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Building education, from Avon to Haiti

SCW volunteers work with local residents to build their community schools.
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AVON, Colorado – When Todd DeJong turned 16, his father told him he’d take him anywhere on God’s green earth he wanted to go.

He picked Honduras, where father and son worked to build and repair a water pipeline in a rural village.

His father, Dr. William DeJong, is an educator and said, “Let’s walk through the school.”



Kids were packed into a ramshackle shack. Very few supplies. Books might as well have been made from solid gold they were so rare.

“I think we can build a better school than this for $1,000,” the father told the son.



It took two years and $28,000 to get the first one built.

Along the way, William DeJong partnered with architect Charles Newman of Newman Architecture and they launched Schools for Children of the World.

Now the Avon-based nonprofit’s annual budget is around $300,000 and last year led projects worth more than $19 million in several countries.



Schools for Children of the World does all the administration out of Todd’s Lone Star Security offices, as they always have.

“All the money people donate goes to bricks, mortar and programs, and we want to keep it that way,” Todd said.

It changes lives, and those lives change other lives.

“We’re getting kids who’ve been to our schools who’ve graduated as architects and are coming back to work with us,” DeJong said.

Alejandra Madrid, for example, was one of the original volunteer architecture students working with Schools for Children of the World in 2000. She’s now the Honduras executive director and coordinates all their activities in that country.

There’s a trip to Haiti coming up soon. You can go, but it’s not a vacation.

“It’s not a resort. It’s a work trip,” DeJong said.

It’ll cost you $1,700 to go, and that covers everything. They ask for a $500 donation to cover materials they use while you’re there.

There’s plenty of work for you.

On Jan. 12, 2010, earthquakes devastated Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and destroying or damaging more than 5,000 schools.

Schools for Children of the World is designing and constructing 13 schools in and around Leogane, the quake’s epicenter, where 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed, including hundreds of schools.

While they’re there, they’ll assess 200 other schools and work with Catholic Relief to prioritize and implement reconstruction.

“We’ve learned not to pay for every brick in the school. We’re the coordinators. We have meetings with the local governments and get them involved and they build their own schools,” Todd said.

The organization does national design standards, implements policy and turns the project over to the community. Locals build the school, staff it and run it. They partner with organizations in that community, or faith-based organizations to staff them and run the programs.

The last time Todd was in Honduras they were driving around and spotted a school, he had to ask if that was one of theirs. Turns out it was.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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