Seattle's hope for Dwankhozi

QA school community travels to Zambia to set up schools

A group of four from Queen Anne Elementary School — kindergarten teachers Katie Cryan Leary and Rene Yokoyama, third-grade teacher Megan Klope and principal David Elliott — left for Dwankhozi, Zambia, on the June 21 and returned July 2, traveling 9,647 miles round-trip with members of the organization Dwankhozi Hope.

Dwankhozi Hope, founded in Queen Anne, is modeled after the Zambian proverb “When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run far.” Founder Charles Masala, one of 10 siblings, fully grasps this adage, as the community in Zambia that raised him is credited with much of his success. 

Having navigating the odds of graduating from University of Zambia (8 percent of eligible students in Zambia attend high school, according to Aid for Africa), Masala studied in the United Kingdom at the University of Newcastle and later at the University of British Columbia and is now a civil engineer in B.C.

But his work in education was not done. Masala said that his success can be traced, in great part, to the emphasis that his grandfather and family placed upon education. Eventually, his grandfather’s value of education translated to Masala’s aspirations of spreading education to those less fortunate than him.  

Transforming a community

During a stay in Queen Anne, Masala spoke to the Bethany Presbyterian Church congregation on Queen Anne about a community in Zambia that had taken the initiative, without government aid, to construct a rudimentary school for their children. At the school’s conception, volunteer teachers drew lessons on the dirt floor of a small hut. 

The village’s efforts compelled two Queen Anne elementary parents — current program director Beth MacLean and board chair Matt MacLean — to form Dwankhozi Hope, with the goal of providing financial support for education and health within the rural Dwankhozi community. 

In one year, the organization raised about $20,000 in donations for the construction of the first school building in Dwankhozi, replacing the thatched roof and mud walls that the village had originally built. 

Beth MacLean recalled the land negotiations as “a testing mix of government and tribal negotiations,” until the three parties reached an appropriate assent. They then realized that the construction of the school was merely a small portion of the overall project.

Nearly seven years since its conception, Dwankhozi Hope has established another building to accommodate the growing number of students. In addition, the organization 

purchased bikes for the teachers’ commute and erected houses for them to live in. Then a borehole was excavated for the community to access clean water, and ventilated latrines were built. The latest of these endeavors is the installation of new solar-powered bulbs to maximize the time that the school can be used. English classes are now available to adults after the school day. 

Dwankhozi Hope then helped to create a Parent Teacher Association for the community, which they consult with regularly on how funds should be allocated. The members also started programs that teach the villagers sustainable farming techniques.

The organization hopes to build a clinic in the village and structure a strategy for the empowerment of women. 

“These simple undertakings have been profoundly transformative for the community,” MacLean said. 

The school now teaches 600 students in grades 1 through 9, and Dwankhozi Hope has pledged that each student who passes the rigorous government-administered exam at the end of grade 9 will receive a scholarship for private secondary education, which costs about $1,000 dollars a year. (The average Zambian family makes just more than $1,400 a year according to Wikipedia.) Thus far, 18 students have graduated and are now studying in high school. 

“We have watched the kids grow up. We are invested in their futures. We have seen them succeed,” MacLean said. 

Connecting students

The Queen Anne Elementary School contingent went to Zambia to complete one of the organization’s periodic project check-ins, but this time, they’re traveling with a set of new goals. 

The first of these goals is to deliver a program called Worldreader, which has partnered with Dwankhozi Hope to provide 50 new Kindles, each preloaded with 100 books — all in English, all focused for early readers — for the students. 

Their second goal is to expand upon working programs in place and giving guidance for the PTA. 

“Enveloping these other schools into the Dwankhozi Hope footprint — that is, using the successful model we have used in Dwankhozi elsewhere — is the long-term goal,” MacLean explained. 

The final goal is to spur a meaningful relationship between Queen Anne Elementary School and the Dwankhozi Basic School. 

“We would like to connect with the teachers, staff and students of Dwankhozi,” principal Elliott said. “Our world is getting more and more connected all the time, and we want our students to see, hear and learn from others all over the world. We are not isolated, and we must intentionally reach out to the world so our students can connect with others whose lives are very different than their own.

“My hope is that, in the future, we will be able to have student/staff exchanges, regular conversations and joint projects that will be mutually beneficial for our schools.” 

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