Against all odds: How philanthropist, Saya Doe-Sio, renews hope for women and children in Liberia
Annie T. Doe always wanted a child she could name after her mother. In 1974, her ninth child was born, and she named her Saya, after her mother. Saya went everywhere and did everything with her mother. Some of their favorite past time activities included helping those less fortunate in their local town, and this earned Doe the name “community crusader.” Doe took her daughter Saya on many of her trips to help others because she believed Saya would grow up to do great things in the world.
Although Doe helped many in her community, she was very poor, and struggled to provide for her family; yet, despite her inability to make ends meet, she not only continued to help others but she cultivated an undying thirst for education, and to know God more. She instilled these same values deeply in her children, including her last born, Saya. Doe believed that the elimination of poverty and ability to engineer lifelong success stories was possible only through these two guiding principles. It was for this reason that Doe would make her daughter Saya walk 5 miles each way to school just to get an education; most times Saya made the trip on an empty stomach, so as to get to school on time.
When Saya was just 14 years old, she bore witness to the car crash that killed her mother – Saya who was in the vehicle behind the one her mother was in, saw the entire incident unfold right in front of her. That event forced Saya to grow up quickly. With her mother’s values as the moral code of standards for her life, she continued her education, and started work at a bank in Liberia. Saya later clinched an opportunity in 1998, to further her education in the United States. It was in the U.S. that Saya received her Bsc in accounting, as well as degrees in MBA and Project Management. Today, Saya is a certified public accountant and is currently practicing in North Carolina.
In 2010, Saya returned to Liberia with her high school sweetheart turned husband, and their three children. While in Liberia, she was overwhelmed by the poverty that surrounded her. Many of her childhood friends were begging on the streets of Monrovia; others were selling their bodies just to provide for their children. It was at this juncture that she realized how lucky she and her family were. She recalled the sense of moral responsibility that her mother had inculcated in her – to empower the community she was raised in—and thus, the Annie T. Doe Foundation was born.
MUI Daily News had a chance to speak with Saya about her life, the foundation, and legacy of her mother. “My mother was a very kind woman,” Saya told MUI Daily News, “she was not educated herself, but she believed strongly in education, and did everything she could to make sure that her kids were educated; she taught me to keep pushing forward, no matter what.”
Not only did Doe care so deeply for her family, but she also wanted to empower the entire community. It is amazing that, Saya has been able to create a foundation to empower the community her mother always fought for. Today, the foundation operates a school at the same property Saya was born in, providing an education to 200 children; the school is expected to expand its capacity to 350 students in the coming years. “Liberia has been under civil war for the last 14 years,” she told MUI Daily News, “the hardest thing about running this school is finding quality teachers to work at the school.”
“The Organization has three main pillars,” Saya said, “providing primary Christian education, delivering public healthcare to the people of Liberia, and empowering women.” She continued saying “we empower women by teaching them computer skills and we offer sewing machines as well as small loans to start their own businesses.” The foundation empowers women through micro finance initiatives, with loans starting as low as $100 for women interested in launching their own businesses. One woman was, “selling her body on the street just to feed her kids, but she used the $100 loan to buy flour and water, and now she is the go to source for doughnuts and bread in her village.”
“The foundation is strongly driven by Christianity,” Saya told MUI Daily News. “Jesus’ mission was to help everyone, despite their differences, he made sure their social and physical needs were met before anything else, this is at the core of what we do.” Saya’s story is a truly inspirational one; she came from nothing but over the years, she’s generated tremendous success stories in her quest to make a difference in the lives of others. Her selflessness and constant thirst to serve, is nothing short of admirable. On one of her trips to Liberia, she told MUI Daily News that she yearned to perform several missionary acts during her stay. During that trip, she washed the feet of over 200 school children and provided computers to other children who had none. The children were so honored by this act, it actually brought them to tears.
Each year the foundation plans and executes a gala to raise funds for their operations in Liberia. On Sept. 15, The Annie T Doe foundation will host their fifth annual Gala at the Embassy Suites in Charlotte, NC. Saya told MUI Daily News that the gala is their main source of funding year over year. The foundation is staffed entirely by volunteers, and it is for this reason that nearly all of the proceeds from the annual gala go directly to their work in Liberia. More information about the gala is available here.
This year’s gala is expected to reach over 350 attendees! Want to learn more about the Annie T. Doe Foundation and how you can be a part of it or their upcoming gala? Visit their website today. Tweet us @muidailynews or leave a comment below if you plan to attend the event this fall!