Jhene Aiko has been busy this year. The singer/songwriter released her second studio album, Trip, in June and hasn’t stopped. In October, the Grammy-nominated artist teamed up with the Get Schooled Foundation to launch her #PennyPens campaign with hopes of encouraging children and teens to read and write more and earlier this month, she made an authorial debut with her poetry book, “2Fish.”
On Christmas Day, Aiko furthered her momentum with the launch of the W.A.Y.S. Foundation, a tribute to her late brother, Miyagi, who died of brain cancer at 26. With the foundation, Aiko hopes to give hope to those in need.
On Christmas Eve, Aiko’s foundation made its first donation—a surprise offering—to Lily Olive, a five-year-old from Eagle Rock, California. Aiko visited Olive at her home and gave her and her family $15,000 for medical bills after the young girl’s Thanksgiving break diagnosis of leukemia. Olive has been battling it since.
In an interview, Aiko tells Billboard, “I decided to make a donation on my family’s behalf in which we plan to continue to help people and families affected by cancer.”
The acronym W.A.Y.S. is derived from, “Why Aren’t You Smiling,” coined by Aiko’s brother Miyagi amid his fight with cancer. He tweeted the phrase often during treatment to maintain and present joy in spite of his diagnosis. Miyagi serves as the largest impetus for Aiko having started the foundation with her family.
The idea is that his good humor and memory will live on through Aiko’s continued efforts.