Elisa Lanera Foundation - ELF Helps Africa


"LOCAL HERO: Woman, 25, shared goal of a library for Ghana" -Journal News

Northern Westchester Sunday Express - The Journal News
Goldens Bridge resident starts nonprofit to build library at Ghana school 
Written by: Barbara Livingston Nackman- bnackman@lohud.com

GOLDENS BRIDGE — When 25-year-old Jaymie Lanera traveled to Africa for a nursing program and saw the profound poverty and serious lack of educational resources there, she set out to make some changes.

So with friend Kristin Collins, also 25, she started the nonprofit Elisa Lanera Foundation (ELF) to focus on education and HIV/AIDs awareness in Africa.

The goal is to build a library center within a school in Abokobi, Ghana, where there is only a dirt slab for a floor.

The women say it will cost $20,000 and are nearly halfway there in raising that amount.

"The world can become a smarter place if we educate our children," said Lanera, who said she realized improved reading and learning could help all aspects of the Abokobi people's lives. "Children are the future. And not just the children of America."

The foundation is named for Lanera's mother, Elisa Nolletti Lanera, who was 21 and living in White Plains when she and another 21-year-old White Plains man, F. Douglas "Rex" Pompadur, were killed in a highly publicized drunken-driving crash that occurred on Thanksgiving Day 1985. Jaymie Lanera was 1 year old at the time.

The case led to changes in New York's sentencing laws restricting those convicted of vehicular manslaughter from shaving time off their sentence by entering "shock probation" programs as the 19-year-old driver who killed Lanera and Pompadur did.

Collins took on the role of compiling the necessary paperwork for nonprofit, tax-exempt status. She also put together a brochure and website. She was raised in New Milford, Conn., and met Lanera 12 years ago.

Lanera is more the visionary. She has spent months at a time in Ghana to personally oversee and manage the pre-building arrangements and begin a rudimentary reading resource program within the school.

ELF held a fundraising event at the Westchester Hills Country Club in White Plains last month, but up until then, money had been raised in small ways through word of mouth.

At the Three Boys from Italy restaurant in Yorktown, there is a jar to collect spare change for the organization.

"It is a good idea," owner Vincent Gaudio said. "All kids from every country should have an opportunity to read and learn. If more people worked like Jaymie, the world would be a better place."

Lanera believes education and learning can help inspire students to be "good citizens and serve others."

Raised in Katonah, she graduated from John Jay High School in Cross River and got a bachelor's degree from St. Bonaventure University in 2006. Two years later, after leaving American University, where she had been pursing a graduate French degree, she was chosen to be part of a nursing scholarship program in South Africa. While she did not continue the program, Lanera said the exposure to it helped focus her post-college years.

She began the foundation in 2008, and made her first trip to Ghana, in West Africa, the next year.

Fluent in French and an experienced world traveler, she created a French-language curriculum at the school in Ghana. She has also provided textbooks and added classes in art, computer training, singing and reading.

The foundation's treasurer is Elisa's husband and Jaymie's father, James Lanera. He runs Lanera Decorating, a Mamaroneck business started by his parents in White Plains.

"Jaymie is using this money to make the world a better place. It makes me proud and would have made her mother so very proud," he said. "Her mother had an amazing spirit. And this is something that has moved Jaymie. I always believed she would do great things."


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