A Star Name Assiah Liver Fund was created by Rasheena Phinisee '16 with a mission to "engage, educate, and empower" communities of color through initiatives that focus on the importance of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Named after her daughter Assiah who received liver transplants at ages one and four, Assiah's Liver Fund is the result of a mother's labor of love. But the organization has also reached its success because of Phinisee's management, communication and organizing skills, many of which she fine-tuned at Klein College of Media and Communication.
Phinisee is a Philadelphia native who began attending Temple University in 2004. While at Temple, she was involved on campus as a musician in the poetry scene as well as a participant in other creative events. Later in her college education, she committed to studying communication and public relations.
One of her most formative professional experiences was developing a corporate communication internship position with Aramark that became an internship opportunity for future students. Her hard work while in the position helped her realize that she wanted to make changes that would leave a mark on the world.
"My experiences from Temple [taught me] really quickly on multiple levels. Not just my educational experience but also on my attitude toward my work and the appreciation of my work and the others around me," Phinisee says.
Due to the health complications Assiah experienced shortly after her birth in 2008, Phinisee had to stop her schooling right before earning her degree and put her professional work with media company Radio One on pause. Assiah's Liver Fund was started in 2009 when Phinisee noticed a lack of understanding about organ donation and transplantation in communities of color. Not only are many minorities suspicious of the medical field in the United States for both historical and contemporary reasons, but much of the information many communities of color receive about organ donation and transplantation is outdated. Assiah's Liver Fund has made getting information about organ donation and transplantation easier than ever by implementing accessible ways for both young people and adults to learn about it. Creating and disseminating children's books, hosting ongoing fundraisers like Assiah's Liver-Aid Lemonade stand and Assiah's Lemonade Beauty Bars, and touring that takes the organization nationwide — like exhibiting at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, appearing on the national morning radio show The Breakfast Club and working with the Indiana Donor Network and former Miss Indiana USA Darrian Arch to educate residents about organ donation — help Assiah's Liver Fund get its message to those who need it most.
"By utilizing these particular platforms and making our message something that's interwoven into the more influential and urban communication platforms, we get more people who are interested in learning more about it," Phinisee says. "And also we find that we reach more people of color in medical industries who are looking to collaborate and advance new technologies and sciences for people of color."
Partnerships with several organizations and individuals have made the difference in the growth of Assiah's Liver Fund. One of Assiah's Liver Fund's partners is the Gift of Life Donor Program based in Philadelphia. Christopher Schimpf, the hospital services manager of Gift of Life, has appreciated the strength of both Phinisee and Assiah in dealing with the challenges of living through and educating others about organ donation and transplantation.
"[Phinisee] and Assiah have been tireless advocates and educators for the cause of organ donation and transplantation," Schimpf says. "The impact they've had on our public outreach efforts has been immeasurable. Sharing their story provides inspiration to healthcare providers and patients and families awaiting transplant throughout our region, and has helped to motivate others to register as organ and tissue donors. [Phinisee has] truly multiplied the lifesaving gift Assiah received from her generous donor."
Despite how busy Assiah's Liver Fund has kept her, Phinisee made sure she came back to Temple to complete her education. With the help of Dean David Boardman, she secured a scholarship that helped fund her remaining coursework and in 2016, earned her degree in strategic organizational communications with a concentration in public relations. She holds Klein's current leadership in high regard and believes that Assiah's Liver Fund is better off for the education she received at Temple, helping her make the nonprofit the best it can be.
If you are interested in sponsoring an activity, reading books about organ donation and transplantation to children or purchasing merchandise, please visit the organization's store page. To donate directly to A Star Name Assiah Liver Fund, visit the organization's GoFundMe page.