Student team hoping to build schools in C. American slums
A team of foreign and local students at National Chengchi University is raising funds for its “IMPACT” project aimed at establishing schools in Central America to improve early education for children living in urban slums there.
Through an online crowdfunding campaign, the team has raised more than US$25,000 to reach its initial target for setting up a first school in El Salvador, said Juan Diego Prudot, a 28-year-old IMBA student from Honduras who is the co-founder of IMPACT.
The fundraising campaign continues, however, as the team hopes to raise another US$15,000 to achieve their shortterm goal of establishing another school in Honduras, said IMBA student Andres Escobar of El Salvador, another of the group’s cofounders.
“We want to make it a worldwide project. We need at least two countries,” Escobar, 28, told CNA in an interview.
Given that they come from El Salvador and Honduras, they have contacts with nongovernmental organizations and local people who can support the project, the two said when explaining why they started the project with their two home countries.
Escobar took a field trip to El Salvador in January and visited urban slums there to learn more about the needs of the people living in the neighborhood.
There are currently no early childhood schools there and sometimes parents have to take their kids to work because there are no facilities providing day care for children, he said.
Conditions around Central America are quite similar so it will not be hard to replicate the idea in other countries in the region, Escobar said.
The IMPACT project was initiated last November by Escobar, Prudot, and two other classmates — Chen An-nung of Taiwan and Taylor Scobbie from Canada — when they teamed up in an annual student competition to create a social business concept.
Before they entered the IMBA program, each of them had different plans for their lives, but now they all have the same goal after graduating in June, which is to move forward with the IMPACT project, Prudot said.
The core idea of the project is to build sustainable early learning schools for children in urban slums in an effort to improve early education in underserved commu- nities, they said.
In addition to partnerships with local NGOs, the team will bring in people from the local community to build the schools.
For example, Scobbie said, local laborers will take part in building the infrastructure and local materials will be used.
The team will choose a local person to run the school and be a teacher, and will also train two others to be teachers to provide formal education, he added.
“We think the school is more likely to be successful if it was the community that built it,” the 28-year-old Scobbie said.
Training women from the local community to be teachers will also help them make more money, compared with what they could earn as a food vendor, Scobbie said.
According to the team’s concept, the schools will target children aged 0-6. Those aged three and below will receive day care in a safe environment while their parents are at work making a living, he said.
The schools will provide formal education for children aged four to six, he added.
“This is the most important part in a child’s development,” he said, adding that a positive influ- ence during those years will follow them the rest of their lives.
They will be more likely to stay in schools, stay out of gangs and get better jobs, he explained.
Echoing Scobbie’s remarks, Prudot said early education can be fundamental to changing the lives of individuals, their families, their communities, and even their nations.
“That’s what we wanna do with IMPACT,” he said.
To promote public awareness of their project, the team will set up a booth at Huashan 1914 Creative Park on Sunday to sell IMPACT T-shirts and collect funds and set up another booth at their university next Tuesday to Friday for the same purpose, Prudot said.
The team’s online crowdfunding campaign that will end May 8 is part of an annual student competition organized by the Hult Prize Foundation, which aims to identify and launch the most compelling social business ideas.
Winners will receive US$1 million in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community.
The team from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University is among about 30 teams from around the world that are entering the final round of the compe- tition.
Both Escobar and Prudot are recipients of scholarships granted by the Taipei-based International Cooperation and Development Fund ( TaiwanICDF), a governmentfunded agency responsible for carrying out foreign aid programs.
“We are very proud to represent our university and Taiwan as well,” Prudot said, adding that if his team were to win the competition, it would demonstrate to the world Taiwan’s quality education and willingness to help countries in need.
The final winning team will be announced in September, but the team is confident it will capture the big prize, which it would use to set up their online platform to continue to raise funds from investors around the globe.
The funds would continue to be invested in building schools in Central America and expand the program to Africa and Southeast Asia, they said.
To move forward with the IMPACT project, the team is scheduled to visit El Salvador in August to work out the specifics of building the pilot school with local NGOs.
“We hope the school will be up and running by early September,” Scobbie said.