9th July 2014

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NATURAL CANDLES LEAD TO A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE

In this world there parents who are committed to their children. Some parents will sacrifice a career or personal fulfillment to ensure their progeny’s future.  Then there are the parents who sacrifice their very lives for their children. These children realize when they reach adulthood that they have been given a privilege; they hope to keep the memory of the parent alive by achieving success.

Sesima Kamara grew up in the turbulent civil war years in Liberia. Her biological father sacrificed his very life to see that she was able to leave Monrovia and live a life of normalcy.  Living in Staten Island with her adoptive parents she knew at an early age that she would work to be successful as this was her way of demonstrating how grateful she was for her extraordinary father.  “They make sacrifices”, Sesima recently said, “So we don’t want to let them down”.

The route Sesima took to reach her goals was not direct. She studied fashion merchandising at the Katherine Gibbs School and then worked for a company that marketed smart boards, the very firm that contracted to sell these products to New York City’s public schools. From there she went to work with Tekserve, a supply, support and repair company that satisfies New York City’s appetite for Apple products.

While all of these experiences were interesting, they did not satisfy Sesima’s desire to create something new, exciting and different. Realizing that working with scents and aromatherapy was interesting, she was determined to create a product that was fun while also being innovative. The world of aromatherapy has many types of body butters, candles and perfumes; many have the same ingredients and do not create that buzz that make them a product that consumers will specifically desire.

Many of the aromatherapy products contain ingredients that harmful to both the environment as well as the user. For example, most scented candles on the market use a paraffin wax base which is a petroleum by- product.  The flame from this candle burns with a dirty black smoke at times. The oils for scenting these candles have a high degree of synthetic ingredients including phthalates. Studies have found that these phthalates can cause changes to the endocrine system.

Through the use of soy base, the Sesima’s “Cecret Candles” provide a healthier alternative while also ensuring that local farmers that grow soybeans have a new outlet for their crops. These vegetable based products also provide scents made from essential oils. The products are therefore are paraffin, phthalate and lead free.

With the introduction of these products, Sesima Kamara embarks on her five year plan. Within this period of time she expects to earn an MBA as well as establish her business both here and on the continent. Sesima envisions a life of travel between the USA and Africa. One of her goals to provide another opportunity to develop economic opportunities to spur change in Liberia. “Change does not happen overnight, the newer generation will provide impetus for change”, she related when asked about the future of Africa.

The influence for the product line is worldwide and not just limited to Africa. This aspect of product development is very important to Sesima. Although Shea Butter is an important ingredient in her products, she wants to provide a cultural outlet for ingredients, scents and beauty traditions from other parts of the world.

Cecret Candles are available at various festivals, and events. Additionally, Sesima will gladly arrange a home party to introduce her product line. The products are also available on line at: http://cecretaccessories.storenvy.com/.

 

28th May 2014

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28th May 2014

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BEN MUGISHA – AKA THE BEN BRINGS A MUSICAL SENSIBLITY TO RWANDA
 
When the United Nations Headquarters, NYC staff recently presented the ceremony to commemorate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda there was a conscious effort to include the arts in the program and not just officials making lofty and sad speeches. On that night, the audience was privileged to be able to hear the music of Ben Mugisha known professionally as “The Ben”.   
Mr. Mugisha, a Rwandan citizen, spent most of his childhood in Uganda, after his parents fled Rwanda in 1959 during the first upheaval between the Hutu and Tutsi. They returned to Rwanda in 1997. 
His family being religious went to church regularly. It was there, while singing with the church choir that Ben Mugisha developed the love for music and in 2006, during high school, he began to delve into secular compositions writing songs and poems. He does recount that he did little with these creations at first and he did not think about performing until he attended the national university a few years later. 
Having stuck with it ever since, “The Ben” realized that music can be a method to help bring people together and heal old wounds.
As the country moves away from the immediate post genocide manner of living, “The Ben” believes that it will be the young people who lead Rwanda to reaffirming the human rights of all its citizens. As he recently stated: “As a Rwandan, the consequences of our history of course would affect all of us, but the new generation of young people is promoting  how to protect our dignity as we are putting together reconciliation in action.”  The vehicle he utilizes to guide his part of the reconciliation is his music.
In the mind of this young talent are three guiding principles to bear in mind as Rwanda rebuilds itself and shakes off the vestiges of the tragedies of the past:
-          Remember
-          Renew
-          Forgive
Mr. Mushiga believes that in process of remembrance one should include the entire world and not just Rwandans or Africans. He also feels that remembrance is an excellent way to educate and inform the younger generation about past and how it bears on the future.
Through his music, Ben Mugisha will continue to promote love, peace and a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation. As he sees it, Rwanda has a bright future and although much work towards these goals has been accomplished, he feels there is much yet to be done. He will be there to do his part to keep his country on the right track.
 

