Tracker Pixel for Entry

Up and running in Africa

Culture | April 17th, 2014

Fargo nonprofit African Soul, American Heart seeking donations for orphan girls

Changing the world is easier than we think. It’s especially manageable in Fargo-Moorhead. While our community has a number of fantastic, generous nonprofits, one in particular stands out as worldly meaningful and significant.

African Soul, American Heart is a boarding school for orphaned girls in South Sudan. Started by board president and Fargo-native Deb Dawson, its mission is to protect the most vulnerable young girls from forced marriage, inescapable poverty, illiteracy and other deterrents that prevent girls from living a fulfilling, healthy life. Not only that, but ASAH also helps educate and empower these girls to be leaders and give back to their communities.

The program has been building since 2008, and the school successfully opened in 2012 in Duk Payuel, South Sudan. Then, this past February, Sudanese rebels invaded the county, and the ASAH School was looted and destroyed.

“Most of the buildings are still standing; they just wrecked everything and stole anything that was of value to them,” Dawson said.

The good news is, nearly all the ASAH girls have been located and are now in the process of moving to Uganda for safety and shelter. While ASAH is now forced to rebuild, there is plenty of hope – and we can help.

Dawson’s philanthropic work in Africa began after meeting one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Joseph Akol Makeer, in Fargo in 2007. At the time, Makeer was seeking help to spread awareness of struggling orphans by making a documentary film, “African Soul, American Heart.” So starting in 2008, Dawson helped him gather a team while making several trips to Sudan and the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, initially helping Sudanese orphans who fled from their war-stricken country and had no place to return to.

Dawson’s continued visits to Africa led to the development of the ASAH School. She, board members and village leaders decided the program would just be for orphan girls, who are considered to be the most vulnerable of children.

“We wanted to set an example by helping these girls get an education, and then they are role models for other children in the community and for parents,” Dawson said to HPR.

“People ask me often times if people are opposed to us educating girls, but they are not opposed to it – it’s just they have no history of it … And now the community, the chiefs and the church, they encourage parents to send their girls to school.”

The rebuilding process has already started for ASAH. It started a Crowd Rise campaign to raise $55,000 for covering the costs of safely transferring the girls to Uganda and replacing all the destroyed or stolen schooling and living materials, including beds, clothes, shoes and food.

“The girls literally fled with nothing except the clothes on their back, so we are kind of starting from absolute scratch again,” said Anne Denham, Dawson’s assistant and ASAH team member.

ASAH hopes to raise the money by May 10, the day of the Fargo Marathon. A group of about 11 runners, led by ASAH vice president Kevin Brooks, have taken on fundraising duties and are encouraging more runners to join the team.

It’s also possible for anyone to donate before May 10 by visiting crowdrise.com/AsahRunning.

“We’re still trucking, and there are very tangible ways that you can get involved,” Denham said. “And if that means running and wearing an ASAH t-shirt … or if it means advocating and telling people or if it means giving financial aid in order to give us away to cover these very real costs that we have.”

Dawson, who visits Africa about three months out of the year, has seen the impact of giving first hand. She’s also aware of how much help is needed.

“Literacy rate for women is something like 1 percent. One in 10 women die in childbirth. One in five children don’t live to age 5,” Dawson said.

Before the school was destroyed, Dawson held a yearly “Get Your Panties In A Bunch” fundraiser in Fargo for the orphans. All the money raised went toward new panties and washable sanitary pads to help the girls stay in school.

“Just small amounts of caring and consideration,” she said, “even just putting the energy out, people pray and things like that – these things make a difference in the world.”

DONATE:

crowdrise.com/AsahRunning

Recently in:

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comJason Sole may have an impressive resume as a Criminal Justice professor, past president of the Minneapolis NAACP, founder of movements and initiatives, national restorative justice trainer, author,…

By Michael M. Miller  michael.miller@ndsu.eduGermans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo,…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comOur opinion: Let our character and characters define usIt’s no secret that North Dakota is one of our nation’s least visited states, in fact I can think of a handful of folks I’ve chatted…

By Ed Raymond  fargogadfly@gmail.com Will We Soon See a Documentary Called Requiem For a Lightweight? It’s plain to see The Divided States of America still has two political parties. One is called the Democratic Party. The other…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com“If you had talked to me five years ago or even a year ago and told me I was gonna be a chef in Fargo I probably would have looked at you pretty funny. It's wild where food is taking me in…

By Sabrina Hornung  sabrina@hpr1.comAmanda Standalone is a force, in fact one could say she’s an old soul with the Midas touch of…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comThe many media attempts at Frank Herbert’s epic space fantasy “Dune” speak to its lasting appeal and its potent impact. David Lynch’s movie, defended by the filmmaker’s most ardent…

By Sarah Noursacha1689.sc@gmail.comOn Sunday, November 7th, the Spirit Room will hold a reception for “Contaminated Nightmares,” their current exhibition of mixed-media pieces by local artist and musician Adam Bursack. This…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…