My grandfather, Christian d’Epenoux, was an international reporter for several French weekly news magazines such as the AFP (Agence France Presse), L’Express and l’Aurore. Over the years, he traveled throughout Africa to document various stories, from local tribe rivalries to more international conflicts like the Kolwezi operation in Congo.
I developed a deep fascination for Africa hearing all of his travel stories while I grew up. I’ve always had a hard time comprehending why, being born in France, I was lucky enough to have a mandatory and free education while almost 60 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school.
The chart recently shared by the Gates Foundation (below) resonates with me. I was one of the lucky ones to start my own life ahead, but “hundreds of millions of people around the world have to overcome hurdle after hurdle to be successful” as the accompanying post highlights.
That insight is why I’m participating in a volunteer project to build a school in one of Africa’s poorest countries, Malawi, to offer the gift of education to those children that started farther behind. In late October, I’ll be joining a team of 15 volunteers to go on-site and build the next buildOn primary school in the Kasungu region, which will end up serving more than 200 local students.
I really value that the project not only consists of building a school but also maintaining it while educating the local community, therefore improving their lives for the long term. We’re also conducting an adult literacy program to help them run a business to finance the school costs across many years. Furthermore, we’ll be testing a prototype using the Salesforce Platform for Change to collect data about the community, the school, and students. Note that it’s a major struggle to collect data in the field for nonprofits in disconnected areas; it’s still mostly done with pen and paper. We’ll be sharing all of our findings with the government of Malawi, with whom we’re collaborating.
Our first trek will kick-off school construction with a groundbreaking ceremony. We will also test the Platform for Change prototype. We will then go to the Chipoza community and stay in local families’ houses. The project will continue further with other trips scheduled for the following months to finish the school construction and to optimize the data collection prototype.
The United Nations gave us a clear framework for what we should focus on over the next 10 years (and beyond) with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Having those common goals is just the first step, however. One of the hardest challenges we have is to measure our progress against others on a global basis. That’s why our vision is to empower nonprofits & governments to track their impact everywhere they work and aggregate the data as quickly as possible.
I’m looking forward to go on-site and meet with the Chipoza community and its children. You can learn more and support this project on my fundraiser page here: http://bit.ly/Malawi-clemence.
My grandfather would be proud to see that we’re helping children to go to school and, as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Image courtesy Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation