SISTAWorks logo
December 2015
Vol. 006

Hello SISTAWorks supporters, we have been going full speed in 2015 and it has been some time since we last wrote to tell you about all the wonderful goings on with our SISTA Scholars. Even though this is our high season, where we have our annual benefit concert and recruit our new students as well as help our graduating students transition, we are bursting with news, so we could not wait a moment longer to catch you up. Beginning next year, we will send you newsletters on a quarterly basis. We hope that you will find them informative and inspiring. Just let us know if there are any topics that you'd like to hear more (or less) about. In the meantime, please enjoy our last newsletter of the year! 

From Berkeley to Bolga

Kweli (front center) takes a selfie with
SISTA Scholars

In 2015, we had 16 SISTA Scholars graduate from high school thanks to your support and this year, we have 25 new students who are entering as freshmen. The recruiting process for these SISTA scholars began in early November, and we were fortunate enough to be able to send, Kweli Kitwana, an experienced volunteer from Berkeley, California to Ghana to oversee the process. Kweli has been a cross-cultural trainer and facilitator for nonprofits for most of her career. If this newsletter has a theme, it is this: full circle.

Kweli bought a quilt from BaBa Blankets (our original organization before founding SISTAWorks) and she has been supporting our work ever since. Kweli said, "It was this experience which inspired me to revisit my own family's tradition of quilting. ... leading me to designing over 300 African American fabric designs ... [that] brought me to Facebook ... through African American Fabrics ... [to] now, honored to spend a month volunteering with SISTAWorks."

Since early November, we have been receiving the warmest updates from Kweli. "My first day in BOGISS and ZUHS Secondary schools was truly inspiring... I met some of the amazing students and witnessed firsthand their incredibly challenging environment," Kweli said. She added that everyone she has met there has been thankful for the opportunity SISTAWorks and its sponsors are providing for these girls. Here is what she has learned about the girls she has been interviewing: "Girls applying are as old as 22 years old; some have traveled many miles with no shoes or underwear to apply for assistance; it is not uncommon for these girls to sell in the market after primary school to save for funds for years to go to high school only to arrive and discover they haven't even saved the minimal registration fee; and most importantly, attending school is an honor and not taken for granted."
 
We are thankful to have Kweli in Ghana helping young women get enrolled and started in their first year of high school. Kweli calls their tuition assistance as their "deserved privilege to study without economic worry." We all know that these girls will pay it forward when they are reunited with their families, communities and the world as high school and post secondary graduates.
 
Beyond High School 
 
Since our inception, we have had over 15 of our graduating SISTA scholars go on to post-secondary school. One of our inaugural SISTA scholars, Mercy Atoyange, completed her post-secondary training at Bolgatanga Nurses' Training College in 2014 and completed her National Service this year. The great news is Mercy recently secured employment as a nurse at Nankpanduri Health Centre! We are so proud of Mercy and so in awe of her journey, which has been inspiring as well as challenging

When we first met Mercy, she had finished junior secondary school and her widowed mother could not afford to send her to high school, so a teacher recommended that Mercy repeat JSS at another institution. She had a long way to travel to repeat all of the courses she had successfully graduated from, and three years later, she graduated JSS the second time around. She easily passed her exams and received another coveted placement at a local high school, but due to her dire financial situation, which hadn't changed, she was unable to pay the fees. 
 
Mercy Atoyange just prior to completing Nursing school 

Her teachers pleaded for the school to accept her until money could be found, and that is when we met Mercy - as she was due to be expelled from high school for non-payment. Mercy is a shining example of a young woman who benefited from a little help from friends. Now she will rejoin the community as a healer. Well done, Mercy! We could not be more proud of you.
 
