Leila Janah was and still is admired by many, with her approach to business and humanitarian work aspirational. After being awarded a scholarship to teach English in Ghana, the resident of Los Angeles’ outlook on economic welfare changed. Janah created her own degree in African Development Studies at Harvard University in between working in the Development Research Group at the World Bank. “Frustrated by traditional approaches to poverty alleviation” that she witnessed other companies taking when outsourcing their call centres, Janah was inspired to created Samasource. Samasource aims to “give work” through hiring workers in impoverished areas, training them in AI data annotation and facilitating their work in the global digital economy to earn at least the minimum wage. She has impacted over 50,000 people in developing companies through Samasource whilst being a founding Director of Incentives for Global Health and a Director of CARE USA. Janah’s other businesses include Samaschool, which teaches local communities in the United States about basic computer and digital literacy to increase their job prospects. She also founded LXMI, an ethical fair-trade, organic skin company which helps to conserve 235,000 hectares of wildland in the Amazon. Beyond her professional accolades, Janah cared for her stepdaughter, godchildren, husband, friends and family deeply. She loved the beach, travelling and salsa dancing, and in her last months refused to be belittled, taking up painting and the ukulele. In light of her diagnoses of Epithelioid sarcoma, a rare soft tissue sarcoma (cancer), she worked with Research to the People to help research and raise awareness. On January 24ththe 37 year-old passed away. As her time came to an end her struggle was evident. Janah’s last Instagram post on November 21st2019 shows her starting radiation, contrasting her usual happy, professional content. Despite her “excruciating” pain, she announced her fundraiser raised $14.8 million for global AI data biz driven from Africa.
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Last post for a while…but it was too surreal a day not to share. Today I started radiation — excruciating because the (small) tumor in my neck hits a bundle of nerves and it’s like someone is hammering nails into my clavicle ?. But hours earlier (?? scroll for news!), we announced a fundraise and for-profit spinout for @samasource that changes the game for our industry, and creates a huge windfall for the original nonprofit I founded 11 years ago. Could not be more grateful to our investors and team for making my dream come true. Two steps forward today!! I feel like this raise is a punch in my cancer’s face ??? #sarcoma #sarcomaawareness #radiation #cancerfighter #samasource
As per a statementreleased by “The Sama Family” “we will miss Leila’s infectious laugh, her tenacious spirit, and her ability to inspire all she encountered to be a force for good in the world”.