February 2018 – First bricks laid on Classroom 100!
The resilient students at El Caracol School were studying under a wooden beam structure with a sheet metal roof, that was open to the elements including rain, wind and dust. Because there were no walls or lockable doors, the children had to carry their own desk and chair to school every day to make sure they would not be stolen or damaged. The community is so remote, that there is no road access. Despite these challenges, 17 dedicated students attend the school each day in the hopes that education will provide them with a better future.
Spirits were high last week at El Caracol, as the entire community gathered to welcome a team from SchoolBOX who hiked in to lay the first bricks on SchoolBOX’s 100th classroom, and the first for El Caracol. Tom Affleck, SchoolBOX’s Founder, was in Nicaragua to lay the first bricks at El Caracol School, and to celebrate the incredible milestone of breaking ground on SchoolBOX’s 100th classroom.
Tom stressed that the story of El Caracol parallels the SchoolBOX story. “It was a shot in the dark that this community would ever get a school. This community is so far off the radar of the government. It is extremely remote and has no road access. People survive from subsistence farming. Every brick for this school has to be carried in by wheelbarrows, donkeys, or people. The parents are just stunned that SchoolBOX is willing to go that far to invest in education for their kids.”
SchoolBOX also started with a dream that seemed impossible – to help every child in Nicaragua receive a basic education. “In the start-up phase, we had absolutely no funding. We were putting in our own money to do this, based on our dream and our vision. Little by little we got charitable status and each year SchoolBOX grew very organically. We were up against insurmountable odds, and for us to be here now laying the bricks on our 100th classroom, it is so surreal.”
The goal of building 100 classrooms developed as SchoolBOX was constructing its very first classroom in San Santiago, Nicaragua. “I thought it would be amazing if we reached 50 classrooms”, said Affleck, “but it was our Executive Director Sarah Kerr and our Nicaraguan Director Ronald Chavarria who had this dream to build 100 classrooms.”
Sarah is constantly amazed at the support from the local community in Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley to fundraise, donate, and volunteer for SchoolBOX. “Brick by brick we were able to build a purpose-driven organization that is having real impact. We did it one step at a time, with people working together for the common goal of empowering kids to get an education.”
Sarah credits the many dedicated volunteers from communities like Kanata, Nepean, Manotick, Stittsville, Carleton Place, Richmond, and Almonte that have held bake sales, trivia nights, coffee houses, bottle drives, and more, all with the purpose of supporting SchoolBOX’s education programs in Nicaragua. As a case in point, the 100th classroom at El Caracol was funded by the Amazing People Gala of Ottawa, as well of the community of Almonte through the annual Latin Fiesta for SchoolBOX.
With a new family member on the way in April 2018, Kerr will be stepping back from SchoolBOX for maternity leave. While seeing the first bricks laid on classroom 100 feels like a dream come true, Kerr knows that there is still a lot of work for SchoolBOX to do in Nicaragua, where children still only have a 56% chance of graduating from grade 6. “There are a lot of ways for people to get involved, all at different price brackets. Just $10 makes a difference by providing a child with the school supplies for a whole year, while $25,000 is enough to build an entire classroom for deserving students.”
The 100th classroom at El Caracol will be completed and inaugurated in May 2018. Those interested in donating to SchoolBOX can visit schoolbox.ca/donate. Visit schoolbox.ca/volunteer for more information on how to become an international volunteer in Nicaragua.