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2020: A year of challenges, heartbreak, and growth

It has almost become a cliché to say that 2020 has been a difficult year, a year like no other in our lifetimes. But clichés are often born from truth, and that is most definitely the case when we think back on the year that is finally coming to an end.

We have all been living with the COVID-19 pandemic since March — almost 10 months now. Some of us have gotten sick, others have had to care for sick family members or friends. Too many of us have had loved ones die. That, alone, would have made this an extremely difficult year.

But the pandemic has done widespread damage on other fronts as well. The economy has been in a tailspin. Many people have lost work or had their work hours severely cut back. Aid from the federal government has vanished after an early infusion of much-needed funds to keep people and businesses afloat.

Some people are finding it hard to feed their families. Others face the loss of their homes, regardless of whether they are homeowners or renters.

Schools have been closed for most of the past 10 months. This has created a cascading series of challenges for parents, particularly those either categorized as essential workers or who hold jobs that require them to be physically present. What are they supposed to do with their children all day?

At the same time, parents are worrying about what, if anything, their children are learning online. Are they falling behind? How will they ever catch up? How long will this go on?

The African Leadership Group has found itself on the frontline of these daily struggles, and we have done everything in our power to meet the needs of our community. Those needs have been very different this year than in years past, and we have adapted to serve our community precisely where the needs are greatest.

In this year, we have launched a food and milk distribution program that has provided families with more than 8,000 meals. We have held virtual legal clinics to allow our members to consult, free of charge, with lawyers on issues including evictions and indebtedness. Those clinics have served 127 people. We held a flu shot clinic that served 25 people.

One of our most significant new services has been to provide the children of our community with both an online schooling classroom and a tutoring program. Students can spend the full school day at our offices, in an online classroom where each student works independently on a computer connected directly to their classroom. The program is supervised by adults. 

This allows parents to go to work knowing that their children are in a safe and secure environment, under adult supervision, and keeping up with their school work. After school, students can receive on-on-one tutoring from qualified adults.

The school and tutoring program have served 55 of our young people.

I am proud that our community and ALG have risen to the extraordinarily difficult challenges of 2020. None of this would have been possible without the support of our many volunteers, as well as our sponsors and funders. The generosity we have witnessed this year has been overwhelming. The outpouring of support has made the challenges a little easier to bear.

As I look to 2021, with a vaccine on the horizon providing hope for a return to something like normal, I am excited to see how ALG will take what we have learned in 2020 and apply it to 2021 and beyond. I see great things ahead for our community. I am glad all of you will be a part of our bright future.

Papa Dia
Papa Dia is Founder and President of the African Leadership Group. A native of Senegal, Papa immigrated to Denver in 1998. He used his first job, stocking books, to teach himself how to read, write, and speak English. Beginning with an entry-level position in a local bank, over the next 17 years, Papa ultimately climbed the ranks to become a regional vice president. In 2017, Papa left his banking career to focus his full attention on running and growing ALG.

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