Scholarship Fund Established for Children of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson

Sgt. La David Johnson (Photo: Department of Defense)

by David J. Neal via miamiherald.com

The death of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, FL, one of four soldiers killed Oct. 4 by ambush in Niger, wasn’t just another tragedy involving a constituent to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. So, she and her 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program decided to do something for Johnson’s survivors.

Wilson knew Johnson, his parents, his two kids and wife Myeshia Johnson, who is pregnant with their third child. Johnson hadn’t just gone through the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program Wilson founded in 1993, he’d been a leader among leaders. Johnson’s cousins went into the program also, saying they were followed his example. Wilson couldn’t help but recognize the numeric parallel of Johnson being killed at 25 early in the program’s 25th school year. “He was a true role model,” Wilson said of the young man known as Wheelie King for his bicycle tricks before he enrolled in the Army.

While part of an advisory group in Niger, Johnson didn’t make it out of an attack the Department of Defense blames on The Islamic State. ISIS increasingly teams up with fellow extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, the terrorists in Wilson’s prime international cause, the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria. So, the 5,000 Role Models of Excllence program has established Role Model Army Sgt. La David Johnson Scholarship to ensure Johnson’s three children will have money for college.

A gofundme page has been set up for those who wish to contribute.

Source: Scholarship fund for kids of Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger | Miami Herald

Sierra Leonean-American Dancer Michaela DePrince: ‘I Went From Being a War Orphan to a Ballerina’

Michaela DePrince photographed for “The Female Lead” by Brigitte Lacombe

by Michaela DePrince via positive.news

Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer Michaela DePrince was orphaned at the age of three. Born Mabinty Bangura to a Muslim family, she was sent to an orphanage where the ‘aunties’ who cared for the children believed that her skin condition, vitiligo, was a curse and called her the ‘devil’s child’. In 1999, DePrince was adopted by a US couple. Inspired by a picture of a ballerina she saw on a magazine in Sierra Leone, DePrince trained as a ballet dancer, winning a scholarship for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. In 2013, she joined the Dutch National Ballet. Her story features in a book called The Female Lead.

My uncle took me to the orphanage after my father was shot and my mother starved to death. He knew he’d never be able to get a bride price for me, because of my vitiligo. There were 27 children in the orphanage and we were numbered. Number 1 got the biggest portion of food and the best choice of clothes. Number 27 got the smallest portion of food and the leftover clothes. The aunties thought I was unlucky and evil because of my vitiligo. I was number 27. I was always dirty. They used to braid my hair too tightly because they wanted me to be in pain and they told me I’d never be adopted.

The only moments I was happy were because of my friend, who was also called Mabinty. We slept on the same mat and she used to sing to me and tell me stories when I couldn’t sleep. She was number 26. I thought nothing good would ever happen to me and then, one day, I found a magazine outside the gate of the orphanage. On the cover was a picture of a ballerina in a tutu. I thought she was a fairy on her tippy toes in her beautiful pink costume. But what struck me most was that she looked so happy. I hadn’t been happy in a long time. I ripped off the picture and hid it in my underwear.

We had a teacher who came to give us English lessons and I showed it to her. She explained to me that the girl was a dancer. I was walking with this teacher one day when some rebels came towards us. A boy was following them and another truck full of them around the corner. They had been drinking, I think. They saw Teacher Sarah was pregnant and started betting whether she was having a girl or a boy. So then they thought they’d find out and they got their machetes and cut her open. Her baby was a girl. They killed her and my teacher in front of me. The small boy thought he should imitate the older ones and he cut my stomach.

Later, the rebels occupied the orphanage and threw us out. We walked across the border to Guinea. There were plans for most of us to be adopted, but not me. Finally, there was a plane to Ghana. I was miserable because I thought I would never see my best friend, number 26, again. Then a lady with blonde hair, which seemed amazing to me, and wearing bright red shoes grabbed my hand and my friend’s hand too, and said: ‘I’m your new momma.’ Number 26 became my sister Mia.

