By Sudha Kamath
They are haunting images that have never left the mind of Anais-Flora Akassi Assale.
“I used to visit orphans when I was in elementary school, and as I grew up, their struggles have always bothered me,” says Assale, an Ivory Coast native. “I also used to take my old clothes and shoes as well as some of the food that my mom cooked and offer them to people I saw outside.”
Assale is about to earn her second degree from George Mason University in only five years. She hopes to someday to use her bachelor’s and accelerated master’s degrees to help build a better future for homeless children and adults in the West African nation.
In 2009, Assale arrived at Mason after completing high school in the Ivory Coast. In 2013, she earned her undergraduate degree in global affairs from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Assale found the program to be such a great experience, she didn’t want to go anywhere else for her graduate degree, especially when she was accepted into Mason’s accelerated master’s global affairs program.
“I fell in love with the global affairs program and I wanted to keep going on the same path,” she says.
After graduation from that program on Dec. 18, Assale plans to return in January to the Ivory Coast to work with her father in the manufacturing distribution field, and to monitor the construction of a new school in the city of Abidjan.
“I am one of those people who believes that we can alleviate poverty if we really want to,” says the optimistic Assale. “But one important thing that people ignore is that we can give out food and clothes and money to homeless people as much as we want, but it is always better to educate them on how to sew, do hair or cook, for example, so that one day they can open their own shop and become self-reliant.”
In the long term, Assale says she hopes to create a nongovernmental organization to offer a free education to homeless children, and provide job skills training to empower homeless adults.