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Friday, October 17, 2014

Michael Annan Needs a Sponsor

Those who know me best will tell you that, despite being a loving and caring person, I’m not easily moved, emotionally. That’s why this post may come as a surprise to many, and hopefully it adds weight to what I’m saying.

When I told my friends and family last year that I’d be going to Ghana, most responded with, “Ghana!? You know that’s in Africa, right? You know - Malaria, Ebola, poverty, starvation, war, genocide - that Africa?” Most Americans will think you are crazy for traveling to Africa. And sometimes I think I’m crazy for coming here. Why did I go there, anyway? Well, initially I thought I went to volunteer with an organisation called Anansi Education, to meet a few students that Crystal and I have sponsored through Anansi, and to bring to life a part of the world that is so far removed from most of our minds that it’s easy to feel as if what’s happening there isn’t real, but fantasy.

But real life for you and me is the true fantasy. Things that you and me take for granted - owning a car, going to school, getting take out, seeing a concert, having television or a computer or xbox, food in the refrigerator - these are things that most children here can only dream about. Real life here is a single mother raising four kids in a house with no electricity and no bathroom, with everyone sharing a single room no bigger than some of our closets, the only income coming from a small plot of land that she farms herself. Real life is a young girl who just finished junior high whose only caretaker is her demented father who tried to drown her sister. Real life is not knowing where the next meal is coming from or having your life threatened by an illness that, although terrible, would have a fairly routine prognosis back home. It’s easy to forget that there are people living in these conditions, and that children grow up with this as the norm. Children who are just like children back home - who play games, have wild imaginations, laugh and cry, love their moms and dads, have dreams for their future - are sentenced to a life of poverty and need and will never have a chance to fulfil their dreams simply because of where they were born.

Volunteering for Anansi, I’ve been blessed to see the difference it can make for a child, family, and community to just send one kid to high school. High school graduates in these communities are like celebrities: they are role models for children and the adults beam with pride at their accomplishments. The give strength and belief to people who have so many reasons to have none.

High school is expensive. Tuition and room and board costs more than the average family makes in a year. It immediately rules out more than 90% of students. Students who dream of being doctors, nurses, teachers, or engineers just never have a chance because it’s impossible for them to get anything beyond a junior high education.

Anansi is one of many organisations that is helping though. Every year Anansi processes dozens of applications for students applying for high school scholarships. This year, they’ve received over 100 applications. But with only 18 new scholarships available, the selection process has been gruelling and heart-breaking.

I had the pleasure of meeting several of these applicants, one of whom is an especially bright and exceptional student. His name is Michael and he dreams of becoming a doctor. He studied for his exams by candle light because his home doesn’t have electricity, yet he still managed top scores. I was so impressed by Michael and his family. At 14 years old, Michael is the man of the house, having lost his father years ago. His quiet confidence immediately assured me he will take advantage of any opportunity he’s given. Unlike many of the families we visited, whose demeanour - understandably - seemed desperate and defeated, Michael and his mother were nothing but grateful and excited that we came to visit. Despite not having their own bathroom - the area they use to bathe is shared amongst the neighbours - they were as gracious and dignified in welcoming us to their home as any host we’ve ever had. Michael’s mother provides for him and his four siblings by farming a small plot of land near the village, and sometimes they receive modest donations from their church. Without a scholarship from Anansi, there is no chance of paying for high school. Unfortunately, as deserving as Michael and his family are of receiving this scholarship, and as gifted and promising as he is, he was not deemed to be in great enough need and will not receive one of the coveted 18 sponsors available this year.

Michael (in the solid yellow shirt) and his family

Me with Michael and his mom
There is only one solution for this: Michael needs a sponsor. It’s not like me to use this blog to promote things like this. It’s also not like me to be impressed and moved so immediately. But there is no question for me that, despite my initial reasons for coming here, finding a sponsor for Michael has always been my purpose. I just didn’t realize it until I met him.

Becoming a sponsor through Anansi is a financial commitment. It costs $800 per year, and you must commit for all three years of the student’s high school education. But it’s guaranteed that every penny goes directly to funding the student. You won’t be paying for a massive organization’s overhead costs, or putting money in the pockets of the people running them. Your money goes straight to the school to pay for your student’s tuition, room and board, and books.

Please contact Anansi Education if you wish to help. If you’d like, you can email me or Crystal, or leave a message here, and we can help get you all the information you need and get you in touch with the people at Anansi. The difference for you could be bringing coffee and lunch from home for a few months. But the difference will be life-changing for Michael and his family, as well as for future generations of his family and his community.


  1. Hey Justin, this is Adam from expeditors. I just tried emailing you but sent it to some Justin in Maryland instead. Any chance you could email me, either at gmail or my expeditors email, my fiancee are interested in sponsoring Michael.

    1. Hi Adam. This is AMAZING news. Thank you so much. Can you send one or both of those email addresses you mentioned to

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