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For some students at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, a rigorous and demanding academic life is not enough. These students balance schoolwork with founding and managing new non-profit organizations.
LBJ student Rick Dooley serves as president of the recently founded the non-profit School Without Boundaries (SWB) to help bring educational opportunities and basic health care to orphans, children, and single mothers in at-risk communities world-wide. SWB funds projects proposed by university students who want to work in specific areas, including providing much needed supplies to the local communities.
Currently, SWB is partnered with the Chikumbuso Community School and Women's Center in Lusaka, Zambia. The school and women's center provide formal and informal educational courses for more than 300 pupils. The women's center also supports the Chikumbuso Widow's Group, a micro-enterprise founded by single mothers who are widowed by the death of their partners from AIDS.
"The goal is to really re-think how aid is given to at risk communities. We are partnering with Austin area non-profits, and we will take that spirit of partnership this year to Zambia, to partner with local high school students who will have their first jobs working in their own community," said SWB board member and second year LBJ student Annie Bricker.
To help raise funds, SWB held its first benefit concert on April 13 featuring local bands at Dominican Joe Coffee Shop, which was founded by two Class of 2004 LBJ alumni and serves coffee from an educational non-profit operating out of the Dominican Republic. SWB organized a second event held on May 19, which featured local DJs. In addition, the SWB sells woven purses made from plastic bags by the Chikumbuso Widow's Group.
Funds raised will help SWB hire a registered nurse to work in the community for 10 weeks to provide basic health and hygiene education to the people Chikumbuso. This will be a first for the community. In addition, SWB interns will organize literacy classes for young mothers as well as math and science classes for Chikumbuso Community School students.
If the group is able to raise sufficient funds, they also hope to buy new school books and lay a concrete floor in the currently dirt-floored school rooms.
First year LBJ and Latin American studies dual degree student Joanne Crompton also manages a non-profit organization which she founded, We Improve Tomorrow (WIT).
The WIT project began in 2002 while Crompton was working with the Peace Corps in the Mayan city of Totonicapán, Guatemala.
She watched families struggle to put their children through school—often having to rotate which child was in school each year or withdraw their children altogether because they couldn't afford the tuition. The community recognized the importance of education but often couldn't afford the financial cost.
"When visitors left the country, they would give me their excess quetzales (Guatemalan currency), which I used to place children in school," Crompton said.
"When I left Guatemala, I continued supporting these children and maintained my relationship with the school in which I worked. Over time the program expanded and WIT became a 501(c)(3) organization in August 2005."
WIT provides Guatemalan children, who otherwise might not be able to afford school, with scholarships that cover tuition, uniforms and supplies. With each $50 raised, WIT is able to help a child attend school for another year. Each year of schooling enables a student to earn 10% more annually once they enter the workforce.
The organization is currently sponsoring 50 children, all of who attend E.O.R.M. Xenajtajuyup School in the city of Totonicapán.
When asked why she chooses to supplement an already full-class schedule with managing a non-profit, Crompton has many answers.
"I do it because I believe that an education empowers people to make a difference in their own lives. I do it because I have the opportunity to give back to a community which changed my global perspective and gave me a new purpose in life," she said.
"I do it because the Guatemalan government is no longer supporting education and because local communities cannot afford to not educate their children."
SWB is currently in the process of securing 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation status. For more information about the group, visit www.schoolwithoutboundaries.org.
To learn more about WIT, go to www.weimprovetomorrow.org.