 

BEN MUGISHA – AKA THE BEN BRINGS A MUSICAL SENSIBLITY TO RWANDA

 

When the United Nations Headquarters, NYC staff recently presented the ceremony to commemorate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda there was a conscious effort to include the arts in the program and not just officials making lofty and sad speeches. On that night, the audience was privileged to be able to hear the music of Ben Mugisha known professionally as “The Ben”.   

Mr. Mugisha, a Rwandan citizen, spent most of his childhood in Uganda, after his parents fled Rwanda in 1959 during the first upheaval between the Hutu and Tutsi. They returned to Rwanda in 1997.

His family being religious went to church regularly. It was there, while singing with the church choir that Ben Mugisha developed the love for music and in 2006, during high school, he began to delve into secular compositions writing songs and poems. He does recount that he did little with these creations at first and he did not think about performing until he attended the national university a few years later.

Having stuck with it ever since, “The Ben” realized that music can be a method to help bring people together and heal old wounds.

As the country moves away from the immediate post genocide manner of living, “The Ben” believes that it will be the young people who lead Rwanda to reaffirming the human rights of all its citizens. As he recently stated: “As a Rwandan, the consequences of our history of course would affect all of us, but the new generation of young people is promoting  how to protect our dignity as we are putting together reconciliation in action.”  The vehicle he utilizes to guide his part of the reconciliation is his music.

In the mind of this young talent are three guiding principles to bear in mind as Rwanda rebuilds itself and shakes off the vestiges of the tragedies of the past:

-          Remember

-          Renew

-          Forgive

Mr. Mushiga believes that in process of remembrance one should include the entire world and not just Rwandans or Africans. He also feels that remembrance is an excellent way to educate and inform the younger generation about past and how it bears on the future.

Through his music, Ben Mugisha will continue to promote love, peace and a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation. As he sees it, Rwanda has a bright future and although much work towards these goals has been accomplished, he feels there is much yet to be done. He will be there to do his part to keep his country on the right track.

 

 

2nd May 2014

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2nd May 2014

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WAFEO Business Networking Platform

With the current websites devoted to career and networking providing a minimum of services at no charge, the conventional wisdom that “you don’t get anything for free” applies. These sites provide a place to put a biography, curriculum vitae or a resume and provide an option for a potential employer to review your history and perhaps leave a message.  What they do not provide is an opportunity to truly network and develop your product or service. As a result there is sense of dissatisfaction that is not truly mollified with a “premium” level service that requires a monthly payment.

Africa is currently seeing an economic boom with quite a few of the countries in the top ten worldwide of the growing economies. There is a large pool of young people, nearly 200 million people aged 15 to 24 years, according to some the youngest population in the world. They need to present themselves and firms need a place where they can view potential candidates for employment.

With these caveats in mind, WAFEO recently launched its platform to permit the development of business relationships and to develop a site whereby individuals seeking employment can present themselves and maintain a higher level of contact than currently available on other sites of this type. Additionally, since this platform is directed towards Africa it is completely bilingual.