My parents made me see that it is OK to be different and to stand out. When we got to the hotel, I started looking through my momma’s luggage for my tutu and pointe shoes. I thought all Americans were doctors, models or ballerinas and she would have brought my clothes with her. I didn’t speak English so the only way I could explain was to take the picture out of my underwear and show her. She understood straight away. She said I could dance if I wanted to.

When we got to America, I started going to ballet class once a week, then twice a week. I found a video of The Nutcracker and I must have watched it 150 times. I begged my mother to take me to a performance and I knew it so well that I could tell when they went wrong. By the time I was ten I was going to ballet classes five times a week.

I worried that my vitiligo would be a problem but my skin turned out to be an issue in a different way. A lot of people are still very traditional in their views and they want to see the same thing in the corps de ballet – white skinny dancers. Early on, my mother was told by one of my ballet teachers, ‘We don’t put a lot of effort into the black girls. They all end up getting fat, with big boobs.’ I have strengths as a dancer. I am muscular and I have strong legs. More importantly, I work very hard.

To read full article, go to: ‘I went from being a war orphan to a ballerina’

10 African “Tech for Good” Startups to Watch in 2017

(Photograph — AB2020 via venturesafrica.com)

article by Vicki Hearn via venturesafrica.com

Innovators across Africa are harnessing digital technology to develop new ways of tackling social and economic challenges. From the rise of Silicon Savannah to the launch of M-PESA, the continent has a burgeoning tech sector that is driving a social tech movement that puts people before profits. These inspirational projects are making a positive difference to people’s lives in their own communities and creating social change at a national level.

For the last four years, Nominet Trust has identified and celebrated 100 different socially-motivated startups from across the globe. In our 2016 NT100, we feature some extraordinary examples of how pioneers from across Africa are using tech for good to promote education equality, economic empowerment and access to medical care.

Education equality

1.  OneUni

In Kenya, a lack of physical space at universities and the prohibitive costs of attending can be barriers to often capable students pursuing degree programmes. Daystar University in Nairobi and California startup, OneUni, partnered up to tackle this and make university education accessible to more Kenyans. Together they created Africa’s first smartphone degree programme, Daystar Mobile, where all course materials are made available through an app. They now have plans to expand the model to other African countries to reach thousands of more students, aiming to make university education more accessible across the continent.

2. Tunapanda Institute

Another venture bolstering education in Kenya is Tunapanda Institute. Approximately one-third of Kenyan children do not enrol into a high school because of financial constraints, so brothers Jay and Mick Larson created a free, open source online training programme to help bridge this digital divide. Tunapanda Institute currently delivers three-month intensive learning courses in technology, design and business, giving students access to vital skills that can act as an alternative to traditional high school diplomas. At the institute’s HQ in Nairobi, specific workshops are also held to provide girls with skills in the STEM subjects, helping address the gender gap in these fields. To date, 100 people have graduated from the programme, of whom 85 percent are in meaningful employment as a result.

3. Well Told Story

After the disputed elections in Kenya in 2007, over 800 people were killed, leaving a generation of youths feeling disenfranchised. To help get to the heart of what young Kenyan’s wanted to talk about, Rob Burnet established Well Told Story, a research consultancy which is famous for creating Shujaaz, meaning ‘heroes’ in Sheng. Shujaaz is a free, international Emmy-winning comic book that now has a monthly circulation of 500,000 and a readership that Burnet estimates to be five million Kenyans aged between 10 and 25. The content is lovingly crafted by young people based in Well Told Story’s Nairobi office and offers readers tips on everything from planting maize to contraception, information about upcoming elections and careers.Enhancing daily living

4. Lumkani

In Cape Town, communities living in deprived areas are threatened by the devastation caused by house fires which can sweep through the neighbourhood. Lumkani, which means ‘beware’ in Xhosa, was created by a group of students horrified by the danger faced by less advantaged citizens in their city, to help save lives in the event of these fires. Lumkani transmits a signal to devices within a 20-metre radius so that neighbours are aware of potential danger and can mobilise help or evacuate. Since launching in 2014, Lumkani has been installed in 7,000 homes in Cape Town, and co-founders Francois Petousis and Samuel Ginsburg say that the device has already prevented the spread of what could have been five major fires.

5. Digital Matatus

Although 70 percent of Nairobi’s population rely on the matatus – 20,000 private vans which transport people around the capital – there’s very little information available on how to navigate this seemingly chaotic system. In 2011, researchers at MIT, Columbia University and the University of Nairobi, together with design agency Upshot, began a collaborative mapping project to make sense of the matatus system to support those travelling on it. By recruiting Kenyan students to ride the matatus and log journeys using mobile and GPS, by 2015 Digital Matatus had recorded almost 3,000 stops on more than 130 routes. Since its release, the city of Nairobi has adopted the map as the capital’s official transit guide and more than 5,000 people have downloaded it online.

Economic empowerment

6. Illuminum Greenhouse

Childhood friends Brian Bett and Taita Ng’etich, whose families are farmers, set out to explore better solutions to farming after their young tomato crop was destroyed by flooding. They developed a system using low-cost materials and advanced sensor technologies to monitor their crops to prevent this happening again. When neighbours started asking them to build their own greenhouses, they founded a new business: Illuminum Greenhouses. Each greenhouse is fitted with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture, alerting farmers to change the settings via text messages. To date, more than 750 Kenyan farmers are using Illuminum’s technology and the pair aspires to scale the innovation so it can be deployed all over Africa and Latin America.

To read full article, go to: 10 African ‘tech for good’ startups to watch in 2017 – Ventures Africa

Colin Kaepernick Secures Cargo Plane and $1 Million in Aid via GoFundMe for Somalia

Colin Kaepernick (photo via essence.com)

article by Paula Rogo via essence.com

Kaepernick is putting his money, and power, where his mouth is

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to make philanthropic waves after securing a way to provide relief to the people of Somalia. After joining a Twitter campaign beseeching Turkish Airlines to send a cargo plane with aid, the former quarterback announced on Twitter Friday that he had secured one from the airline to bring supplies to the East African nation.

Turkish Airlines is one of the few that travel to Somalia, and the flight is expected to take place March 27.

The GoFundMe page’s goal is $1 million, a number it quickly surpassed in 24 hours.

“This is a victory for the people, this is a victory for the people of Somalia,” said Kaepernick. “It was done out of love, out of respect for these people. We wanted to bring structure to this so we’re going to use the name Love Army for Somalia. So use the #LoveArmyforSomalia. This is amazing, let’s keep building, let’s keep going.”

To see full article, go to: Colin Kaepernick Secures A Plane and $1 Million In Aid For Somalia | Essence.com

TECH: Rachel Sibande Founds M-Hub, Malawi’s 1st Technology Incubator

Rachel Sibande (photo via africa.com)

article via africa.com

Rachel Sibande is the founder of M-Hub, Malawi’s first technology hub. It is an incubator for technology startups with a special focus on building young tech entrepreneurs  by offering them training, skills development and mentorship. “M-Hub champions the development of technology solutions as its main lifeline. The hub invests its profits in social good programs that build capacities of children, girls and youth in developing technology applications. Ultimately, M-Hub wants to be the prime software solution provider in the nation and beyond, employing skills of young Malawians.”

Rachel’s interest in technology started in her school days when she found herself playing with different gadgets, radios and anything tech she could find. Later on, she studied computer science at Malawi’s Chancellors College and then sparked off her career as a programmer before diverting into lecturing and teaching. “Growing up I had a passion for gadgets. I was just curious on anything techy. I actually thought I would be a lab scientist. But I guess with time, my passion moved to computers.”

