Acheke Mausa (‘22) doesn’t take clean water for granted. Nor does he take grocery stores, cars, or his safe, comfortable apartment for granted.

Mausa lived most of the first eight years of his life in a Tanzanian refugee camp, after his family fled war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

helping schools globally
Helping schools globally

Now living in Iowa City, Mausa is working to help children who faced the hardships he once did. He is partnering with Scott Community College’s TRIO program to collect school supplies and raise money for school children in DRC.

“We struggled as a family to get food, to get water,” Mausa says. “Having the daily things you need to survive wasn’t easy.”

Mausa’s family emigrated to the United States in 2010. After a floundering start at another college, Acheke found the academic program he wanted and the support he needed through Scott’s TRIO program.

The Support of TRIO

TRIO is a nearly 60-year-old set of federal programs designed to help America’s low-income and first-generation college students gain access to and complete their higher education.

The program at Scott serves about 190 students. Thanks to TRIO, Mausa skyrocketed academically, eventually serving as president of the college’s honor society.

school in democratic republic of congo
School in DRC

“TRIO is a family,” Mausa said. “They are helping you with school and that helps with your life. And that not only helps your family now but for generations to come.”

Mausa looks forward to earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Western Illinois University. And maybe a master’s degree after that.

But he’s also looking back. Back to the impoverished country he left when he was just six months old.

Harnessing Potential

The DRC is one of the five poorest countries in the world and one of the most politically unstable. Since colonial rule ended 63 years ago, 2019 marked the first peaceful transfer of power since the country gained its independence from Belgium.

And the future is in peril as only 67% of the population finishes the 6th grade.  Currently, 3.5 million children are not going to school. And the children who do go to school often walk miles to buildings that might not have roofs or even walls.

Yet Mausa sees potential.

The DRC is about one third the size of the United States with a population of about 100 million people. It is rich with natural resources such as cobalt, copper, the world’s second largest rainforest and the Congo River, which is second in size only to the Amazon.

The river and its power are what sparked Mausa’s interest in electrical engineering. He hopes to one day help the DRC harness the energy of the river to improve the quality of life in native country. And he’s starting his work now.

Sending Pencils, Paper

Mausa formed his own non-profit, the United Alliance for Development, to support the villages in the DRC with various struggles and needs. His latest project is gathering school supplies for children in impoverished villages.

kids in DRC
DRC classroom

Mausa is inviting folks in the Quad Cities who might have school supplies they no longer need to bring them to the TRIO office at Scott Community College’s Belmont campus. And he has started a GoFundMe fundraiser to buy any supplies that aren’t donated.

“The children do not have the tools to learn,” Acheke says. “Students would have one notebook for every class and the whole school year. The students are careful how they write in their notebooks so they do not take up space.”

Acheke says people can donate anything a child might need for school.

“People can bring books, backpacks, pens, pencils, paper, erasers,” Acheke says. “Or they can donate to the GoFundMe page, and I will buy what they need.”

Stronger Together

When TRIO’s Director Steven Cravens heard about Mausa’s plan, he immediately wanted to help.

“Acheke’s got such a great heart and this is such a great mission,” Cravens said. “Any way we can help is great.”

The TRIO staff offered to help get the word out about Mausa’s efforts and told him he could use their office as the drop-off spot for donations.

Mausa appreciates the help TRIO is providing with his project and what they did for him while he was both working and going to school full-time. The TRIO staff is excited for Mausa’s future and proud of his desire to help others.

craven and mausa at trio
TRIO program

“He could have easily turned his back and looked forward,” Cravens said. “He didn’t have to worry about where he came from. But Acheke is a really interesting guy. He’s very community minded about his native country.”

The supply drive and GoFundMe fundraiser will run until March 24. Mausa is scheduled to fly out with his school supplies March 28.

“I’ve always been a helper,” Mausa says. “Even when I was younger, helping my parents in the refugee camp. It’s about serving others. Not what’s best for myself, but what’s best for everyone.”