Serving San Francisco, East Bay, and Silicon Valley
By Ashley Shuyler, Former FWSF Scholarship Recipient
The FWSF mission of bringing women together to achieve great things is near and dear to my heart. Not only do I feel so grateful to have been supported by an FWSF scholarship during my second year of business school at Stanford, but I also have had the privilege of seeing the same, powerful mission at work for young women on the other side of the world.
Let me start at the beginning. I was 11 years old when I first had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, and little did I know that it would be a trip that transformed my life forever. While I was there, I met kids my same age who were begging on the side of the road. I remember buying a t-shirt from one young boy who couldn't go to school because he had to work to make a living for his family. And I saw students learning in barely-finished classrooms.
But the people I met in Tanzania were the most generous, determined and hard-working people I had ever met, and the friends that I made while there asked me not to forget them when I returned home to America. So I became determined to find a way to support and uplift these people who had such strength, joy and determination, despite the extreme poverty in which they lived.
Over the next few years, I tried to learn about the country that I had just visited. I soon discovered that 95% of girls in Tanzania don't have the opportunity to complete a high school education, mostly because they can't afford the school fees. (The average income in Tanzania is less than $2 per day, so when families have to choose to send one of their children to school, they will most often choose to send their son.) I had always loved school, so I realized that I had found the perfect way to help – I couldn't think of anything more exciting and fulfilling than giving girls my same age on the other side of the world the chance to go to school.
So in 2001, I started AfricAid, with the mission of supporting girls' education in Tanzania. Since that time, we have raised over $2 million and supported thousands of young women in their educational goals and dreams. Many of the girls we have supported have become the first in their communities to become teachers or nurses. One young woman, Josephine, even hopes to establish the field of bioengineering to Tanzania. Our flagship program is the Kisa Project (www.africaid.com/kisaproject), which sponsors high school girls through a 2-year leadership and entrepreneurship training program. The graduates of this program are inspiring in every possible way – they have endured unimaginable challenges but are translating those experiences into big ideas, projects and businesses to support women in their home communities.
Now, twelve years later, I have turned the organization over to a new team, and with the help of FWSF, I pursued further education myself at business school. But my story with AfricAid hasn't ended there. Even as I start a new career with the Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco, I continue to serve on the Board of AfricAid – and even hope to start a San Francisco chapter of the organization!
If you would like to learn more about AfricAid, get involved in sponsoring a young woman through leadership training, host a fundraising event, or even travel to Tanzania to meet these amazing young women yourself, please visit www.africaid.com! Or, if you'd like to help me start an AfricAid chapter in San Francisco, I would be most grateful for your recommendations and support; please feel free to reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to the entire FWSF community for supporting me in my own educational dreams and goals – and for helping me to uplift other young women in Tanzania who just need a small boost to transform their lives, and the lives of their families and communities forever!