In November 2015, I traveled to rural Malawi to build 2 schools through the not-for- profit buildOn (http://www.buildon.org/). Throughout the year before, a group of friends and I fund raised $150,000 to build 2 schools in the Kasungu region of Malawi. We spent the week working, living and playing soccer (futbol) among the locals. As a group, we were able to finish digging and pouring cement into the foundation of the school structure. We also dug the foundation of a new water pump and several latrines. The all-volunteer local labor assisting us in our construction efforts was entirely from the surrounding village. Together, we worked the old- fashioned way, with picks and shovels to dig the foundation, buckets, sand and water (carried on top of the head from the nearest water pump a quarter mile away) to mix the cement by hand.
This is my third opportunity getting to travel abroad to build a school with buildOn (Nepal, Nicaragua and now, Malawi). Each experience and culture I have encountered is distinctly unique but the overall connection to people is similar everywhere you travel. All people have fundamental needs and rights - I believe access to education is one of them. The first day we arrived in the village, the locals welcomed us like celebrities because they had been living in the darkness and sensed that we, working with buildOn, could bring them into the light. This darkness is illiteracy which prevents them from taking the bus into larger towns to buy food because they can't read the signs or vulnerable to being shorted when they sell their crops to brokers. Starting in January 2016, 150 boys and girls will attend each of the two schools where they will have the opportunity to learn to read, write and count among other subjects. The schools will also have adult literacy programs.