One of the distinct characteristics of WAFEO is the ability of a business entity to create a profile and connect with other Wafeo members, facilitating contact and the development of relationships between business entities, individuals and organizations. This is significant because it will permit an entrepreneur to have all of the project companies available for view as well as a personal profile for this entrepreneur.  

There are other advantages for this platform as well:

 * It is accessible to everyone at no cost. It provides an online platform for the creation of a professional image without having to join a professional network and pay a monthly membership charge to receive the entire array of services. Unlike other business networking sites, the developers do not want to charge subscription fees or have premium dues for services everyone should receive.

 * WAFEO allows for the development of an extensive professional network through the use of both the traditional contact request as well as allowing its members to be present online to make contacts, to promote their activities and to seek employment. This “instant message” feature facilitates greater communication as well as the unique opportunity to build relationships around the world.

 * WAFEO avoids wasting valuable time. Everyone is aware that professional networking requires a lot of time. The platform has a clear, easy and direct procedure for building the online profile. It has a few additions that enhance the experience: online business cards and the development of events that will permit members in distinct locality to meet and network in person.

WAFEO hopes that that these advantages will spur the development of a wide set of contacts thereby offering a unique opportunity to build relationships around the world.

Finally it is hoped that through the use of WAFEO, a business or an entrepreneur can introduce a product or service for sale or even investment. This business to business contact is a key goal of this website permitting the firm or individual to promote themselves and hopefully expand their business, and increase earning.

Information about WAFEO and the sign up page can be found at: www.wafeo.com.

The site has its own news page available at:  http://news.wafeo.com/.

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29th April 2014

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JOLLOF RESTAURANT – A DESIRE TO HELP LED TO A NEW CAREER

When he arrived in the USA in the 1990’s, Papa K. Diagne had no idea that he would become a popular chef or a well-known restaurateur. His focus was earning a living and at the beginning this plan included work in a shoe store.

It was his aversion to American fast food that began his journey down the road of food preparation, a career quite unlikely for a man born in raised in Dakar, Senegal. You see, in his home country women do the cooking for their families. But careful observation of the processes of preparing food by his mother as well as others guided him in a new direction.

When he returned home from a hard day’s work, he began to cook small meals for himself. When his job ended at the shoe store he began to cook for family members and deliver these meals to their workplaces. Others at these locations tasted his culinary creations and they too began to request his lunch meals. In the beginning, all these meals were created in his home kitchen. This was a variation on tradition from home – the woman of the home prepares lunchtime meals and then her children or she will deliver them to her husband at his worksite.

Eventually, his family and he decided to build upon this effort by opening a restaurant, a spot where his best customers could come to enjoy his meals as well as introduce new customers to his popular cooking. It was decided early on to open in Brooklyn, especially due to the fact that his family had lived there and were familiar with the area.

His cuisine can be described as Senegalese with influences of other African countries. Jollof rice happens to be the national dish of Senegal, but it has become quite popular throughout the African Continent with local variations. It is a basic rice dish with a set of spices that give it its color and sharp taste. It will be combined with chicken, lamb, fish or even beef, ingredients found in every home in Senegal.

Jollof Restaurant became a celebrity itself when it appeared in the recent movie “Mother of George”. The appearance of the restaurant has had a positive effect on business with an increase in customer traffic. According to Mr. Diagne or “Pap” as he is affectionately known, the movie is a good introduction to the continent as well an excellent snapshot of African life here in New York City. While Africa is a huge continent with variations from locality to locality, the film helps illustrate a community that is growing in numbers as well as influence on life in the metropolis.

For Pap, African Restaurant Week provides an opportunity for the cuisine of his home to be in the spotlight and shine. These events will allow increased awareness of African foods as well as culture. As he said recently, “We have a lot to put on the table”. With events during the restaurant celebration it is certain that folks experiencing his food for the first time or for another time will agree with him.

