KSU student starts NGO to fund African school


Danny Johnson, senior political science major, sits outside Moulton Hall on April 3. Johnson is running a fundraiser titled “Project Restore Hope”, where he will try to get money to build a school in his hometown in Siera Leone. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Maura Zurick

Danny Johnson, a senior political science major, describes his home in Sierra Leone, Africa, as “full of corruption and destroyed by war.”

Most people know the area from the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and this film depicts the African nation as war-torn and poverty stricken.

“Things are different over there,” he said. “Sierra Leone used to be a place people wanted to visit. It isn’t the best place to live at the moment although things are beginning to improve a little.”

But Johnson is trying his best to make a difference. He created a non-governmental organization called Danny and Friends Nov. 6, 2009. The organization is based out of his hometown, and its mission is to help the children of Sierra Leone “to have a brighter future.”

“We are working with war-affected people, and the less fortunate,” Johnson said. “We want to bring hope back to them and provide equal opportunity for everyone. Danny and Friends is open to everyone that has a heart to make a difference.”

Danny and Friends is teaming up with the Kent State chapter of Amnesty International, Pi Sigma Alpha and the Political Science Club to raise money for a school in Sierra Leone. These organizations are hosting The Restore Hope Project in an effort to raise money for a school in Makaray village, Port Loko, Sierra Leone.

Melisa Michael, a senior political science major, is a member of Amnesty International on campus and said they really need students to help out.

The Restore Hope Project is a talent show featuring student art, music, poetry and other works that will be showcased April 15. All proceeds from the show will go toward Danny and Friends, to build a school in Sierra Leone.

Michael said she is involved because she believes in the cause. She thinks education can make a difference in ending some of the world’s major human rights violations.

“So in a nutshell, I’m all about promoting education,” Michael said. “Politics, especially in places like Sierra Leone, can get real negative real quick, so it will be nice to see some optimism.”

That’s Johnson’s goal. He said he hopes to raise $2,500 to finish building the school with the necessary teaching equipment in Sierra Leone.

“When we arrived at the school, the school looked like a place where locals would gather on a hot day to relax and drink,” Johnson said. “They did not have chairs to sit on, no real chalkboard, and no real teacher.”

He said after they delivered the school supplies, the locals asked if they could take over the school and become their sponsor.

More than 300 students will attend the school. It will be for grades one through six, and students will learn math, writing, social studies, science and English. Johnson said they are looking into having a night school for adults with no education.

“We are currently in talks with three recent graduates about teaching at the school,” he said. “We are hoping to get six teachers by the start of the next school year.”

Johnson said that he thinks The Restore Hope Project will help their cause greatly. He was introduced to RHP by political science professor Julie Mazzei.

“Everyone involved with RHP has been of great help so far and they have done a great job so far in trying to raise money for us,” he said.

Michael and Johnson both said that if students want to get involved all they really need to do is come to the event and help get the word out there.

Mazzei said for students who want to help to buy a ticket and have a great time at the event. Tickets cost $3 for little siblings, $5 for students and $7 for adults.

Mazzei has had Johnson in three political science classes and describes him as driven and committed. She said he is determined to make a difference, and that he is already making a difference in the world with his positive attitude and willingness to believe he can help.

“I think that doing something that supports education in a foreign country is important and it allows you to make a positive contribution to the global community,” Mazzei said. “That’s really what Danny is doing.”

Michael said this is the chance for Kent State students to really make a difference and see results. She said she personally is involved with The Restore Hope Project and supports Danny and Friends because education is something all students have in common. It adds a connection to the cause.

“We all only have one life and if you can make it a little less shitty for someone else, it is your duty to do so,” she said. “Wouldn’t you want someone to help you?”

Contact Maura Zurick at [email protected].