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September 2007 - April 2008: The Struggle to Bring Abu to the USA

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Over a year after Abu first contacted Jeffry, the two finally meet at JFK airport.
The struggle to bring Abu to the USA was long and arduous.

After failing to find any organization to fund Abu’s travel, Jeffry started a campaign to solicit donations from the Lohr School of Woodworking alumni, his family members, and personal friends in an effort to pay for Abu's flight. By February 2008, the fund grows to $3,400 in un-cashed checks. 

However, fundraising halted and checks remained un-cashed after efforts to secure Abu a non-immigrant visa met serious obstacles. In January 2008, the US Consulate in Accra refused Abu a visa interview.  Not considering Abu’s documentation, the consulate declined to consider Abu on the basis that he was an  unmarried, non-university educated, poor black man.  In response, Jeffry spear headed a letter writing campaign to win an appeal that contacted the American Ambassador to Ghana and the US State Department.

The next month, the US consulate contacted Jeffry expressing willingness to reconsider Abu’s application, and Abu is scheduled for a second Visa interview. Jeffry offers to wire money to Abu for cost of second application, which is $135 US – about 1/3 of the average annual Ghanaian's income. Abu refuses help saying Mr. Jeffry had done more than enough for him. Abu wanted to win this opportunity for himself and the people of his country, using only his own funds, so that he would "remember what this cost me." Before the interview, Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP offered pro bono legal help through a legal brief and letter faxed to the consulate in Accra. On March 7, 2008, Abu wins his visa to the US.

Thus, Jeffry’s fund raising campaign resumed, reaching $6,000 in donations. Additionally, Jeffry offers Abu a full 3 month scholarship for work and study at the J.D.Lohr School of Woodworking in Pennsylvania along with free meals and lodging for the entire time at the home of Jeffry and his wife Linda. Janice Simms negotiated round trip airline tickets for Abu, and finally, on April 20, 2008, Jeffry, Linda, and Abu meet for the first time at JFK Airport in New York.

At this time, Abu’s and Jeffry’s goals were pretty simple. Abu would receive training on Western woodworking machinery and afterwards Jeffry would ship to Ghana what machinery he could afford in the years to follow. Little did we know then how inappropriate and out of touch this initial plan was with the real problems in Ghana. People make mistakes, but fortunately, we recognized our errors and adjusted our well-intentioned efforts to achieve something far beyond our imaginations.

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