Finding Dignity and Salvation in Education 

The Daisy Jopling Foundation collaborates closely with Croton’s African Women’s Education Fund (AWEF).

Two local non-profits have taken to heart the business maxim “think local, act global.”   

Peekskill resident Daisy Jopling, a celebrated classical/rock violinist and composer, promotes local and global connections through her Daisy Jopling Music Mentorship Foundation (DJMMF).  

She, in turn, works closely with Croton-on-Hudson resident Richard Snow, Treasurer of Croton-based African Women’s Education Fund (AWEF). The organization raises money to provide tuition and boarding school expenses for high school education for 113 impoverished girls in KenyaTanzaniaAngolaZimbabwe and Zambia. 


Declan Thornton (l), with two generations of Dingers, Maggie and her father Tim Dinger, at Sept 17 AWEF fundraiser at The Grandstand in Croton-on-Hudson.

Earlier this year, the Jopling Foundation, led by mentor Dean Fransen, held a songwriting workshop for Peekskill students Destiny PrestonStephanie CabreraJustin HahnKathryn Czerwinski and South Salem student Joseph Klettner. Two months later, the students and their teacher had birthed an anthem for the global student community: “We Are All Connected.”   

The song is a blend of poignant emotions – even as it speaks of the loss of connections and loneliness that Covid visited on students, the musical refrain reminds us of deeper, unbreakable connections.  

Students at a school in Kenya perform “We Are All Connected,” which can be viewed on YouTube.

AWEF-supported students at the Mamma Africa Secondary School in Kenya received the song from Jopling and Snow, and then recorded it. Their rendition of “We Are All Connected” can be viewed on Youtube.   

Jopling says she was “blown away by the Kenyan students’ talents, theatrical creativity and vocal beauty.” Snow adds that he was “deeply moved by the students’ grit and grace. Without the scholarship support from AWEF, this opportunity would not have been possible.”   


AWEF was founded in 2004 by a handful of Croton residents, including Gaynell Cronin and her daughter Claire Cronin. Their support of girls’ education in Africa was inspired in part by Capuchin Br. Jack Rathschmidt, who had returned from East Africa with the compelling mantra, “The need is so great, let’s do what we can.”   

AWEF’s initial fundraising followed its hearing of African girls who face adolescent marriage if they are not enrolled in school, but whose families cannot pay school fees. Enough money was raised to educate four girls at a cost of about $700 per student per year.   

Over the years, AWEF has benefited from the support of three generations of the Cronin-Dinger Family who serve on its Board, lead fundraising, prepare food, open their homes for AWEF events, visit the students in Africa, and generously donate funds.   


Since its inception 17 years ago, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit AWEF has provided more than 750 annual scholarships to young women.  Every dollar that is raised by AWEF goes to educate girls, with any administrative overhead funded by personal contributions from its Board of Directors. 

Says AWEF Board Member Sue Ellen Maher: “We’ve learned that an educated girl becomes a role model for the community, is more likely to marry at a later age, has fewer and healthier children, is more likely to be more productive at home and on the job, earns higher wages; educating girls helps to break the cycle of poverty, and seeds dignity.”   

Maher recognizes that “not only does this help communities in Africa, but the connections we share with them have greatly enriched me and my family.”


Patty Buchanan is a Board Member of African Women’s Education Fund, a Founding Member of Croton100, and Co-Chair of Climate Reality Project, Westchester Chapter.

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About the Author: Patty Buchanan