The expansive beaches and crystal blue waters of Sierra Leone may suggest paradise, but the harsh reality is that the majority of its citizens live in poverty. .In a country still recovering from a civil war, one in eight women die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, and more than 85 in 1,000 infants do not survive past age 1.

The American-born daughter of Sierra Leonean immigrants, Nadia Sasso, Class of '11, finds the situation untenable. "My friends and I are Americans by birthright, but Sierra Leoneans by blood," she says. "We wanted to find a way to help the people of a country that feels so close, yet is so far away."

While finishing her senior year at Bucknell, Nadia collaborated with her friends to secure a $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace program to establish Yehri Wi Cry, which means "hear our cry" in Krio, a language of Sierra Leone. The organization seeks to empower women by providing sterile birthing kits, along with infant-care products and information to encourage women to seek prenatal and postnatal care.

Nadia is co-vice president of Yehri Wi Cry. She is working to get the organization classified as nonprofit - all while working professionally as Communications Associate for Disney Consumer Products in Los Angeles.

She says that majoring in English and sociology, serving as an Undergraduate Executive Intern, and participating in social change initiatives on campus prepared her for the leadership challenges of life after Bucknell. "I've always had a passion for helping others see the world in a different lens," says Nadia. "I am glad that Yehri Wi Cry helps me channel that energy and to bring young people together to use our respective strengths to do good."

Related reading: