College junior Shadrack Frimpong started his own nonprofit, Students for a Healthy Africa, his freshman year. Since its founding, the organization has received global recognition for its promotion of disease prevention and health issues in Africa.

Recently, The Daily Pennsylvanian had a chance to speak with Frimpong about SAHA’s origins and how it operates.

The Daily Pennsylvanian: What motivated you to start a nonprofit?

Shadrack Frimpong: I saw the impact of infectious diseases among the underserved. I saw how particularly Ghanaian and African youth, just like myself, were looking for opportunities to get engaged. You could see that they wanted to do something, but the encouragement and support system wasn’t there. Getting the chance to come to Penn, I thought it would be cool if I could create a medium where these people back home could work on something.

I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel … I was campaigning for change. Students were my targets. If we’re to do something to help, it should be students actually charging the campaign.

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DP: How does your organization, Students for Healthy Africa (SAHA), operate?

SF: We have a lot of initiatives that are student engagement efforts. We have an executive board in [the U.S] and school representatives at different universities like Cornell and Bryn Mawr working with their African students associations.

In Africa, we have country chairs. There is one person who is in charge of the project we want to carry out. That country chair also designates representatives within that country. Representatives in the States go home about every summer and work with the country chairs on projects. We created a system where there is a strong and wide network of students.

DP: How does SAHA fundraise?

SF: There’s a two-way system. We work through the African students organizations where African students feel the urge and motivation to do something. So right now I’m working on a project with [Penn African Students Association]. A typical case is like the HIV/AIDS orphans that we sponsor in Ghana …

There are a lot of outside individuals who see the work we’re doing on our website and they’re inspired and donate as much as they can for specific projects. We also have various support systems — people who care about what we’re doing and are inspired by the fact that it is no longer foreign individuals who are doing things, but Africans who have taken charge in changing things on their continent. One of these organizations is the [Clinton Global Initiative]. Others are the United Nations, the African Development Initiative, the Youth Business Initiative and Penn alumni like Maryland Secretary of the Department of Human Resources Theodore Dallas.

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DP: How do you decide which countries to work in?

SF: As we work in one community, we visit the surrounding communities. We see whether they have similar needs. We basically identify the communities with the most needs. And the way we do that is through the country chairs. That’s why it’s so important to have people on the ground overseeing what you’re doing.

DP: What else do you do on campus?

SF: I mentor West Philadelphia high school students through the Dana How Scholars program. Mentoring is a big thing for me because I have a lot of people who have invested in my life. I’ve had a tremendous support system of mentors, and it’s something that I want to help others do. I sing in the New Spirit of Penn gospel choir and a Ghanaian church in West Philadelphia. I’m a member of the College Cognoscenti, and I spend 15 hours a week in the lab doing research on HIV/AIDS.

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