This story by Yosola Olorunshola was originally posted on Global Citizen.
Jake, a 5-year-old boy from a small village in Ghana, has inadvertently raised thousands of dollars for his school by becoming an internet sensation — entirely by accident.
With cheeks you’ll never forget and an expression that means business, Jake’s face spawned a meme that has been shared countless times. The image went viral, particularly across Africa, with people sharing hilarious captions imagining what Jake was thinking as he concentrated hard on his page.
Both Jake and the photographer who took the original image were initially oblivious to the boy’s growing fan base.
Carlos Cortes took the photo while filming a documentary about Ghanaian-born artist Solomon Adufah’s creative project Homeland Ghana.
Adufah now lives in the US, but returned to Ghana to teach art and creative studies in 2015. He posted the photo to his Instagram, and somehow, the internet just could not resist Jake’s face.
Adufah was surprised to hear about the picture’s spread, and was concerned they were making fun of Jake.
“I thought, I’m not going to respond,” he said, in an interview with the BBC. “But then I remember a moment when I thought, what if all these ‘likes’ turned into actual funds to help?”
So he set up a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for Jake’s education and to support other children in the village of Asempanaye. The campaign has raised almost half of its $20,000 (USD) target in less than a week.
“My goal is to secure funds to help support Jake’s tuition from primary school through Secondary school and beyond,” Adufah writes. “Much like Jake, my goal is to support many of the students who are in Jake’s position.”
“Those children are in need of proper school uniforms, shoes and sports attire. Due to the lack of consistent electricity in Ghana, it is sometimes difficult for the children to do their homework at night as seen in the picture above. I will provide an alternative generator during power outages.”
The school is also in need of clean sanitary water for the children during school hours, sports equipment, sustainable toilets, and new desks, tables and chairs.
The story of Jake’s photo is reminiscent of the “Skeptical Third World Kid” meme that sparked a complex debate on attitudes toward Africa. The image of a Western-looking woman and a young African boy with a look of suspicion on his face, initially triggered ironic lines on perceptions of Africa. But many questioned whether the image was exploitative — using an anonymous child’s face to hash out stereotypes without any concern for his real identity.
But this time, it looks like funny memes can be a force for good — giving Jake 15 minutes of fame and an education that will last a lifetime.
“This money could make a huge difference to the kids,” Adufah told the BBC. “This could be something really positive going forward.”
And if you were wondering what Jake was working so hard on, this might be the answer:
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world -Nelson Mandela. Wow! It’s amazing what we can all achieve working together in unity. I appreciate all the amazing support and love from all over the world to this cause especially in South Africa. Please let me know what country you are supporting from and continue to share the positive message. Let’s make a difference together. Let’s make this viral. Please Click link in my Bio to Donate or visit: WWW.GOFUNDME.COM/HOMELANDGHANA #Africa #SouthAfrica #HomelandGhana #Ghana #Kenya #HomelandAfrica #Uganda #Tanzania #Nigeria #Philanthropy #GivingBack #Positivity #share #love 📷: @therealcarloscort