SISTA Scholars, Juliana Ntebani (2012) and Isabella Ayinsakiya (2013) are entering their second year at the Bolgatanga Nurses' Training College. Juliana writes, "I promise not to disappoint you when it comes to my academic performance." We have no doubt that these young ladies will join the ranks of nurses and healers in their communities very soon as well. Good job, Juliana, Isabella and all of our SISTA Scholar Graduates who continue to manifest even more of their dreams!  
A Family Affair
 
In 2012, E. Aminata Brown (SISTAWorks' founder) was selected by More Magazine for the Job Genius Award. Although she didn't win the magazine's final competition, something even more amazing happened, her work caught the attention of Michele Courton-Brown. After meeting with the Courton-Browns, the family committed to sponsoring 10 SISTA Scholars for the next three years! It is said there are no coincidences, so it must have been destiny that caught Michele's eye when she was ready to throw out her April issue of More and spotted our story. Michele's mother, Shirley, had held a long-time dream to fund girls' education in Ghana and she had worked hard to raise the funds that the Courton-Brown family committed to the SISTA Scholar Program.

SISTA Scholars welcome the Courton family
Courton-Brown family sons welcomed by
SISTA Scholars in Ghana.
Shirley, Michele, her husband and two sons traveled to Ghana to meet their SISTA scholars just after they were placed in our program. The family was greeted with overwhelming gratitude by all 70 of our SISTA scholars. The students who were recruited and sponsored by the Courton-Brown family were in financial need and about to drop out of school with only an 8th grade education. With this family's support and as of this year, these SISTA scholars are now high school graduates!

Michele is now on the Board of SISTAWorks and continues to help all of our young scholars to have a brighter future.

We salute you Courton-Brown family and your enormous dedication to furthering girls' education in Africa.
Three's a Charm
 
SISTAWorks held its 3rd annual benefit concert to fund the SISTA Scholar program on Nov. 7th. This year's benefit paid tribute to Aretha Franklin - who had to be feeling our love wherever she was that night because our talented artists, musicians, spoken word poets and masters of ceremony brought down the house in her honor. On a stormy night in New Orleans, our patrons and volunteers came from all corners of the city to show their love for our SISTA scholars.
Erica Falls and Shamarr Allen perform at our
3rd Annual Benefit

The night was a stunning success and demonstrated an amazing conduit of love and support. To everyone who made that night magical, we salute you! To Aretha Franklin, we hope we made you proud because we have nothing but RESPECT for your legacy. Our fundraising came in slightly ahead of our expectations to help 25 young Ghanaian SISTAS begin their first year of high school while continuing to support a total 66 existing secondary school Scholars this year. Thanks again for helping us make this all possible!

(If you missed the photos from the event, click here to see them now.)
A Journey Begins with a 1st Step (and great pants)
 
 
Chic Nouvelle models with Rhonda Findley (center) and E. Aminata Brown (2nd from right) 
The journey of many a woman starts with a first step, and that is how Rhonda Findley began her journey to SISTAWorks. Rhonda wanted to pay homage to her grandmother by using one of her patterns to make a dress. She is the owner of two smart boutiques in New Orleans, Pop City, Inc and Funrock'n, and the talented designer under the fashion label, To the Nines. The dress idea began with her grandmother's pattern and ended with it being made in West African fabric. When Rhonda's designs went flying off the racks, she was inspired to share her success with young girls in West Africa.

On her journey, Rhonda learned about SISTAWorks through a friend, Board Member, Bob Tucker, and she instantly became a sponsor for four of our SISTA scholars. But wait, there's so much more to Rhonda's journey. Under her label, To the Nines, she designed bracelets, pendants and earrings with the same adinkra used in SISTAWorks' logo and African cloth apparel to directly benefit all of our SISTA scholars in Ghana.  

 

As we said, there are no coincidences in this life, Rhonda and SISTAWorks were destined for each other. Thank you, Rhonda Findley for your overwhelming generosity and your commitment to pay it forward.  

Want to Get Involved?
 
SISTAWorks is a small and dynamic organization and there are many opportunities for you to get involved. We have ongoing administrative tasks and our annual fundraiser, as well as a myriad of tasks that are involved with running a small nonprofit. Our volunteers have made it possible to support over 170 young SISTA scholars in Ghana since its inception.
 
Please consider becoming a volunteer of SISTAWorks today and know that your contribution will have a direct impact on our scholars and their communities for years to come. Email: info@sistaworks.org
 
2015 Benefit Organizing Committee

SISTAWorks, Inc.
1539 N. Prieur St.
New Orleans, LA 70116


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"SISTAWorks invests in girls' education and women's entrepreneurship to transform marginalized communities."