This past June, Drew Kaplan, Staff Engineer at Roux’s New York headquarters office, had the opportunity to spend a week in Malawi to help build a primary school. Malawi is a country of extreme poverty in southeast Africa. “It was such an incredible and life-changing experience, and I discovered so much more about what life is like on the other side of the world,” Drew shared. Read more from Drew’s perspective below on his experience in Africa working to build the school.
Each day started at 5:30 am. The village would wake up to the roosters since most people work on farms. I’d say “good morning” to my host family in Chichewa, the local language, and met up with my group to eat breakfast. The mornings were spent at the construction site where we used shovels and hoes to begin excavation for a new school. We took turns digging, carrying bricks, and mixing concrete in the ground. As you could imagine, we didn’t have to worry about any underground utilities—no electricity, no plumbing! The design of the school was a two-room, one-story rectangular building. With all the activity going on, it was a special feeling seeing the community work together.
Midday, we’d leave the Site to get lunch and begin our daily cultural activity. This included peanut farming, talking with the locals (using a translator so we could really connect), and lots of singing and dancing. After the cultural activity, we’d spend a few hours with our host family before dinner. I brought playing cards and a frisbee (the children LOVED the frisbee). The translators came around so we could have more in-depth conversations with everyone (I was still working on my Chichewa). One of my favorite parts of the trip was when a group of around 30 kids showed up to my host family’s compound and we all played frisbee and danced around together.
After dinner, we’d have a few more hours to spend time with our host family before going to bed and starting the next day. The trip ended with a closing ceremony, and we said our heartfelt goodbyes. At the time of our departure, the foundation of the school was being built out of cinderblocks—we were even able to sign our names on one of the blocks. On the way back to the capital city, we stopped and visited another BuildOn school that was completed in a village about two hours south. Seeing how many students showed up to greet us, both young and old, made the entire trip worth more than anything I could ask for.
A few weeks ago, we got word that the entire school had been finished and is in operation. Thank you to everyone who supported this trip, none of this would be possible without your generosity. I look forward to embarking on another trip with BuildOn in the coming years and continuing to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy all over the world.
BuildOn has built over 2,500 schools in developing countries, servicing over 300,000 children and adults thanks to 3.1 million volunteer workdays. In the world’s economically poorest countries, BuildOn empowers local residents to take the lead in bringing education and opportunity to their communities. To read more about this organization, please click here.