COMMUNITY ADVOCATE AWARD – WAKILI AWARD
DR. LINDA FAAS
Dr. Linda Ogbah Faas is an exceptional young woman with incredible inner strength. She traveled alone to the United States of America at the young age of 16, leaving behind her family and friends in Nigeria to chase the American dream. She arrived in Louisiana before she moved to St. Louis in 2005 due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
In her new state of Missouri, she made the decision to enlist in the United States Navy and continue her education, tour the world, while helping relocate her Nigerian family to the USA. She was dedicated to being an exceptional leader, which led to multiple awards, recognitions and advancements in ranks. After her time in Service, she pushed her way through more life’s obstacles to complete two associate degrees, a bachelor’s in communications, a master’s in management, a master’s in business administration, and a Doctorate in Business Administration. She is actively serving in the Missouri Army National Guard.
She is a certified John Maxwell Team Member, a published author, a business owner, a woman of God and she is very involved in the African community. She began as the Operations Director for the African Chamber of Commerce in 2020 and is now the President since January 2023. Linda is dedicated to providing outstanding services to those around her, and to guiding and mentoring those who need assistance in growing their business, their career, and their community.
Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch, Ph.D. is President & CEO of FOCUS St. Louis, the leading civic education organization in the Greater St. Louis metropolitan region. Dr. Akande-Bartsch has more than 20 years of experience in designing and facilitating leadership training, development, and coaching programs. Prior to assuming the role of President and CEO in 2014, she served as Vice President of Leadership and Alumni Programs for FOCUS. Previous positions include serving as Senior Director of Civic Education for the Cleveland Leadership Center and Managing Partner at YsA Group, a leadership training and development company. She was a lecturer at The Boler School of Business and Assistant Professor of Communication and Theatre Arts at Ohio’s John Carroll University and was the host of a weekly radio show called Making the Case on Cleveland’s WJCU 88.7 FM. She also worked in the field of International education for many years.
Dr. Akande-Bartsch holds a doctorate in communication (with a specialty in intercultural, organizational, and political communication) from the University of Oklahoma. She also earned two master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma, the first in human relations and organizational development, and the second in public relations, journalism, and mass communication. She earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.
Dr. Akande-Bartsch currently serves on the boards of directors for the Sheldon Arts Foundation, Greater St. Louis, Inc. and the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy. She is also a member of the Association of Leadership Professionals, the International Leadership Association and a graduate of Missouri Leadership Challenge 2013-14.
Dr. Akande-Bartsch is a recipient of the following awards:
- StreetScape Magazine Award (St. Charles, Missouri), 2014
- Royal Vagabond Leadership Award, 2015
- YWCA of St. Louis Leader of Distinction, 2015
- Who’s Who Diversity in Color, 2016
- St. Louis Business Journal Most Influential Business Women Award, 2017
- St. Louis Business Journal Diverse Business Leader Award, 2019
- St. Louis American Foundation Non-Profit Executive of the Year, 2023
Welcome Neighbor STL/START began in the fall of 2016 with a toiletry drive for newly-arrived refugee families and has organically grown into a multi-faceted organization with over 4,000 supporters and has helped more than 600 refugees from 11 countries.
Welcome Neighbor STL has grown from pairing volunteers with new American families to teaching English, organizing supper clubs/catering events, driving lessons, citizenship classes, family outings, holiday gatherings, and COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
After establishing roots in the community, our new American friends participate in a giveback program to make thousands of meals for the unhoused. The “pay it forward” mentality has led to create a system of lifting people up while giving back and serving the St. Louis community.
MENTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD – MSHAURI AWARD
Dr. Toriola, MD, MPH, PhD, is a Professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery, Division of Public Health Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM), St. Louis, MO. He is a William H. Danforth Washington University Physician-Scientist Scholar. He co-leads the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Siteman Cancer Centre. He was recognized for his achievements in breast cancer prevention with the 2022 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, an award for individuals whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of breast cancer.
He has a strong record of mentorship and has mentored >50 individuals from diverse educational programs and backgrounds. His mentees have been highly successful in their research as exemplified by various awards and recognitions at national scientific conferences. He is the Co-Director for the Program for Underrepresented in Medicine for Equity and Diversity; an initiative at Washington University School of Medicine to enhance underrepresented minority faculty development. He is also the co-program director for the T32 Surgical Oncology Basic Science and Translational Research Training Program.
IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEUR AWARD – MJASIRIAMALI
Nana Gyapomaah-Dapaah is an accomplished educator, an active registered nurse, and an entrepreneur. Nana is the co-founder and co-owner of House of Jollof (A West African and East African Fusion restaurant). She is the brain behind the delectable flavors at House of Jollof. Her work as an active nurse helped her come up with recipes that are not only inclusive (vegetarian, vegan, meat lover options) but they are also nutritious, healthy, and flavorful.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AWARD – WEZESHA AWARD
PreventEd, formerly National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse-St. Louis Area, Inc., has been a source of information and reference for people who seek recovery, but don’t know where to turn since 1965. In 1980, PreventEd expanded to in-school prevention education to confront the issue upstream, before substance use begins. PreventEd currently serves more than 100,000 people each year in the 7-county Eastern Region of Missouri through assessment and referrals to treatment, community education, coalition support, and substance use prevention programs for youth.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AWARD
Roxanne Hanna is the Associate Director of the Kummer Center for STEM Education at Missouri S&T where she oversees many aspects of K 12 outreach. Prior to joining the team, a year and a half ago, she was an elementary school teacher for a rural Missouri school district. Working in a rural school highlighted the lack of necessary STEM resources for K-12 students in rural regions across the country. After meeting the STEM Center staff during an outreach event, Roxanne decided that she wanted to be part of the mission that the STEM Center had shown to her. Now, she is ecstatic to be part of a team that engages teachers and students to increase STEM proficiency and raise awareness of STEM education and careers through Missouri, with special attention given to creating equity and inclusion for underrepresented students in STEM-related fields.
Barbra is the director of Community Relations at St. Louis CITY SC. After graduating from Boston University’s College of Communication, Barbra worked for a production house and WBZ-TV (CBS Affiliate) in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bronx, NY native, returned to New York City to work for CBS Television Sales and Petry Television. In a brilliant twist of fate, she entered the world of Major League Baseball and thus began her career in sports. There she worked in Community Affairs and that sparked her passion for the business of sports and how it unifies people and communities.
Barbra became the first Director, Community Relations at her first start-up franchise, the Washington
Nationals Baseball Club, in 2005 and established their community outreach strategy as well as the
Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Barbra also worked as a consultant for various non-profits, celebrities, radio and television personalities, and athletes prior to becoming the Director of Marketing and Development for Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC.
Barbra’s love of sports and the beach led her to Miami, Florida, and the world of international football
(soccer). As the Governance Manager and Assistant Corporate Secretary for Concacaf (Confederation of
North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football), she led the Confederation’s governance
and corporate compliance initiatives, as well as its domestic and international corporate events.
Barbra’s desire to be back at a Club working on the front lines of Community Relations took her to St.
Louis to work for the expansion MLS team, St. Louis CITY SC, as their Director, Community Relations.
Barbra also holds a Master in Legal Studies with a concentration in Business Law from Washington
University in St. Louis School of Law, and has been recognized by the American Red Cross, the United
States Marine Corps, the Wounded Warrior Project, among other organizations, for her commitment
and support of the community. She is a board member of the Forest Park Advisory Board and Puerto Rican
Society in St. Louis. Barbra is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, is bilingual, loves animals (especially
her 16-year-old cat) and enjoys cooking, singing and dancing…sometimes all at the same time.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD – HUDUMA YA JAMII
Moji Sidiqi’s remarkable journey transcends borders and disciplines. From her early years in Kabul to her time in Moscow at the tender age of four, followed by her resettlement in the United States through the UNHCR’s program at the age of nine, she has become a linguistic powerhouse with fluency in Farsi, Pashto, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, and English.
Currently, as a key figure at the International Institute of St. Louis, Moji dedicates herself to creating opportunities for the Afghan community. An unyielding activist at heart, she tirelessly advocates for all human rights, with a particular focus on women’s empowerment. Moji’s unwavering commitment has earned her prestigious accolades, including the Excellence in Community Service recognition from the City of St. Louis, and the Exceptional Neighbor Award from both the City and St. Louis City Soccer Club.
Moji Sidiqi stands ready and eager to fuse her passions in support of local causes, embodying the ethos of acting locally while thinking globally. She epitomizes the age-old adage that to play a role effectively, one must not only dress the part with style but also excel in their profoundly impactful roles.
Stella Ngugi is a 12th-grade student who is currently attending school at Hazelwood West High School. She has been actively involved in the Vitendo mentorship program and the youth programs in the church. She is currently involved in the Focus Youth Leadership program, Teen Traction Drivers camp, and many more youth programs.
Lewis Njenga is currently a 11th-grade student at Pattonville High School. He is actively involved in vitendo4Africa programs. He has taken a leadership role in helping the V4A kids soccer program that runs during the summer. He is currently involved in the Focus Leadership Program, Teen Traction Drivers camp, and many more.
In the soccer program, more than 80 kids meet every Friday for Soccer practice. Lewis and other coaches take time to talk to kids about school, bullying, schoolwork, teamwork, and respect for others on and off the field.
