For those people out there who want to donate but don’t know me, here is a summary of myself. I am from Accra, Ghana in West Africa. I came to the United States mainly to study and partake of the American Dream, which promises that anyone who is willing to work hard and contribute to society in a meaningful way will be successful. I am willing to work hard and contribute where I stand. This American dream is getting harder for me and my family to realize because although we are determined, we fall short of obtaining the tools necessary to progress. You guessed right, the number one thing we need to move forward is MONEY.
As an international student, I started out at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I studied Business Management with an emphasis in Supply Chain. It was difficult for me to go through the program because of financial difficulties. I will let you in on a few other things that you will not readily know when you meet me for the first time. My parents, Atobora and Winnie Brown, are great parents. They worked hard to raise all 6 children. I am the first born. They had lots of money in savings. They taught me the principles of hard work. They were very generous and helped lots of people. Anyone from Ghana who is LDS and knew of Bishop Brown will testify of his generosity. With years of savings for education in the bank, time came for me to start school after my 2 years LDS mission to Johannesburg, South Africa. About a week before I came to the United States in January of 2008, my father got really sick. He could barely stand or sit or lie down. Several tests in the hospital showed no identifiable results of what might be wrong. His pain was unbearable and it hurt so bad to see my father crying several hours at a time. Imagine the state of my mind leaving my mum and younger siblings behind not knowing if leaving for the United States would be the last time of seeing him. About a week after I got to campus to start school, the doctors found out that he had a rare growth in his stomach. They opted to do an experimental surgery since they did not know exactly what was going on. Many doctors contributed their expertise to the best of their ability and after several hours the surgery was a success. I remember that day. I could not even concentrate in my classes. I called mum several times to see how things were going. Eventually he was discharged from the hospital and had several weeks off of work to recuperate. The sad part of this whole episode is that he had to pay some of the bills using all our emergency funds and yes you guessed right our education fund. Thinking that he will work hard as usual to keep sending me and my siblings enough money for our tuition and fees, something else happened. A few years later he was laid off his job. We lost everything. He is unable to support us anymore. It has been about 5 years now since he lost his job and had to find other ways to sustain himself. He encouraged us to do our best in school and whatever we do, and wait on the Lord saying that, God will surely help us get back fully on our feet. It is sad to see someone as generous as my dad not getting any help from people around when it is his turn to get help. This is why I need to do all I can to get this degree which I believe will set my family up for opportunities ahead that will help us stand financially fit again.
The challenge of an international student is that, by law you are only allowed to work on campus for the minimum wage and about 20hrs a week while in school, and 40hrs when on a break. Your sponsor, in this case my father, needs to show proof of financial support for at least a year. Although hard working, this situation or experience sets the odds against me to succeed. I do not qualify for financial aid like most American students and barely enough on grants and scholarships to help me out in my undergrad. I lived off of friends by visiting them at the perfect time for dinners and loved ward activities and some bishops who invited me to their homes from time to time. I met my wife, Gloria, in Brigham Young University - Idaho, where she was studying Healthcare Administration. It is believed that we travelled halfway around the world to meet each other since she is from Nigeria and I am from Ghana, being neighboring countries. I married my dear and best friend in 2010. Gloria was a strong pillar of strength and still is, as I went through those difficult times. We are blessed with two lovely children, Esther (5) and Ebenezer (2). They bring a special feeling into our home and there is never a dull moment with them. With all the hardships we go through, it is a joy to go home and see their smiling faces and have hope that all will eventually be well. Together we have achieved much and with the new chapter in our life we need your help to take advantage of the next part of our journey.
Somehow I made it through my bachelor’s degree. I consider myself a bright student, but with all that I was going through it was hard for me to concentrate because I was always thinking about people I owed money to, how I might pay my next semester's tuition and how I would provide for my family among other things. I was not doing well for the first couple of years I was in the states. My grades were down, I had to adjust to a new environment and learning style different from what I was used to back home. I always had a hold on my student account because I had not finished paying tuition from the previous semester. That caused major damage because I never got the classes I needed when I was ready to register and had to find odd class times which conflicted with my work schedule and the stress of all this was sometimes unbearable enough to cause sleepless nights and wetting my pillow with my tears, feeling homesick and wanting to give up.
