New Bern man sends lottery earnings back to hometown of Mali, aims to help build classrooms and a dance studio

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 11:39 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) -He’s an energetic dance instructor all the way from West Africa, who set his sights on winning the lottery to help bring children out of poverty with education.

“My goal was to be able to win something big like that to pay for children’s education in West Africa because they suffer a lot,” said Souleymane Sana, NC Education Lottery winner.

The New Bern resident was born and raised in the impoverished town of Mali, where he says dance and music keep people’s minds off the struggle.

“In West Africa, dance and drum is a part of our culture,” Sana said.

Sana feels the turmoil is hard to escape at times, especially when future generations can’t gain academic knowledge that could potentially shift their town’s trajectory.

Tuesday, Sana won a life changing $100,000, thanks to a $3.00 scratch-off ticket and he already knew where the money was going.

“Me sending all this money doesn’t mean I’m rich,” Sana said. “I’m just trying to send it to save these children.”

Sana says he’s been on a nine-year quest to win lotto big bucks, but never planned on basking in his own glory. The West African native says building a dance studio and school for the kids back home was the goal.

If you’re wondering how he continued to press on in the land of the free, two words: crazy faith.

“Keep doing what you’re doing in a smart way with heart,” Sana said. “Positive energy and spirits, I swear your dream will become truthful.”

Sana says he’s in the process of officially claiming his $100,000 and will immediately begin working to send it back to Mali.

Sana also says for those who don’t believe the lottery can change more than one life, take a look at his story.

If you’d like to help Sana’s continued mission for children back in Mali, you can donate to his nonprofit organization: or