JASON BAKER, Ph.D, serves as the Executive Director of Bilingual International Assistant Services in St. Louis, MO, a provider of multilingual mental health, social, and legal services to immigrant and refugee populations. Jason came to the agency in 2010 as a volunteer ESL/citizenship instructor for Bosnian concentration camp survivors and joined the staff two years later. For four years, he worked alongside agency founder, Julia Ostropolsky, LCSW, assisting with strategic planning, grant and financial management, and day-to-day agency operations before accepting directorship in 2016.
Over the past seven years, Jason has worked to expand mental health programming for foreign-born/LEP populations in St. Louis – as well as the capacity of other community providers to serve these clients. In 2016, he helped oversee a merger with two partner programs – the St. Louis Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma and a refugee services team from Places for People – to relaunch the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture, an integrated, holistic services program that has since been renewed twice at the federal level. He also oversaw the buildout of a trauma-focused, school-centered counseling program for migrant and refugee youth, Project Safe Space, which is currently active in seven districts in St. Louis City and County. Most recently, he began directing a regional program tasked with assisting evacuated Afghan service personnel and their families with intensive case management and mental health interventions.
In addition to expanding the service footprint of Bilingual International, Jason was a founding partner of Casa de Salud’s Mental Health Collaborative and still maintains an embedded bilingual family therapist at the site. He sat on the initial Steering Committee of the Immigrant Service Providers Network and later served on that body’s Executive Committee. He is currently working with the Webster University Institute for Clinical Scholarship to train culturally responsive counseling practitioners to work with underserved populations, as well as partnering with researchers from Washington University, St. Louis University, and University of Missouri-St. Louis to move refugee social work praxis and scholarship forward. Jason serves on the Advisory Board of the National Capacity Building Project at the Center for Victims of Torture (St. Paul, MN) and the Membership Committee of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Providers. He is active in United Way of Greater St. Louis initiatives after securing Safety Net membership for the agency in 2020. He recently (2023) joined the Board of Directors of the Behavioral Health Network of St. Louis.
EMERGING LEADERS AWARD – KIONGOZI AWARD
Greenspan Gachie is currently an 10th-grade student at Hazelwood West High School. He is actively involved in many Vitendo programs. He has taken a leadership role in starting the volleyball program that meets on Fridays for practice and has organized friendly competitions between parents and kids. This helps the community to be more involved. He also took a leadership role during the Teen Traction Drivers camp, which led to a victorious win for their team.
This year Greenspan and and a group of other high school students led a community outreach campaign on road safety and mental health among the youth. He has participated in diaspora youth panel discussions on leadership, climate change, and civic engagement.
Stephanie Muigai is currently a 12th grade student at Visitation Academy. She has been an active member of V4A programs for five years. She has been involved in the Teen Traction camp, and robotics club this summer. She took a leadership role in the Robotics club for two years now. She has also been volunteering for the summer stem camp for two years.
In school, she is the assistant manager of theater production, and she is also the president of the diversity club in school.
Stephanie also volunteers in her local church called First Christian church helping kids and teaching them about God.
Annie is a native of Malawi and currently serves as the Project Manager for the World Trade Center – St.Louis and the St. Louis Mosaic Project. In her role at the World Trade Center and Mosaic Project, Annie showcases her exceptional creative design skills. She writes the center’s electronic communications and is at the forefront of digital engagement. Annie manages the World Trade Center St. Louis 16 Sister Cities
initiative and works on the trade team. Annie is also on the team which puts together Growing Global business luncheon. Her leadership extends to the Festival of Nations booth, where she comes up with the booth’s activities, skillfully manages volunteers and ensures the success of the informational booth.
Beyond her role at the World Trade Center, Annie expertly plans and executes programs that align with the Mosaic Project’s goals. She is dedicated to supporting and mentoring newly arrived immigrants in St.Louis with professional connections, resources and more. Annie runs St. Louis Mosaic Project’s STL101, a monthly program that brings together St. Louis newcomers, natives, and internationals for an evening of connecting, socializing, and learning. She also leads in strategizing communications with Mosaic Ambassador Schools, ensuring effective outreach and engagement and skillfully crafts press releases to promote schools’ welcoming initiatives.
Before her current role, Annie was a communications director. Then after that, she was a full-time Marketing consultant, which equipped her with invaluable experience in strategic marketing and communication. She possesses a comprehensive skill set that spans web design, digital marketing, and social media strategy.
Annie’s passion for empowering others is evident through her initiatives as a founder and co-founder of various organizations. She established “A Community for African Female Entrepreneurs” (ACAFE) group to support and uplift aspiring businesswomen and to encourage African women in the diaspora to give back in Africa. She also founded UMSL Women Empowering Women and co-founded Missouri Young African Professionals (MOYAP). Annie also mobilized her peers in bringing back two organizations at UMSL-the- the Black Business Student Association and the Pan- African Student Association- that she was involved in. She wrote the two organizations’ constitutions and by-laws. Annie also has invaluable experience through her service on various organizational boards and her active involvement in different associations. Currently, she proudly serves as a board member of the St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce, where she collaborates with African business owners to connect them with essential resources and advocate for the interests of African business professionals in local, national, and international markets.
