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Sierra Leone native raises funds to help kids attend school

Sierra Leone native raises funds to help kids attend school

MANKATO — A year ago, Sheka Mansaray was asking for money so he could return to his native Sierra Leone and help his mother get out of an impoverished existence.  (Photo: Sheka Mansaray (right), a Minnesota State University student from Sierra Leone, is trying to raise money to help children in his home country pay the national fee required of all students. Children whose family can’t pay simply can’t go to school.)

When he got there, he helped her. But he found another problem he couldn’t ignore.

School kids in his neighborhood — kids who attended the same school he attended — were being sent home because they couldn’t afford to pay the fees mandated by the national government.

So he called home, asked for more money, and his fellow African students at Minnesota State University came through. He helped a handful of kids get back in school.

But that wasn’t enough. He wants to do more. And he wants your help.

Mansaray has planned a fundraiser to help many more Sierra Leone kids stay in school. The event is Monday night at MSU.

“To have that kind of impact was big for me,” Mansaray said. “A little bit of money that I take for granted here was able to lift a load off somebody’s family.”

While Mansaray was there, he took photographs and shot video footage of both his mother’s living conditions — which  he describes as horrible until he helped her move — and of the children he encountered and tried to help.

School children in Sheka Mansaray’s old neighborhood in Sierra Leone were being sent home from school because they couldn’t afford the government fees. The MSU college student collected money to get some of them back in school and is trying raise more for the same cause.

He’ll show these images at the fundraiser and tell people about his trip, his goals and what he plans to do with the money he raises.

“Each person that comes, it is not mandatory to donate. But even if they can give a dollar, that would help,” he said. “Our goal now is to raise $10,000 to put 50 students in school.”

Mansaray is part of an MSU group called Voice and Vision, which strives to give students an outlet for creative expression. That group is sponsoring this event, as is another group he started called 50 strong 50 wise.

“If we reach more than $10,000, we might buy land and build a school building, and maybe students from MSU who want to come for a month to teach can do that.”

By Robb Murray The Free Press, Minnesota, USA The Mankato Free Press Wed Feb 23, 2011, 09:14 PM CST

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