Information about Jollof Restaurant can be found at: www.joloffjoloff.com. A schedule as well as a listing of African Restaurant Week Events can be found at: www.beuevents.com

25th April 2014

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The WAFEO Business Platform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Robert Bernstein at 646-236-1801 / rrb31057@gmail.com

WAFEO Announces the Launch of its Business Networking Platform

New York City, April 5, 2014—WAFEO is proud to announce the development of its business networking site for both business professionals, entrepreneurs and organizations.is a prestigious venue to uphold the African Culture in one the World’s most Culturally Diverse Cities in the World, New York City.

This site – www.wafeo.com - will facilitate and support relationships between the three aforementioned entities and permit an increase in commerce between members.

Wafeo’s platform has three distinct advantages for its site:

 * It is accessible to everyone at no cost. It provides an online platform for the creation of a professional image without having to join a professional network with charges implied. This facilitates the promotion of professional activities and companies’ services. 

 * Wafeo allows for the enjoyment of an extensive professional network: the development of a business / activity requires the widest possible professional contacts. By allowing its members to be present online to make contacts, to promote their activities and to seek for jobs, the website offers a unique opportunity to build relationships around the world.

 * Wafeo avoids wasting valuable time: professional networking requires a lot of time. Since ‘Time is Money’, by using Wafeo relations are built in few clicks which save members’ time.

 As stated previously the site does not have a subscription section and is free to use. Unlike other business networking sites, the developers do not want to charge subscription fees or have premium dues for services everyone should receive.

Wafeo hopes that these advantages will spur the development of contacts from both local circles as well as around the world. As such it is available in both English and French.

For more information please send email to: info@wafeo.com.

 

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8th April 2014

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  • AWARD WINNING ACTRESS FROM SIERRA LEONE DEMONSTRATES COURAGE AND PERSEVERANCE

There are times in life when the most awful tragedy can become the start of something new in one’s life and lead to a triumph so wonderful it could not be imagined. In the case of Wendy Bangura, the tragedy that befell her family was unexpected and violent, yet her mother did not let it prevent her from saving her family and looking for options for survival and ultimately success.

Wendy Bangura grew up in Sierra Leone of the 1990’s. This was a period of turmoil in the region; in neighboring Liberia, a civil war had erupted that led to massive migration of Liberian refugees in to Sierra Leone. The president of Sierra Leone at the time, Joseph Momoh, proved to be unable to handle the crisis and maintain the standard of living for the country. As a result in early 1992 a coup d’état took place and the military took control of Sierra Leone under the guise of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).  In December of that same year, allegedly to secure the coup, 29 individuals were summarily executed without a trial or a chance to prove their innocence.   Among those executed that night were Ms. Bangura’s father, Captain Hanciles Bangura, the Quartermaster of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), as well as Colonel Kawuta Dumbuya, her uncle.  Thus began a period of terror and uncertainty for Ms. Bangura and her family.

The years of 1992 through 1997 proved to be very difficult for Wendy Bangura and her family. Because the soldiers of the NPRC had not only executed her father but also had robbed her family’s home and bank accounts the family lived on the contribution of others. In addition, the family was under surveillance by elements of the ruling council and were, according to accounts, under serious and constant danger.

Through the guidance of a Nigerian acquaintance, the family entered the USA visa lottery and won, entering the country in 1997 and settling in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Ms. Bangura entered Bladensburg High School, graduating in 2002 and then entered Prince George’s County Community College, studying criminal justice and psychology.  To support the family her mother, Samira Bangura, had opened International Tropical Foods, store marketing African foods and products in College Park, Maryland. Ms. Bangura became the store manager, offering her contact with a wide range of residents of African descent in the Washington, DC area.

While managing her family business, Ms. Bangura met a Nigerian film producer who reawakened the notion that acting might be a road for her to pursue. As a child in Sierra Leone she was interested in acting, drama, fashion and theatre and she even participated in child beauty contests as well as drama productions in her elementary school.  It was a lifelong desire to continue in these areas but as a result of the trauma her family and she faced it had been pushed aside for more serious considerations. Now with her new life Ms. Bangura began to look for opportunities in the world of drama.

