In July of 2023, Raymond Steven went home with 2 suitcases filled with toys, clothes and goodies.

Growing up in Sierra Leone, Steven walked 10 miles to school every day.

Now, Steven is a student at BYU-Idaho studying public policy and administration. He began his studies in 2021.

Sierra Leone

Typical classroom in Sierra Leone.

A classroom in Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Raymond Steven

Sierra Leone is a humid green area it’s next to the Atlantic Ocean. There are 18 languages spoken in West Africa. Mende and English are the most commonly spoken languages in Sierra Leone.

The country is undeveloped due to a war there from 1991 to 2002. During that time everything was at a standstill.

In 2014, Ebola struck and killed many people in West Africa. There wasn’t enough modern medicine to help everyone and it was hard for citizens to get food. During that time the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stepped in and helped Steven and his family get food.

Steven was inspired to start a non-profit organization in Rexburg, Idaho in 2023 for the children in his hometown. He named it the Ray Foundation.

Ray Foundation

Children in the classroom in Sierra Leone.

Children in the classroom in Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Raymond Steven

There was no official school where Ray grew up. When he saw what school was like in Rexburg, he knew there was a need and he had the desire to help make a difference for the children in his hometown.

After coming to the United States, Steven realized that people are willing to donate to this cause.

Since starting the non-profit, Steven and his team have raised over $17,000 for a school to be built in Sierra Leone. In July of 2023, they started building the foundation of the building.

Currently, the team is trying to raise enough funds to finish the roof and buy furniture for the school. They are also aiming to build a water pump so the people don’t have to walk to get water for the day.

By the end of 2024, they hope to raise $30,000.

“Many families are uneducated in Sierra Leone and don’t understand the value of education. Most children won’t be able to endure that 10-mile walk to school,” Steven said.

Steven’s goal is for families in his community to see more children become successful and attend school.

“Once the children start attending school, the families will start to see more success coming from their children, causing a ripple effect in the community,” Steven said.

Ray Foundation passes out toys to children in Sierra Leone.

Ray Foundation passes out toys to children in Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Raymond Steven

This inspired Steven to make a difference on his own, giving children experiences he wasn’t able to have at their age.

“I knew about Christmas and gifts, but never questioned why I didn’t get anything, nobody else did either,” Steven said.

In December of 2023, the team passed out gifts to the children in Sierra Leone. They also held a community dinner.

The community in Sierra Leone is currently helping to build the school.

“One thing that I always tell people is that kindness is not expensive,” Steven said. “One dollar goes a long way. I’m not telling these stories for my own gain, I’m telling them to help my community survive through education”

To find out more about the Ray Foundation visit their website.