When we step into the unfamiliar, our eyes widen. When experiencing a new culture or environment we engage, absorb, learn and discover. For many, this process is satisfying enough, but for a few, it also lights the fuse for change. Anna Owusu is one of the few, one who chose to let her awareness of education needs in Africa motivate her to action, developing nKoso as a way to help fund a child’s schooling through collective contributions. We had the joy of interviewing Anna to learn more about the heart, mission and perspective she brings to the organization and how others can join the movement.
Darling Magazine: Hi Anna! Could you start by telling us about nKoso?
Anna: nKoso is a family-run organization that uses a crowdfunding platform to fund tuition for students in Ghana. We use our crowd-funding website to provide our donors with the opportunity to donate directly to the education of children. In many countries around the world, a child’s basic education is not a guarantee. A child easily and regularly can be sent home and sometimes even forced to go to work simply because his or her family is suffering financial instability. By partnering with our donors and our affordable, quality-screened schools in Ghana, we at least are able to guarantee an uninterrupted education for one school year.
DM: For those who don’t know, could you help by explaining “crowd-funding?”
Anna: Sure! A crowdfunding platform is one where individuals can pool their resources to support the efforts of an organization. For our mission, individual donors can donate for as little as five dollars towards a child’s education and see those dollars immediately go to work! With the help of several donors, a child’s education is secured for an entire school year. The beauty of crowdfunding is that it is a collective effort, which, in itself, perfectly embodies nKoso.
We didn’t want to resume our lives in the United States as usual and forget about the people, especially the children, who had touched us.
DM: How did nKoso begin and why Ghana?
Anna: Traveling to Ghana with my husband Sylvester changed my life. I was blown away by the hospitality and kindness despite such poverty. I was humbled as I realized that my “needs” are largely contrived. My actual needs are always met: I never go hungry; I have running water, a roof over my head and plenty of clothing to choose from every day. I have never wanted for those things. Sylvester immigrated to the United States when he was twelve years old and this was the second time he had returned to visit Ghana. Now as a grown man, he saw that his life in the United States has put him in a position to give back to his home community. Before we left, we paid the school fees for one student. We didn’t want to resume our lives in the United States as usual and forget about the people, especially the children, who had touched us. We wanted to find a way to remain connected and give back.
DM: You mentioned that nKoso is a “family-run organization.” How so?
Anna: My husband and I founded nKoso in 2012 and our crowd-funding website went live with the help of my tech-savvy brother Ben in the spring of this year. I met up for lunch with Ben after Sylvester and I got back from our trip to Ghana and I told him about our experience. Before lunch was over, he gave me money for another student’s school fees. So, we decided to send out an email to our nearest and dearest sharing our experiences and asking if anyone was interested in donating a couple bucks toward a child’s education. The response was astounding. We had to go looking for more students to sponsor because we had so many interested friends and family members who wanted to contribute. Ben, Sylvester, and I spoke more about it over Thanksgiving and as a birthday gift Ben offered me 300 hours of his tech-master time to take the idea to a larger scale. Shortly after, nKoso was born.
Currently, Sylvester and I work nearly every evening on the project and Ben works daily as well. The three of us meet every Sunday to keep growing and moving forward. People always seem surprised that it takes so much work, but there is always something to work on. We have a lot of fun together, which is crucial since we’re constantly texting, emailing, and talking on the phone about nKoso when we’re not working face to face. It’s important to us that we’re a family first because that relationship was what allowed this project to come to life in the first place. It’s not always easy, but we’re comfortable enough with one another to disagree and constructively debate a decision or a direction.
At nKoso, you can contribute for only five dollars. You don’t have to be a millionaire to do some good in the world.
DM: What kind of response has nKoso received so far and where do you see yourself going from here?
Anna: We are so excited about the overwhelmingly positive response and success we’ve had with not only our donors, but also with the students and schools in Ghana. We want nKoso to be a presence in any country where students are struggling to be educated because their families simply don’t have the financial resources. We’re in the process of reaching out to other countries for school contacts and we’re excited about our prospects! I like to think of us as opportunity providers and I strongly feel that all young people should have the opportunity to work towards their dream. They deserve a voice and I hope that nKoso can be a platform for young people to share their story.
On the flip side, there are a lot of people from all walks of life that want to contribute and give back. It can be hard to know how to do that if it feels like you don’t have the financial means. At nKoso, you can contribute for only five dollars. You don’t have to be a millionaire to do some good in the world. I find it meaningful for donors to learn something personal about the student that they are contributing to. It reminds us that we’re all a part of an amazing human story and that we can share in the journey together. The lives of the students and their families are directly impacted, but I find that donors are also touched by the stories of the students. It’s a shared connection.
DM: If you could pick one feature of nKoso that you are most proud of, what would that be?
Anna: I think that connection is a feature that attracts donors, but also transparency. Donors want assurance that their contribution is going where they intended. In addition to periodic student updates, we have four transparency checkpoints along the donation process that keeps donors in the loop. Furthermore, we use one touch, secure credit card transactions that allow donors to easily and safely donate. Creating an nKoso account allows donors to track the students they donate to and see their donations all in one convenient location.
DM: Lastly, could you help us out with the pronunciation and definition of “nKoso?”
Anna: Certainly! “nKoso” is a variation of a Twi word. Twi is one of the native languages spoken in Ghana. The actual word is nk*so*?, which means advancement. nk*so* is pronounced a little differently than we pronounce nKoso because we thought it might be difficult for a lot of our donors to pronounce correctly. We pronounce nKoso: n (just the sound an “n” makes) + ko (rhymes with go) + so (like so).
To learn more about nKoso and ways to be involved, be sure to check out www.nkoso.org. You can also follow along via blog, Facebook and Twitter. #nKoso, #forthekids, #makeadifference, #darlingmagazine
Image via Anna Owusu