 Her first project was “The Entrapped Movie”, released in 2012. In this film she played the support role as “Allison” and was also credited as a producer. This was followed by a larger role in “Koming from Afrika”, released in 2013. She has another role in the film “The Busted Life”, produced by Chima Austin of Nollywood fame.

Currently, Wendy Bangura is in the process of editing her newest film “Unforgettable Words” which she not only produced but played the female lead. She is also the CEO of Golden Touch Entertainment, a production company for independent projects both in Sierra Leone and the USA.

Wendy Bangura’s work is hardly complete. She is definitely seeking a mainstream opportunity as both a producer and actress as well as fulfilling her dream of having a clothing and perfume line. Her efforts in film were recently recognized by Africa Radio Salone, a Washington DC area based online radio channel for Sierra Leoneans. The station presented her with its award for best actress of the year.

As Sierra Leoneans living in this country, both Samira and Wendy Bangura have a strong relationship with their homeland. Samira Bangura works to improve conditions through her foundation, Help the Poor African Charity Organization (HELPAC). Ms. Bangura assists this foundation and returns home when she can to develop projects for improving the life of citizens there. She states that “My mom is my role model”.

There are still many chapters to be written in the life story of Wendy Bangura. Hopefully, her positive future will continue and lead to greater success. As she concedes her life thus far has been filled with hard times but she admits they have made her stronger and more hopeful for the future.

Wendy Bangura can be contacted at: bwendy2012@gmail.com.    Samira Bangura’s foundation can be found at: www.helppac.org

20th March 2014

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AFRICA HEALTH NOW BEGINS TO CHANGE THE LANDSCAPE OF MEDICAL CARE IN AFRICA

Think about the last time the media provided a report on health conditions in Africa. More than likely it was a segment on some horrible, severe condition that would prove to be fatal if left untreated such as HIV, malaria, cholera or tuberculosis. It is unfortunate that our image of the state health in Africa consists of reports about people suffering from these ailments for multiple reasons.

First, these pictures reinforce the negative portrait that is exaggerated and often untrue. The negativity has the additional consequence of creating a climate in which large scale investment in the future of the continent is limited.

Secondly, Africans suffer from a variety of non-communicable ailments that do not receive the proper amount of attention from the media. The structure of current medical care in Africa prevents the population from receiving the necessary ongoing care for these ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and depression.

With these obstacles in mind, a Ghanaian American, Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, has formed the organization “Africa Health Now” to begin changing the manner in which medical care is delivered in Africa. Through the work of her group she hopes to create a new health care paradigm for Africans and re- focus the direction of individuals regarding their wellness.

Growing up in Virginia, Ms. Eyeson-Akiwowo did not spend too much time thinking about care back home in Ghana. That is, until a day in 2006 when she received a call from a family member in Accra telling her that her father was in the hospital as a result of a “heart ailment”.  Luckily a friend traveling    in - country was able to locate her father and provide some information for the family in the USA.

The hours of uncertainty as well as fear led Ms. Eyeson –Akiwowo to begin a serious review of basic health care in Ghana as well as Africa in its entirety and led to the formation of Africa Health Now (AHN).

As a result of these beginning activities, the organization holds a health fair in Accra, usually around the December holiday season that teams medical students and nurses from Ghana with volunteers in the medical profession in the USA. The fair provides workshops about symptoms and the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol levels as well as discussions of more culturally taboo subjects such as mental health and cancers.  Each fair attendee is provided with a basic health screening as well as printed materials regarding the issues of concern to them.  Additionally, the individual is provided with a personal medical record with suggestions for ongoing management of health concerns.

