Tom Affleck and Sarah Kerr, born and raised in Almonte, share the dream of empowering all girls and boys around the world with a basic education.
While this may seem like a lofty goal, they have spent the past decade building up SchoolBOX, a Canadian and Nicaraguan registered charity, to do just that. Since Tom Affleck founded SchoolBOX in Almonte in 2006, ‘the little organization that could’ has grown from merely a dream with few supporters and even fewer resources, to a thriving grassroots organization.
SchoolBOX has broken ground on 90 classrooms in Nicaragua and equips over 18,000 children annually with the school supplies they need to get an education. Drawing on ten years of experience ‘Making Education Possible’ in Nicaragua, Sarah Kerr, SchoolBOX’s Executive Director plans to bring the organization’s successful model of educational empowerment home to Canada just in time for the 150th anniversary.
“I started the Indigenous Youth Empowering Students program in 2009 with the desire to give Indigenous youth a platform to learn about, embrace and share their culture with others in an empowering way, all while helping to build a school for kids in Nicaragua”, said Kerr. “What we’ve found with the IYES program is that through helping others, youth are able to tap into their power to be forces of change in their own communities back home in Canada”.
This year, SchoolBOX is partnering with IYES alumni Terri Meekis to build a library in her Northwestern Ontario community of Wabauskang First Nation, on Treaty 3 territory. This is the first time that SchoolBOX will work directly with Indigenous leaders on a project in Canada. It is also the first time Terri’s community will have access to books and educational resources. Her three children currently have to travel over an hour outside of the Wabauskang reserve to access primary education and library services.
The new project is simply called ‘SchoolBOX Canada’, and the new library will be delivered in the fall of 2017. It will act as a model for future partnerships between SchoolBOX and Indigenous leaders who are champions for education.
Currently, less than 40 per cent of Indigenous students who start grade one will graduate from high school, compared to the national high school graduation rate of 87 per cent. The lack of access to basic education within rural Indigenous reserve communities is a contributing factor to those results.
Senator Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated in the Commission’s final report that, “Education is what got us into this mess — and education is key to getting us out of it.”
“Believe it or not, the situation for some girls and boys in our own country is not so different from in Nicaragua”, says Kerr. “SchoolBOX has a proven track-record of working alongside local government, the Ministry of Education, community leaders, and international volunteers to bring simple but effective infrastructure and programs to children in need of hope. We are committed to a community-centred approach”.
In addition to the library project, SchoolBOX is also welcoming a group of Indigenous youth from across Canada to Nicaragua this August as part of its Indigenous Youth Empowering Students program.
To donate or to learn more about IYES or the SchoolBOX Canada project, visit schoolbox.ca/canada.
SchoolBOX is committed to ‘Making Education Possible’ for the children of Nicaragua and the world. SchoolBOX implements cost effective programming by building schools, providing school supplies, libraries, washrooms, and teacher training. SchoolBOX has built 84 classrooms, and 54 libraries in Nicaragua and serves over 18,000 students and teachers in over 100 communities each year. In 2017, they will implement their first library project in a Northwestern Ontario Indigenous community.
Our community is united in love for the children we serve and the belief that education can defeat poverty. SchoolBOX is comprised of thousands of people from different faiths and socioeconomic backgrounds. We empower educators and students, and they in turn empower their communities and change our world.
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