Imagine going to school in a cramped, dark, ramshackle building built from cinderblocks and asbestos. Imagine squinting through the 85-degree jungle heat as your teacher uses his last inch of chalk to draw out your lesson. Imagine using second-hand books that aren’t even in your own language. Imagine never going at all, just because you are a girl.
Education is often something we take for granted, but these are the daily realities for the students of the one-room schoolhouse in Ableizhi, Colombia. It doesn’t have to be this way. With your help, we have the opportunity to transform the lives of these students forever.
SO WHAT ARE WE DOING?
In 2015, Manuel Sauna, the primary schoolteacher for the village, appealed to Global Heritage Fund to completely remodel his schoolhouse. One of the few schools to provide instruction in the indigenous language, Kogi, as well as Spanish, it is remarkable both for the novelty of its curriculum and the perseverance of its teacher: Sauna was the first to convince a family to send their girl to school, an unprecedented feat for the region. He has since convinced six more to do the same. With our support, we hope to achieve school attendance for all children, girls and boys, in the vicinity of Ableizhi.
We propose to completely remodel the existing school – a cramped, hot, and uninviting cinder block building – to improve facilities and provide the community and the children with a beautiful, spacious, and airy building. The designs are already complete and have been approved by the community. We will also install a basic solar panel system to provide lighting and power for the school.
WHY ARE WE BUILDING A SCHOOL?
The community of Ableizhi is in the Sierra Nevada de Madre mountains of Colombia, very close to Ciudad Perdida. Since we began our involvement at the site, the tourist infrastructure around Ciudad Perdida has improved, which has brought about a large increase in tourism and an estimated yearly tourism revenue of $3 million. However, many of the benefits of this increased tourism have not reached the villagers surrounding the site.
Community development is one of the pillars of Global Heritage Fund’s approach to sustainable conservation, and so we have always worked with the communities and responded to their requests. In 2014, we worked with the indigenous community and the local government on the construction of a health post, which is now benefiting the nearby families as well as visitors who may need immediate assistance. Similarly, we consider this project a particularly good candidate for empowering the communities around Ciudad Perdida. Providing an education for the children today will ensure a strong, resilient community tomorrow.
HOW ARE WE DOING IT?
We first learned of the school in 2014, when we began informally supporting it with soccer balls, children´s games, and seeds for their garden. We have provided these materials for four semesters as of now, but we are now being asked to do more.
In similar fashion to the Health Post project we completed at Ciudad Perdida in 2014, we conducted a co-design exercise with the community. Our associated architect sent off a design, we received feedback from the community, and we then modified it accordingly. The estimated costs for the project are approximately US $90,000, with a significant amount of co-funding in labor costs being provided by the community itself. Once remodeled, the schoolhouse will go from two schoolrooms in approximately 1,100 square feet, to four schoolrooms and an additional covered deck and teaching are in approximately 2400 square feet. This will effectively enable them to teach up to 80 children.
During late fall of 2015, the project was presented to the Tamarin Foundation for funding, which has generously granted GHF with US $60,000 for the school rehab. As such we are currently seeking US $ 30,000 in co-funding to be able to complete the project as we have envisioned.
We have already raised $60,000. We only need $30,000 more to make this a reality. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to uplift a rural, indigenous community and empower them to seize control of their future. Give the gift of education. Join us to make learning a reality for dozens of young people in rural Colombia.