What “Paying it Forward” Means to Me — Guest post by Zoe Leonard-Monrad


Zoe with the founders of the Machame Girls Leadership Club

Zoe with the founders of the Machame Girls Leadership Club

In high school, I had the privilege of participating in a youth leadership program. This program taught me tools I have now woven into my life on how to be a leader, believe in myself, facilitate growth amongst my peers and contribute towards social justice goals. My parents also instilled me with a drive towards a dream and an assumption that I would get the best education they could provide for me. There was never a fraction of doubt that if I wanted to do something they would do all they could to support me towards that goal. This is not to say that I have not faced obstacles but I am surrounded by a support system and been armed with the tools that help me navigate these challenges. This network of people has made me believe that anything, if I put my mind to it, is possible.

My mom and I started sponsoring Lucian and Luciana when I started high school and they were starting secondary school in Tanzania. We got to hear about their studies and future ambitions. The challenges I have faced do not even compare to the circumstances Lucian and Luciana have been through and the other remarkable stories I have heard Asante Africa Foundation students overcome. Not to mention they have a fraction of the resources I have been blessed with in my life. That is where Asante Africa Foundation comes in. They are filling in all the gaps of the things that I am thankfully able to take for granted.

Asante Africa Foundation is giving Lucian, Luciana and all of the other students of the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator the opportunity to dream. These students are getting the chance to dream big and are given the tools to achieve the goals they put before themselves. In this way, Asante Africa Foundation is the advocate for each of these students when their communities may not or cannot support them. Asante Africa Foundation is their much-needed cheerleader and guide for how to prosper and improve their lives. When I was in Tanzania it was inspiring to watch a meeting of the Machame Girls School Leadership Club, whose leaders had participated in Asante Africa Foundation’s Leadership & Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI).

It was obvious that the information they gained from LEI had fired a passion for their own growth, but also cultivated a desire to share their newfound knowledge and confidence with the other girls at their school. The concept of paying it forward is not just an ideal that Asante Africa Foundation hopes all of its students will do, but is rather an essential aspect that flows from the students that are touched by the organization’s work. They want to build on that and pass along what Asante Africa has given them.

Zoe Leonard-Monrad is a rising senior at Macalester College majoring in Economics with concentrations in International Development and Human Rights. Her dream is to give back to the world, and she’s off to a great start! She interned with Asante Africa Foundation, helping with the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator. She has supported 2 Asante Africa Foundation scholarship students since 2008 and last summer got the great opportunity to meet them in Tanzania.

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