She was small, meek, humble, sweet, loyal and beautiful but above all that she was a WARRIOR.
Only a warrior would leave three small children in Ghana with her mother and sister while she traveled abroad with her husband in search of “a better life” in America. Only a warrior would raise that child alone when all of her “friends” deserted her and ignored her calls for help. Only a warrior could suffer homelessness, depression, separation from her family abroad. Imagine being alone in a foreign country with no friends, no family, no access to support, and not even the sound of your mother's voice for years. Imagine having to endure that kind of isolation with the knowledge that three of your children were being raised without you and that another still was taken into foster care because you were deemed unfit. Only the spirit of a warrior could carry all of that pain and grief and remain the anchor of her family. Despite all of the obstacles, she maintained a level of dignity that was and still is, incomparable.
I founded the Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation on behalf of my mother because she was an amazing champion for education.
I often tell people I can’t cook a lick because my mother always prioritized my education over household chores. Excellence was the expectation and she did everything she could to ensure that nothing stood in my way and that I understood the uppermost value of my education. Her support continued even after I graduated from high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, and two master’s degrees. Through each one, I never had to worry about cooking or cleaning, because she knew her work supported my success and that spilled over to her 8 grandchildren, all of whom are excellent students!
Unfortunately, she died rather unexpectedly after what was supposed to be a routine surgery to relieve some neck pain. As we prepared for the funeral, I learned from her obituary that she was a good student and enjoyed learning. I knew she graduated from the Osu Presbyterian Girls Middle school in 1964, so during my trip to Ghana (to lay her remains) I visited the campus. While touring the school, I saw young girls who were sweet, bright, and committed to their education. Their instructors taught with enthusiasm, and were working hard to provide rigorous instruction, despite limited resources. During the visit, one class was taking an end of term exam on the seat portion of a church pew, which served as their desk. It was after my conversation with the headmistress about what would improve the condition of school for the girls, that the idea of the Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation was born.
The Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation was founded with the vision of equipping primary and middle schools in OSU, ACCRA with the materials and resources necessary to facilitate a world class 21st Century learning environment.
In order to provide the best possible educational experience for the students of OSU, it is critical that teachers and staff have access to resources and materials for creating an engaging and positive learning environment that will prepare students for the academic rigor and competition in Accra and beyond. To that end, the Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation will work to not only provide school supplies but also to make capital improvements on each campus it serves.
Susana Lankai Debrah was the definition of womanhood for so many reasons.
She was beautiful, humble, meek, fiercely loyal, and supportive. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for anyone that needed her help or just a simple smile. I am sure she would smile to know that her memory and legacy is being dedicated to helping young girls from her neighborhood excel beyond their wildest dreams.
Words from the Founder
Joyce A. Debrah-Sheppard discusses her first visit to a school in Ghana which proved to be a motivating factor in her vision for the Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation.
"In order to achieve the mission of the Susan Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation, we will be hosting a series of fundraising campaigns and mission trips to provide not only resources to the students and their teachers, but also make capital, infrastructure and technological improvements for the campus (including but not limited to electricity service improvements, appropriate desks and chairs, computers, painting, and landscaping)."
Take a look into our previous trip to Ghana where we began the successful ground work for the Susana Lankai Debrah Educational Foundation.