26 Aug 2016
Rebecca Zeigler Mano

Ashinaga is a Japan-based organization that helps orphans around the world through emotional and educational support. In its 50+ years of existence, it has helped more than 95,000 orphans. About fifteen years ago Ashinaga expanded to Sub-Saharan Africa due the region’s high prevalence of orphans, and since then, Ashinaga has increasingly focused its efforts on Africa.

The Ashinaga African Initiative, which began about four years ago, aims to contribute to the development of Sub-Saharan Africa by resourcing socially-minded African orphans to become leaders in their communities, countries, and continent. Our aim is to recruit one high-achieving, low-income orphan per Sub-Saharan country — we reached about 35 of the 49 countries in 2016 — and provide them with training and resources to prepare them for university abroad, which is the cornerstone of our program.

Our recruitment process is extensive. We work through embassies, NPOs, and secondary schools in Sub-Saharan countries to spread the word about Ashinaga and disseminate our application. We review applications to choose five “finalists” from each country, whom we interview in person. We select one of the five to become an Ashinaga student. Due to the selectivity of our recruitment process, Ashinaga students are often among the highest-ranked students in their country based on their secondary school exam results.

After Ashinaga chooses the students, they travel to participate in “Study Camp” at one of Ashinaga’s facilities. Ashinaga’s facility in Uganda is for students who want to attend an English-speaking or Portuguese-speaking university, and Ashinaga’s facility in Senegal is for students who want to study in a French-speaking university. At Study Camp, Ashinaga students are taught by interns, who are undergraduates or recent graduates from around the world. The curriculum targets academic areas like critical reading, writing, and math as well as soft skills like public speaking, computer skills, entrepreneurship, and community service. During this time, students also receive test preparation support and university application mentoring.

Ashinaga has or will have regional offices in the U.S., U.K., France, and Japan. Each regional office is comprised of a Student Support Team and University Relations Team. Student Support works to ensure that students are able to perform their best in school while also guiding and directing them to become the leaders they aspire to be. The University Relations team focuses on developing holistic relationships with universities. Throughout their undergraduate years, Ashinaga students participate in Ashinaga programs intended to keep them connected to Sub-Saharan Africa and to help them build their professional networks so they can transition back to Africa into meaningful employment.