LIVERMORE — While America’s children have returned to their classrooms this fall, many of their counterparts in Africa have not had that privilege.
Because of the pandemic, numerous students in Africa are still learning under trees and in backyards because their schools have not yet reopened. One local resident is working to get as many of those classrooms open as soon as possible.
“Right now, because of COVID-19, so many children can’t go back to school there,” said Livermore resident Erna Grasz, co-founder and CEO of the Asante Africa Foundation (AAF). “So, we are fundraising to get these kids back into school — back into a safe learning environment and make sure they have safe spaces around them.”
On Sept. 25, the foundation will hold Harvest Celebration in the Vineyard, a fundraising event in Livermore to help fund AAF’s ongoing endeavors.
The evening — hosted at Retzlaff Vineyards — will include wine tasting and a vineyard tour, live auctions, a paella chef and stories from AAF alumni. Participants can expect a relaxing evening in beautiful surroundings with sunset views.
AAF’s mission is to educate and empower the next generation of change agents, whose dreams can transform Africa’s future. Grasz began the organization in 2007 with two African women she met while on a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro. It has since grown and expanded to include programming in three countries — Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya — to impact over 600,000 lives through its educational, life skills, entrepreneurial and leadership programs.
Anne Muli is a Kenyan woman and AAF alumni. She said she was a struggling student, selling corn by the roadside, when she met Grasz.
“I had a huge debt of school fees,” Muli said. “When Erna and the co-founders were visiting school, my name was given as a needy student . . . They helped me pay my school fees. I joined the Asante Africa program. I am currently working as the Youth Livelihood Program Coordinator.”
Muli, 31, now has her own business and a family. She credits her success to AAF and said she is grateful to give back through her work with the foundation. She noted a pillar of the program is its ties to local communities made through using alumni to continue operations.
“We have built local ownership and have been accepted because we have local young people working in the local community,” said Muli. “So there has been a lot of impact. When we look back, we can say that there has been tremendous success for our youth in our local programs.”
Muli said the program is relevant and empowering, allowing youth participants to set their goals and receive guidance on the path to success in their chosen careers. AAF promises to prepare youth to meet the challenges their lives in Africa will present.
“They will have the educational skills to thrive economically, both locally and globally, and we will prepare them to be the positive catalyst of change in their communities,” said Grasz. “We do it through academic support for severely underprivileged youth. We begin working with them at the middle school age around life skills, dream mapping and preparing for how to get back up when they fall down. In high school, we work heavily on preparing them for being the next generation of employees as well as entrepreneurs.”
AAF has an office in Livermore and works with communities in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Of those working in the programs, 80% are under the age of 35, and 50% are alumni who come back to work with the next generation of youth.
Harvest Celebration in the Vineyard will take place on Sept. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Retzlaff Vineyards, 1356 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore. Tickets are available online. For more information, to view auction items, purchase tickets or donate, visit www.asanteafrica.org/harvest/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.