When Erna Grasz and her husband Mark Newton set out to climb the icy peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, they had no idea they would return home from their travels inspired to accomplish yet another feat.
Grasz, a former LLNL engineering employee who worked in the Lab's NIF Directorate, and her husband Mark Newton, a Lab Engineering Division Leader currently working in the NIF and Photon Sciences Directorate, were warmed by the people they met in local villages and communities who lived without access to basic resources like food and water, not to mention education.
Back home in Livermore, when they met with local people who were interested in helping in Tanzania and Kenya, they couldn't find just what they were looking for. So they simply started their own mechanism to help and that's when Asante Africa Foundation was born. The purpose is to provide quality education for children in East Africa so that they can improve life for themselves and their families.
When Grasz is asked, "Why not address HIV, or poverty, or economics?" She replies, "Education provides the essential tools in your toolkit for tackling all other big tough challenges. When you have enriched minds and empowered leadership and creativity, solutions will be found to other problems."
Asante Africa Foundation is grounded on the belief that every child deserves access to quality education, regardless of the longitude or latitude in which they are born. Education empowers children to make informed decisions, to turn dreams into reality, to reduce their families' struggle, and to facilitate the process of their communities becoming self-sustaining.
This year alone, Asante Africa Foundation has provided 125 student scholarships in elementary through high school, funded the completion of three primary schools, piloted two new enhanced learning programs for improving grades and performance, graduated 13 high school students from Kenya and Tanzania, and graduated two teachers in advanced training programs. Since the organization began, they have touched the lives of 19,000 students across 18 schools.
Nancy (Global Security) and Greg (Science & Technology) Suski became involved in the organization when their son, Matthew came home from school last year and said he was going to start a club to raise money to help children in Africa. There was a guest speaker that day at his junior high school who talked about how hard life is for many impoverished African children.
With the help of some of his friends, he started "Believers In Action" and in just under three months raised more than $2,000. As Matthew Suski and his parents started thinking about next steps, they called Grasz to learn more about what it meant to start a charitable foundation. After talking with Grasz and Newton, the next step was easy -- go to Africa and see how it works. Matthew Suski gathered up his Believers In Action friends, and they put together more than 200 bags of school supplies to deliver to children at the Asante-Africa-supported Kwamakuu Primary School in Tanzania.
"Of all the organizations in the HOME Campaign, Asante Africa is a unique because it helps people in our local community build bridges with our global communities," Nancy Suski says. "Asante Africa broadens the knowledge of how the rest of the world lives and allows us to actually make a difference across the world, from our HOME to theirs. The power of education is transforming lives of children in East Africa. Supporting education there, particularly for girls, is one of the best investments we can make to increase economic growth, improve public health, reduce violence, and break the cycle of poverty in our world. And with ever-increasing global interdependency, the more we do to improve the education of our global neighbors, the better off we all will be in terms of freedom, economy and peaceful existence."