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June 2018 – Mark Radke’s mission at Las Nubes School

Sergeant Mark Radke served the Ontario Provincial Police faithfully for 30 years, but rather than looking back on his years of service he is looking ahead to his next big project: building a new school for impoverished children in Nicaragua through the Canadian charity SchoolBOX.

At 22 years old, Radke was hired by the OPP and posted to the Hawksbury detachment in May 1988. He spent his 30-year policing career serving in five OPP detachments in Hawksbury, Kanata, Goulbourn, Kemptville, and Ottawa. Retiring as a Sergeant, Radke officially handed in his uniform on May 31st and stepped into a new chapter of his life. Radke is working with SchoolBOX to ensure that children in a rural community called Las Nubes in Matagalpa, Nicaragua have a new and structurally sound classroom to replace the wooden shack with a dirt floor that they are currently taking classes in.

“As I’ve gotten older, I have become more involved in volunteer work”, said Radke. Since 2015, he has volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope program. As a cancer survivor himself, Radke now drives cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. He is also a team organizer in Relay for Life. Radke says these initial forays into volunteerism are what led him to look for other opportunities to make a difference in the world during his retirement.

“I have always been drawn towards helping underprivileged children in some way”, says Radke.  “I wanted to build a school or hospital; something permanent that would be valuable to a community even beyond my lifetime. As time went on I began leaning towards building a school and needed to find an organization I could partner with. I came across SchoolBOX’s website, and was captivated by the story of their humble beginnings, their lean operation costs, their local Nicaraguan team, and the massive impact they’ve had empowering kids to go to school.”

Jon Tam, SchoolBOX’s Acting Executive Director, commented that the members of the community in Las Nubes are extremely excited to meet Radke, and many parents have already pledged to volunteer their time to help with the construction of the new school. “People in this community have very little, but they realize that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. The parents want their kids to dream of becoming more than subsistence farmers, and more importantly to achieve their dreams through education. Mark’s gift of education will have a ripple effect throughout the whole community of Las Nubes.”

SchoolBOX began in 2006, when Founder Tom Affleck gave two girls a notebook and a pencil in rural Nicaragua. Immediately, their father’s face lit up as he exclaimed, “Now my children will be able to go to school”. In that moment, Tom realized that simple tools that we often take for granted had the potential to empower children to get an education and ultimately break the cycle of poverty. Based on that small act, SchoolBOX was born.

Since those humble beginnings, SchoolBOX has constructed 99 classrooms, 75 libraries, and 59 washrooms. In addition to its infrastructure programs, SchoolBOX equips over 20,000 children in 108 communities in Nicaragua with the school supplies they need to get a basic education on an annual basis. In Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, the elementary school graduation rate is just 56%. SchoolBOX’s programs are designed to encourage children to go to school, and stay in school year after year.

Now officially in retirement, Radke plans to spend more time with his family and friends, and will continue his volunteer work with the Cancer Society. He hopes that his family will be able to travel to Nicaragua in early 2019 to see his classroom constructed and take part in the inauguration celebrations with the children, teachers, and entire community of Las Nubes. “I want to be there to see the finished classroom and witness the smiles on the kid’s faces when they see their new school for the first time.”

To learn more about “Mark’s Mission” to build a classroom in Nicaragua, and to donate online, visit the SchoolBOX website (www.schoolbox.ca/marksmission) or email MarksMission@hotmail.com.

Media coverage:

Ottawa Matters – Local OPP sergeant kicking off retirement by building a school in Nicaragua

Stittsville Central – Retired Stittsville OPP sergeant building new school in Nicaragua

Peterborough Examiner – Retired OPP officer from Peterborough off to build a new school

Photos of the current conditions at Las Nubes School: