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Build a School in a Developing Nation

by Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Help build a school and you could change the lives of children and families in an entire community. Approximately 57 million primary school aged children were not attending school in 2011, according to the Global Partnership for Education, and many others had dropped out. Many villages, particularly in Sub-Saharan African and South Asia, don't have the enough money to build schools for their children. The average first world nation spends around $4,000 per student each year. In contrast, developing nations spend an average of $40 per student each year. This discrepancy means that children born in poor nations may not even have a schoolhouse to attend.

By building a school in a developing nation, you can help these students get the education they deserve. Studies have shown that when children are given an education, deviant behaviors such as prostitution decline. As a generation of educated children becomes adults, they will improve the quality of life for everyone in their community. Educated children will make more money than their parents and will be better prepared to pull their families out of poverty. The overall health of the community members will also improve. With newfound education and prosperity, diseases such as AIDS will begin to lose their grip and infant mortality rates will improve. What these children learn within the four walls of a newly built schoolhouse can have a ripple effect that improves life for their own children, their grandchildren, and the children of future generations.

You can help build a school even if you have never picked-up a hammer before. Many volunteer vacation programs offer novice builders the chance to travel to a developing nation and construct a school with a team of friendly volunteers. You'll receive basic training and instructions along the way. This unique opportunity lets you get your hands dirty and actually see what a difference you've made before you head back home. But, don't think it's all about hard work. Most programs also give volunteers the chance to travel around the communities they are working in, explore the country, and get to know the people they are helping.

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  • The Global Volunteer Network coordinates trips to the Philippines, where volunteers can participate in the School Building Maintenance program on Tablas Island in Romblon Province. Volunteers can spend time in activities ranging from repairing school buildings to setting up and building a library, painting roofs, walls, chalkboards, desks, teaching aids, and other equipment.  The minimum stay is two weeks. 
  • Global Volunteers coordinates trips to Tanzania, Africa. Volunteers with this organization build classrooms and dormitories, teach, and work on other community projects in an impoverished village.
  • Projects Abroad is involved in various communities in Tanzania to build classrooms, nursery schools, and libraries. Volunteers work alongside experienced builders and learn on-the-job construction skills. You do not need to have construction experience to volunteer. Accommodations and meals are provided. Opportunities for less than one month are available.
  • Perhaps Ghana is your choice of destinations, and if it is, there are projects involved with building schools and homes. Volunteers will learn how to make mud bricks and other construction skills. Accommodations and food are provided, and opportunities for one month or less are available.

When your volunteer vacation comes to an end, you'll be tired and a bit dirty. But, you will have made a big difference in the lives of local children. You'll leave the village with visible proof of the work you've done and happy memories of the people you've helped.

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