The goal of AHN is to eventually schedule multiple fairs in a locality throughout the year as well as tailor the events to specific groups in a population (EG: women only events or a pediatric event) as well as regularize the wellness of a population by increasing the use of self-exams and the access to the latest knowledge about health and diet. Ms. Eyeson- Akiwowo also hopes to eventually expand this initiative to other countries beyond her native Ghana.

The Africa Health Now model is an excellent beginning to turn the tide of health issues in afflict people on an everyday basis. There are two basic obstacles that this program overcomes. First, it takes into account local culture and needs and tailors its system to those two concepts. Second, the organization sets these fairs up in a community and according to experts, community based initiatives work best.

Africa Health now has begun the long and difficult work of bringing some regularity to the wellness of the people of Ghana. Let’s hope that the world responds and helps to carry the task to its future with a positive result.

Africa Health Now can be accessed on the web at: www.africahealthnow.org

 

14th March 2014

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The Century of the African Woman – Women Werk Celebrates International Woman’s Day 2014

As a former and longtime educator with the New York City Public Schools I observed many fallacies with the educational programs for students in the upper high school grades. Now as a journalist and photographer I do not feel encumbered, any longer, by work rules to criticize not only my employer but the entire system of educational preparation for young people in this country.

With that attitude as well as my anger over the battle regarding the charter schools in this city still on my mind I traveled to the base of Manhattan, home to the “Titans of Wall Street” to cover an event celebrating International Women’s Day. The organization “Women Werk” was holding an all-day event entitled “Women Work Forum – The Century of the African Woman”. A gala and an after party were scheduled for the evening.

Demi Ajayi and Nekpen Osuan founded this group to provide a forum for women to celebrate their successes and to strategize on moving forward and continuing their work in a positive way. They believe that although the world can present major and profound challenges to women, the achievements women have made in this climate must be recognized and celebrated. They also strongly advocate for the next generation of women, thereby making sure that progress is made and the future endeavors are given good chance to succeed.

After a short breakfast to start the networking rolling, participants were directed to one of two sessions: Young Professionals I, designed for women starting their careers and the Youth Forum for women still in high school or university.

I went into the Youth Forum for a few photos and I ended up remaining for the entire program. This effort was a breath of fresh air to someone as cynical and critical of the way we prepare our young people to take on the world after high school and university are completed. The women on this panel were all extremely well educated and successful in their respective fields. What made me remain in that room was observing the patient and thorough manner in which they offered guidance to these younger students. These students sat in respectful attention to these women and were treated to some excellent advice for getting ready to begin a long tern career.

All of the panelists advised the younger people that having a mentor before leaving high school was imperative and a woman mentor is likely to be more supportive than a male mentor. Multiple mentors for various aspects of a career and professional life was likewise introduced.

Nkechi Obgodo also reminded the audience that it is the role of the professional you work with to provide on-site mentoring so that the culture and style of the organization can be learned. In that manner, barriers and obstacles to success can be overcome by the new employee. She also advises people that having confidence and being talented can cause others to become unsettled so always be mindful of your peers.

Development of a five year plan was espoused by panelist Lillian Ajayi. Ms. Ajayi strongly believes in a philosophy of constant motivation, staying focused and being committed to your work to achieve goals.  It is through the five year plan that an individual can see exactly where they are on the road to success as well as measure what needs to be completed.

Journalist Arao Ameny advised participants that in a new job one should seek out the more experienced individuals who understand the organization’s philosophy and culture. These folks can be your advocates as well as mentors. She also stated that when completing a task or project share credit with others in your office or on your team as a way to foster goodwill.

As a group the panel was unanimous in advising their young audience to always work hard and push yourself to set an example for future opportunities. They also said when those opportunities arrive, take them because no one knows how an opportunity can open up a new world for someone.

As the session ended I observed an audience filled with motivated young women talking, networking, exchanging information and business cards while seeking out the panelists for more advice and guidance.

I left the session energized and I was thinking that with forward thinking organization directors as well as panelists like these, young people might just have the tools they need to become successful.image