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Kyei Atupem, Founder and President at Freedom Education Foundation – Interview Series

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In recent years, the cannabis industry has seen a growing emphasis on social equity, recognizing the need to address historical disparities and give back to underserved communities. Various initiatives have emerged, aiming to make a positive impact beyond profits. One such endeavor involves Mosaic, a company navigating the complex terrain of cannabis with a distinctive commitment to social responsibility. The intersection of the cannabis industry and community welfare forms a fascinating backdrop, showcasing the evolving landscape of corporate social responsibility in unconventional sectors.

At the heart of this movement is the Freedom Educational Foundation (FEF), an organization founded with a deeply rooted mission to uplift underprivileged students in West Africa. In an exclusive interview, Kyei Atupem, Founder and President at FEF, sheds light on the organization's journey and its unique collaboration with Mosaic. This conversation unravels the synergy between the cannabis industry and educational philanthropy, illustrating how Mosaic's unconventional approach is making a tangible difference in communities often overlooked in traditional corporate philanthropy.

MyCannabis: As a brief intro, kindly share how your career path led you to the cannabis industry.

Kyei: Okay, good. So we got a lot of ground to cover here with what you just said. So I'll be very brief. My name is Roland Kyei Atupem, and I go by my middle name, which is Kyei. I came from Ghana in 1978 to go to college and have been living in the United States since then. I've worked in various corporate positions, mainly in management and sales. Currently, I'm still working for a big telecom outfit, involved in product and sales management. My wife and I are empty nesters with two grown boys. That's me in a nutshell.

MyCannabis: What inspired the establishment of Freedom Educational Foundation (FEF)?

Kyei: Yeah. FEF was born out of a trip to Ghana after not visiting for over 20 years. When my mother passed away, we saw the stark contrast between our successful life in the U.S. and the abject poverty in Ghana. This experience, combined with our deep Christian faith, led us to sponsor an underprivileged child's education. Witnessing the positive change in that child, we founded Freedom Educational Foundation in 2018. Currently, we have about 20 students and are expanding.

MyCannabis: That leads us to the next question. Could you tell me more about how FEF operates?

Kyei: FEF operates entirely with volunteers, including board members. We raise funds through various channels like email campaigns and fundraising activities. We've been averaging $10,000 to $12,000 annually for the past five years. All funds directly support education for underprivileged students. We focus on tertiary students in Ghana, particularly those admitted to public universities but facing financial challenges. Additionally, we have an “Adopt a Student” program and provide supplies to schools in need.

MyCannabis: What ages of children do you take in?

Kyei: Initially, there was no age limit, but we realized focusing on tertiary students would have a more significant impact. Our main target is senior high school students in Ghana, identifying those who are highly motivated and academically strong but lack financial support. We also run an “Adopt a Student” program for primary to college-level students.

MyCannabis: Let's discuss the partnership between Mosaic and FEF. Considering Mosaic's connection to the cannabis industry, do you foresee any conflicts, given the social stigma around cannabis in Africa?

Kyei: We've considered the potential negativity associated with cannabis. However, our focus is on supporting underprivileged students, and Mosaic's involvement is more about contributing to our cause through revenue. Jack, my colleague and Vice President of FEF, started a company in the cannabis industry. We believe the benefits to our educational mission outweigh the potential negativity. We're prepared to address any concerns as they arise.

MyCannabis: Moving to the cannabis conversation in Africa, specifically Ghana, where do you think Ghana stands, and what practical steps can the government take to mainstream the cannabis industry for societal benefit?

Kyei: While I may not be fully informed on Ghana's cannabis situation, my perspective has evolved over time. It's essential for governments to acknowledge the reality on the ground and address the issue openly. Cannabis use is prevalent, and regulating it could contribute to tax revenues that empower disadvantaged groups, including the youth and women. Balancing cultural values with the changing landscape is crucial.

MyCannabis: Shifting focus to broader education issues, what steps do you think the government, not just in Ghana but across Africa, can take to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged children?

Kyei: In Ghana, education is a constitutional right, and the government provides it for all citizens. However, families still need to contribute at certain levels, creating challenges for underprivileged children. Governments can enhance public education by providing more resources, especially for those who can't afford even the subsidized portions. Cultural awareness, encouragement, and information dissemination are also crucial to emphasize the importance of education.

MyCannabis: You mentioned Ghana's commendable efforts in providing free education for high school students. Could you elaborate on how this has positively impacted students?

Kyei: Ghana has made senior high school tuition-free for every Ghanaian student, covering both tuition and board for boarding students. While there are still some personal provisions and expenses, this initiative significantly reduces the financial burden on families. The government's efforts, combined with external support like our laptop program, create a more accessible path to education for underprivileged students.

MyCannabis:  Finally, what parting thoughts would you like to share?

Kyei: I've personally experienced the transformative power of education. Growing up in a family with limited education, I saw the impact my uncle and mother, despite not being educated, had on me. FEF aims to provide a voice for underprivileged kids who lack opportunities. Education breaks the cycle of poverty, and I believe every child deserves that chance.

MyCannabis: Your personal journey gives profound meaning to your work with FEF. Thank you for sharing your story and insights. 

Kyei: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. Looking forward to hearing from you. Have a great day, Lydia.

It was a great pleasure to have an interview with Kyei Atupem. Readers wishing to learn more about what FEF are encouraged to check out their website.

 

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.