Andrena Sawyer is Sierra
Leonean by birth, but has lived in the United States since she was 9 years old.
she is a sister to two wonderful young women—Ethleen and Hannah Sawyer, and
daughter to two great parents—Andrew and Regina Sawyer. She is a business owner
who is the Founder and President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, a nonprofit advisory
firm in the Washington DC area. Andrena is an author of two books—The Long Way Home and The Other Side of Assertiveness.  

Faith- I grew up in a Christian
household. As a child, my family attended church programs consistently, and I
believe that laid the foundation for the role that faith plays in my life now.
As I started to mature as an adult, I used as my faith to define my guiding
principles. Now, almost everything that I do, including run my business, is
guided by the principles of my faith—integrity, kindness, compassion, grace,
justice. It is compass by which my life is lived.
Hope- When I think about my journey in
life, I think the one word that perfectly describes it is hope. I remember
leaving Sierra Leone when I was 9 years old, and being very uncertain about
what was ahead for my family and me. Even back then, an optimist in me kept
assuring me that things would be ok. Today, whenever I encounter a challenge, I
find it much easier to believe through hope that things will be ok.
Simple- I am a jeans and t-shirt type
of girl. My friends give me a hard time about it all the time, but I have
always preferred the simple things in life. In fact, I laugh about it now, but
it was not until I was 28 years old that I started wearing make-up—that’s how
plain and simple I prefer things. I believe that the most powerful messages—beauty,
nobility, compassion—don’t need flare. Authenticity speaks volumes, and those
who love you for you don’t need the flare to stay with you.
My family. As a unit, I like to think of us as survivors. Not
just because of our move from Sierra Leone during the civil war, but because we
have persevered through so much. In many African cultures, there is an
understanding that what happens at home, stays at home. There have been many
challenges that my family has encountered in the 20 years that we have lived in
the United States. Many of those challenges, others will not know, but my
family continues to stand on our faith convictions to become stronger and
closer. It inspires me to see how much my parents believe in my potential, and
how much my entire family supports me.
My father—he is the epitome of a hard
worker. My father is diligent and sacrificial. No one human being is perfect,
but I’m thankful for the tone he set in our home in when it comes to faith an
Priscilla Shirer– she recently released a movie, War Room, and now many more people know
her. I’ve never met her, but she’s been a role model since I was about 15 years
old. Her book, A Jewel in His Crown,
changed my life. She made me believe that it was possible to live out faith in
a relevant way.
Cheryl Wallace– Cheryl was one of my supervisors when
I decided to quit my job and start P.E.R.K. Consulting. She advocated for me
and challenged me to take a step of faith, and I am eternally grateful. I
remember visiting her home once, and seeing that she had a “giving room” in the
basement. It is a room full of gifts she purchases whenever she thinks of
people. When the occasion arises, she gives. I remember leaving her home and
thinking, “I want to be like that one day.” I want to give without expecting in
return and without hesitation.
In the next 5 years, I hope to see the continued growth of
P.E.R.K. Consulting. I hope that we grow in capacity, and that we are still
serving small businesses and nonprofits on a much smaller scale. I also hope to
have published another book by then.
I think African women, like other
women, contend with cultural pressures. There is pressure to conform to
society’s ideals of beauty, feminism and ambition. There’s familiar pressure to
fit into a quaint box (i.e. married by age 25, doctorate degree by age 28, two
children by age 30). While all of these things are great, I think it’s
important for African women to understand their worth independent of these
pressures. My contribution to this end is what I offer through my company. We
offer personal and professional development series for all women who want to
learn how to be their best. To date, we have facilitated over 100 empowerment
workshops for women.  
To unwind and relax, I do a lot of reading. I’m very simple, and
I tend to be an introvert at times. After a stressful day, I am likely to be at
home resting, reading, or watching a good movie.
The African Woman is a pillar wherever
she goes. She is the backbone of her family, a trendsetter, a prayer warrior, a
servant, and whatever else is needed at the time. How can we not celebrate
that? Some of the most effervescent and powerful people I’ve known are African
women. I think the celebration and empowerment is overdue. My hope is that if
we can celebrate her now, she will be empowered and inspired to equip the next
generation of African women who will also be pillars at home and in the
If I worked in the Africa Union, I
would seek the responsibility of helping to creating education policies for
young girls. I believe that education unlocks potential and serves as a
catalyst for change at the highest level. Unfortunately, due to stigmas and
lack of resources, many African girls do not get adequate resources for a
quality education.
Whatever your hands have found to do,
do it with integrity and purpose. I believe that despite the hardships of war,
disease, famine and corruption, the reason Africans continue to thrive is
because we are some of the most gifted, creative and diligent people on earth. My
advice to African women is to continue to be part of that narrative. Whether
you are an engineer, an author, or a doctor, continue to thrive, not just for
the sake of redefining the culture and eradicating stigma,
but so that future generations can stand on our shoulders and aspire to thrive
as well.