Education has been a cornerstone of Annie’s journey to success. She holds an esteemed MBA from the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), where she further honed her business acumen and leadership capabilities. In addition to her MBA, Annie earned a Digital Marketing Certificate, staying at the forefront of the ever-evolving digital landscape. Annie has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in International Business and Marketing, a Political Science minor, and is a UMSL-Pierre Laclede Honors College graduate.
HUMANITARIAN AWARD – SHUJAA AWARD
Affinia Healthcare was founded in 1906 as part of the mission work of Holy Cross House. Throughout our history, Affinia Healthcare has sought to fill the unmet healthcare needs of the most vulnerable in St. Louis and surrounding areas, provide exceptional care, and alleviate healthcare disparities of minorities, the unhoused, and other marginalized populations. Through an integrated care model, we provide comprehensive primary and preventive care in a trauma-informed and culturally competent manner. In 2022, Affinia Healthcare provided a health care home for 39,629 patients, of whom 94% have incomes under 100% of the federal poverty line, 69% are Black and 13% are Hispanic/Latina and 11% are best served in a language other than English.
V4A AMBASSADOR AWARD – BALOZI AWARD
Born and raised in Kinshasa at Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.). I have received Christ as my savior and king since April 2000 in the Pentecost church of the Assembly of God. I serve as an Elder and preacher at New City Fellowship. Have an equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in economics science. Arrived here on the 3rd day of February 2006 with my wife Nelly Nyota Bamba (married since 2005). Today, I am a father of 3 beautiful children. (Samuel, Samantha and Samiha) all born in the State. I work at US Bank as a Client Relationship Consultant and I also own a business as a tax advisor for personal and small businesses.
My biggest passion is working with kids of all ages and young adults.
COMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD- ATHARI LA JAMII
Kacey Wilson is the Highway Safety Program Manager at the Missouri Department of Transportation, Highway Safety & Traffic Division. Kacey is responsible for coordinating statewide activities of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety to help lead efforts to extend safety programs into communities throughout the state. Prior to becoming the Highway Safety Program Manager, Kacey spent 6 years as the state youth coordinator within highway safety, educating Missouri’s youth on the dangers of unsafe driving habits through programs like TRACTION – Teens Taking Action to Prevent Traffic Crashes, and many others. Kacey’s motivation is to keep roadways safe for all individuals traveling in Missouri.
- David Wairimu was born in Nyeri Kenya and later immigrated to the United States to further his education in 2005. He attended the University of Buffalo in Western NY and later Marian University in Indianapolis where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with his Business degree. He later Joined Bethel University in McKenzie TN for his MBA.
- Throughout his life and career both in school and work, David has always found time for community engagement. As a young man, he was the neighborhood music producer and later Joined The HomeBoys Radio where he got to learn and work with some of the best in the Kenyan Music Industry. That experience later translated to the United States where he started an African Radio station on Campus and later Joined Ocean 98.1 WOCM Irie radio and introduced African Reggae music to the Area. David has also served in a few other areas in the community.
- President of the Pan African Student organization- Buffalo state university 2005
- Key leader of the Kenyan Christian Fellowship- Indiana Chapter 2007-2011
- Founder and Member of the Memphis Safari Golf Association- An organization geared towards teaching African Men how to play Golf- 2012
- Founder and Member of the Gentlemen’s Turf. An organization in the Metro East geared towards teaching young men basic life skills.
- From a career perspective, David is an experienced Supply Chain professional having worked at various capacities in the industry with companies such as Caterpillar, Eaton, Worldwide Tech, and Watlow Electric here in St. Louis. David’s career at those companies has mainly been dedicated to problem-solving using statistics (6 Sigma) as a 6 Sigma Black Belt. It is that experience that has recently led him to his largest community project yet. With the help of his family, friends, and Community David founded The Bomas of Thairu in 2022. The Bomas is a 17-acre farm Located in Edwardsville Illinois. The goal is to be a cultural center serving as a platform and a vehicle for upward mobility for not just his family but the community. Over the last 9 months, David has worked with Local organizations such as Vitendo for Africa, and Edwardsville Unity/Madison County to create Programs aimed at addressing some of the most pressing problems affecting the immigrant community
- David is married to Phoebe Thairu and they have two Boys. Ethan Thairu who is 10 and Lucas Thairu who is 8. It is the desire to raise the boys differently that led David and his wife to make a very tough decision by sending their boys on a 3-year African Experience to get to know their roots.