Some of you may be thinking, I have always seen Sylvester smiling and cheerful and kind and serving faithfully in his callings. You may ask, “Was he faking it?” seeing that I went through all that I have shared so far and more. NO! I was not faking it at all. I found a way to go through it all. I found out that if I would serve others and bring them hope despite whatever they are going through I get filled with great joy myself. I learned to pray and leave my worries with God. I learned to go to the temple often. I sought opportunities to increase my faith and seek revelation on what to do next by reading my scriptures every day and attending church and accepting callings and assignments to serve. I campaigned and was elected as a student body vice president while in school, expanding my leadership skills and participated in projects that were aimed at improving the student’s experience at BYU-Idaho. Although my worries and fears did not automatically go away, I had cause to be more optimistic. It became easier to bear my burdens because Jesus bore them with me and could feel him close. Angels, both heavenly and earthly came to my aide at the very moment when there seemed to be no way out. Above all one thing kept me going: Faith in the promises of a priesthood blessing I had. Here is a short version of that story.
A few months after my mission I was called to be a stake family history consultant, in a newly created stake, for which I told the stake president that I had been admitted to Southern Virginia University (SVU) on a full scholarship (well because I had been rejected by BYU about 2 times). I was to start school in about 3 months. He told me the Lord wanted me to have this calling and that I should serve to the best of my ability for the short time and He will bless me. I accepted the calling. In my setting apart the following week after being sustained in all the wards in the stake, the priesthood blessing had an interesting and bold pronouncements. I was told among other things that I was to apply to BYU-Idaho, I would be accepted and that was where I needed to be. It took me to pray and fast to accept the will of God. The promise came true after about 6months – the wait was a test of my faith because I had called SVU and told them I was looking at attending BYU-Idaho when the admission and visa documents had not been set in stone yet from BYU-Idaho. Although I have gone through lots of hardships, some of which I have shared so far, I still have hope in the promised blessing. I know I am in the right place at this time and have had great opportunities that make me who I am today.
I still believe in the American dream. I somehow got admitted to Idaho State University to do my MBA. Although international students do not qualify for federal financial aid, I got some scholarships and the program was just for one year. With my strengthened faith in the promises of God, I did well. In the past year I got an offer to work for Goldman Sachs in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah as an analyst. The time has come to move on because as an international student you only get one year work authorization after you complete a degree that is not part of the STEM program. To remain legal in the country, I need to either get another job that will extend or sponsor my work authorization and get an H1B1 visa. Since that is not working at this time, my next best option to pursue the American dream is to go back to school. Looking at the projections of the labor force in the economy, coupled with my interests I decided to do something in the STEM program. I chose to do a master’s program in Data Science. That in itself is a miracle how I found this school and got admitted. That is a story for another time. With a degree in the STEM program I will get a longer work authorization and a better chance of sponsorship from a company I work for in the future.
Why did I share all this? I did this so that you may understand and have a glimpse of where I have been and where I am going and why. I am hoping it will help you have some sympathy and empathy for me. I hope it may help you see that I am hardworking, and have a desire to do well and help others where I can. I need to also let you know that there is hope. With the help of God and angels around us, we can achieve good things or go through difficult times. I hope my story will inspire others for good. Also that this may help you see that I am trying all I can to have a good future for my family. I know many of you may be able to think of a hundred and one other ways to get out of this hardship we find ourselves in. We have analyzed many scenarios and solutions per other things that are unique to our situation and circumstances including time restraint and other opportunities and we strongly feel this is the best path for us now. Rather than judge whether we are on the right path or not, I beg of you to please pray for us that the Lord will magnify and bless this path to be successful and do what you can to help us along financially. They say little drops of water make a mighty ocean. Whatever you can donate to help our cause and to eventually realize this American dream will be appreciated. Even if it be $10 we will be grateful. Please help my family. I will take a loan if I can and pay it back in the future when I settle down per terms my creditor and I can agree on. In fact, I tried to get a student loan. Most banks and lenders require that I get a cosigner since I am an international student. I have asked many people I know to be my cosigner and the answer has been NO! Looking at all the debt I have accumulated over the years in pursuit of the American dream, it will be better to count on the generosity of friends and strangers alike to get something that will lessen our burden in the future.
There is a Twi (one of the languages in Ghana) proverb that says “Woforo dua pa a na yepia wo” which literally means: “It is when you climb a good tree that we push you.” I hope you will see that I am a good person. I have good desires; I will surely do my best to be in a position to help others in the future. For now I need your help. Please don’t just share this page, don’t just read my post or story, Help me! Please, help me!
- Anonymous Anonymous
- Rob Haertel
- A. Jensen
- Dave Larbie
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