Helping a school, one desk at a time

 Helping a school, one desk at a time Stepping onto the cracked cement courtyard, dust swirling through the air, I couldn’t help smiling at the cheeky schoolchildren yelling, “Mbola tsara!” in our direction.
Greeting the headmaster in a series of French and English quips (aided by a volunteer Malagasy translator), we set to work touring the mammoth 1,043 student facility located just blocks from the Hotel Grande and other tourist Mecca’s in the heart of Antsiranana in Northern Madagascar.
I was visiting the school in my capacity as the Director of a small organization called The Ladybug Project Inc. Walking past throngs of students, each dressed in identical sky blue tunics, we peaked into classrooms brimming with students; often one motivated teacher for every seventy to ninety pupils. Surveying the school, left to its own devices for decades without much discretionary funding, one couldn’t help but wonder that it had not been condemned as unsafe.
Ceiling tiles missing, and some desks barely holding together, students sat crammed side by side and instructors struggled to teach basic concepts thanks to a lack of school supplies.
The amazing thing, though, was that despite the clear need of the students and the school for supplies and assistance, hopes and dreams still lived on. Statistically speaking, over ninety percent of the students came from families with an income of less than two dollars per day, yet they were present and attentive in a way that I’d never seen before.
Taking in my surroundings, I knew that The Ladybug Project Inc., though limited, could make a difference. With the help of a volunteer translator, patience, and many taxi rides, we quickly hired a local carpenter to build sixty new desks. True, there were dozens of other projects we could have funded within the school, but given our limited funding, we decided that allowing students comfortable seating during their hour-long classes was the best, first step towards a better educational experience.
Weeks later, and just hours after we witnessed hand carts push freshly built desks through the hot August city center, the headmaster cried in thanks at the gift we had given. As if by fate, it was that day that I noticed distinctive graffiti written on the wall. With my French dictionary in hand, I slowly translated the words, which read:
“Only education can truly bring poverty to an end.”

Profile: Kim Reuter is the Executive Director of The Ladybug Project Inc. (www.theladybugproject.com), which connects communities across the world to advance education and healthcare in Africa. For more information about the projects in Madagascar, please visit (http://www.theladybugproject.com/madagascar.html) or email us at kereuter@theladybugproject.com