.

Happy Summer! 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.”

Sandee


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Happy New Year

Amazing soon it will be 2013. This organization has come a long way since the idea to honor Leah’s passing by helping young African women was planted in my brain by BB and Nethra, two very wise friends of hers.

Alisah Yuseff of Larabanga holding a papaya

Alisah Yuseff of Larabanga holding a papaya

I have just completed the mid year report for our Delta Kappa Gamma  Project Grant and reapplied for a second year of funding from them. Delta Kappa Gamma is an educational honor society that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. They have supported our efforts with a $2,500.00 grant for the Afafanto Scholarship Project in 2012. This grant enabled us to double our support for this year to 4 girls whose photos you see to the right and below. In addition, our local DKG chapter of Beta Mu has been extremely generous with their efforts to help with mentoring and fundraising. Karen Lachenmayer, of Beta Mu has joined our Board. Welcome Karen!

Rafiya Karim in front of Larabanga Primary School

Rafiya Karim in front of Larabanga Primary School.

Patricia Abugrago in her Bawku Secondary School Uniform

Patricia Abugrago in her Bawku Secondary School Uniform

Looking backward to this past year’s accomplishments, I am most proud of the fact that now we are an official 501c3 non profit entity listed with the IRS and searchable among other notable charities. Looking ahead, we need to focus on making Leah’s Dream sustainable far into the future. We need more visibility and obviously a continued source of funding. Please mark your calendars to join us for our first ever Leah’s Dream Fundraiser. The date has been decided: Saturday evening, April 13. Thanks to those of you who have offered to donate your art work for our online auction we continue to look for more works to showcase and sell as well as help in organizing the event itself. Please let me know if you would like to contribute to our fundraiser in some way.

Sophia Yakubu of Daboya with her brother.

Sophia Yakubu of Daboya with her brother.

If you wish to be put on our mailing list, please leave a comment. Also, I would love your feedback on this blog so do comment. Comments will not necessarily be posted.

And now,

Happy New Year to all and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Prosperous 2013.

Sandee

A classroom in Larabanga

A typical classroom in the Northern Region.

This is the second posting of our new blog. With it comes some exciting news. Our Afafanto Scholarship Fund has been in existence now for 3 years. We have one student, Mariama Iddrisu who is finishing her final year in INDESCO Senior High School. In Ghana, high school is only 3 years and the more academic students usually go on to university. Some students do not finish primary school until they are 19 or older. Leah’s Dream was to offer the opportunity for more girls from the Northern Region to have at least a high school education. We are very proud that Mariama has stuck with her program and has improved greatly.

Mariama, Sandee, Ibn and Abusco

A proud Mariama Iddrisu receives our first Afafanto Scholarship Award

Last year we offered a scholarship to two students, Saaka Arabiatu and Mukuramatu Abdul-Razak. They are now in their second year and thriving. Saaka is at Damongo Senior High School and Mukuramatu is at Northern School of Business.

This year we are pleased to be able to offer a scholarship to FOUR young ladies thanks to the generous grant that Leah’s Dream received from the Delta Kappa Gamma Educational Honor Society. They are (drum roll please): Karim Rafiya of Larabanga, age 16, Patricia Abugragu age 18 from Bawku, Alisah Yussif, age 18 from Larabanga and Sophia Yakubu from Daboya. In her essay Karim writes “I am a brilliant but needy student and this scholarship will help me further my education after senior high school to the tertiary institution.” She likes “fufu with groundnut paste and volleyball”. Alisah states that ” in my community, the girls who lack education may be led astray and it leads them to pregnancy and I don’t want to engage myself in such behaviour.” Sophia writes ” due to lack of employment by my parents to support my education, I am applying for this scholarship to help finance my education, to have a better future career and to improve the image of the scholarship programme.”  All the girls were selected based on their essays, their score on the National Exam, the remoteness of their villages and other minor criteria. I will post more pictures or them in the next issue of our newsletter.

Mukuramatu in her school uniform

Also don’t forget to check out our video and photo albums on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Afafanto.

The video highlights another of our Leah’s Dream projects which is the support of the Sangrakiku Women’s Shea Butter cooperative. We are helping them to develop markets for their excellent product in the U.S. Anyone wishing to help with this venture, please contact me.

As I am understanding the Ghanaian educational system, these girls must achieve at least a score of 36 on their National Exam, the B.E.C.E. which they take in June. The scores are posted during the summer season and students are offered admission to senior high schools based on those scores. As high school in Ghana is a boarding school, they are not guaranteed a school near their villages. This is a big adjustment for them. Their year usually begins in November to allow time for upperclass students to get started in September before the new students’ orientation.

Finally, a word about some of our future plans. We will be holding our 2013 annual fundraiser this year in March. It will be a silent art auction. There is much to be done so please volunteer to help out. I am especially looking for more participation from our Board members. Also, it is not too early to start thinking about joining us for a trip to Ghana hopefully this summer. The teachers in the primary schools can use lots of help in writing curriculum and learning new teaching methods. Please let me know if you have an interest in coming along.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your holiday season. SandeeAdinkra Symbol