Togolese in America

The Djagli family prepares for dinner.MinnPost photo by Steve Date

The Djagli family prepares for dinner.

WHY WE ARE HERE

Cowami and Akossiwa Djagli won a lottery in 2001. By this time next year, they hope to be movie stars.

Their lottery winnings weren't a large sum of money, but a chance to move to the United States from their native Togo in West Africa. It was a dream come true, but they've come to realize that living a better life in America isn't enough. Now they have a new dream — to use what they've learned here to help improve the situation back home.

As for becoming movie stars, Cowami's cousin Ade Adigoun wrote a screenplay for a romantic drama called "Beyond Love." The Djaglis and a group of other Togolese actors have been rehearsing the script for several months. Shooting will begin soon and they hope sales of the film will raise enough money to help those they left behind in Africa.

Togo is a small country in West Africa.Cowami, 32, is an operations clerk at Wells Fargo. Akossiwa, 29, is assistant chief housekeeper at the Millenium Hotel in Minneapolis. In the evening, they attend classes offered by the Minneapolis Public Schools Adult Basic Education program at the Lehmann Center.

Togo is not familiar to many Americans. It is a 60-mile wide, finger-shaped country, smaller in area than West Virginia. It's not as well known as some of its neighbors, such as Ghana and Nigeria, and hasn't experienced the amount of strife of some other African countries.

Poverty is pervasive and public health is also an issue, with many rural areas lacking clean water and good medical care. Because Togolese must pay for their education, many children do not attend school. Cowami wonders why most international aide efforts go to countries in the eastern and southern parts of Africa rather than Togo. He says that many people in Togo are also lacking basic necessities and that until recently, their government hasn't been helpful to those in need.

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