Still filled with a passion to use technology to change lives, Sibande then found herself working with development agencies like USAID, FICA and GIZ. It was around this time when Rachel got involved in rolling out Malawi’s first web-to-SMS service for the Malawi’s smallholder farmer industry. After seeing the impact technology was making in Malawi’s agricultural industry, Rachel then developed a conviction to grow this impact to other sectors.

M-Hub (photo via africa.com)

In 2012, While on a fellowship under Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Programme in the United States, Rachel was introduced to the concept of technology hubs. It was then that the conviction birthed a new vision, an incubator and cutting edge space that would be customized to suit the Malawian context.

“I wanted to see that there was a space where young technology enthusiasts were nurtured with technical and business skills through mentoring and facilitation of the hub and its members,” she recalls in one interview. “Youth are the future change makers and this is why special focus is put on training and mentoring youth entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. ICT skills can equip young entrepreneurs to become job creators to decrease unemployment. More ICT projects should be coordinated and implemented to improve infrastructure development and I believe once youth are equipped with these skills, they’ll see the vision and they’ll be the driving force behind change and development. It is very important that youth know their potential and are empowered to ensure that the future prosperity of their nation and continent is secured.”

To read more, go to: Meet Rachel Sibande, Malawi’s Innovation Champion – Africa.com

PBS and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Team Up for 6-Hour Documentary Series “Africa’s Great Civilizations”

PBS

(Image via ShadowAndAct.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

According to ShadowAndAct.com, during the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter tour, PBS unveiled that it has teamed up with African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for a 3-part/6-hour documentary series titled “Africa’s Great Civilizations” which premieres on February 27, promising to bring “little-known yet epic stories to life, detailing African kingdoms and cultures.”

The official summary is as follows: “Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides a new look from an African perspective at African history, traversing the dawn of mankind to the dawn of the 20th century. The series is a breathtaking and personal journey through history that includes evidence of the earliest human culture and art, arguably the world’s greatest ever civilizations and kingdoms, and some of the world’s earliest writing. Gates travels throughout the vast continent of Africa to discover the true majesty of its greatest civilizations and kingdoms.”

The series will air over 3 nights, Monday-Wednesday, February 27-March 1, from 9-11 p.m. ET each airing.  To see the trailer, click below:

 

Oando Foundation and Theirworld Charities Partner to Empower Young Nigerian Women and Girls Through Tech

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Mrs Adekanla Adegoke, Head, Oando Foundation with pupils of Olisa Primary School at the launch of Oando Foundation and Theirworld Code Clubs for Girls at Olisa Primary School, Papa Ajao Mushin (photo via venturesafrica.com)

article by Fumnanya Agbugah via venturesafrica.com

Global children’s charity Theirworld and Oando Foundation, an independent charity organization, have partnered to empower Nigerian girls and young women. This initiative is geared towards providing them with a unique opportunity to learn important technology skills in a safe environment through an innovative pilot project known as Code Clubs.

“With a safe space to learn and play, a mentor to inspire, and access to technology to be able to explore, create, and code we can increase learning opportunities and empower girls to fulfill their potential,” said Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Despite thousands of jobs being created in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries across Africa, gender discrimination, lack of access to education and technology have often kept girls out of the work force. This has also made it impossible to break the cycle of poverty.

As a result of the several issues affecting the development of women in Africa, Code Club Nigeria is set to be launched ahead of Africa Code Week in collaboration with the Oando Foundation.

What is the code club?

The Code Club’s are low-cost, sustainable and scalable safe spaces where girls can be empowered by learning to code, foster creative thinking and increase knowledge and skill-set for the future.

Over 600 girls aged six to twenty-five in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will join the Code Clubs in its pilot phase with the aim of reaching thousands more with its self-sustaining model – where girls who have completed the course will return to mentor the next cohort of girls, with community support to augment the scalability of the project.

To read full article, go to: http://venturesafrica.com/oando-foundation-and-theirworld-partner-to-empower-nigerian-girls-and-young-women-through-ict/amp/