Watching Zambian schoolchildren trek five miles to school each day inspired Sciame Construction president Joe Mizzi to launch a non-profit that will build schools and improve African communities.
Mizzi launched the 14+ Foundation with native Zambian Nchimunya Wulf, a fashion stylist, after a chance meeting during a trip there in 2011. “I went to Africa in May 2012 and then formed the foundation in June,” said Mizzi, noting that he had watched children from the village of Chikapata in Zambia walk close to five miles each way to school.
“That was pretty motivational to me,” he said. “We wanted to help communities that really needed a school.”
The school the children of Chikapata were attending was not only a long distance for the kids to walk, it was also overcrowded and in turn sometimes only had half-days for the students. So Mizzi and Wulf began planning a school for the community last June as the first project of the 14 + Foundation.
In spring, land was cleared for construction and construction began in the summer. The first phase of the project – a main building with several classrooms – will open in 2014 and support 125 students.
“It’s right in the middle of the community,” said Mizzi, as opposed to the school the children currently attend, which is around 4 ½ miles away from the village. At a recent fundraiser for the charity, where supporters helped raise $350,000 for the non-profit, Mizzi and Wulf announced they created a scholarship fund for top graduates of the school, which will provide financial aid to further the recipients’ education.
“Part of the whole philosophy is community engagement,” said Mizzi of the foundation. “As we started familiarizing with the community and planning, we came across certain things they needed.”
Access roads leading to the community were in disrepair, so Mizzi’s foundation worked with local villagers, about 25 workmen, to clear a new main road. They also noticed that villagers in the farming community were walking a long distance taking corn maize crops to a hammer mill, so the foundation purchased a mill for the villagers and a structure to house it.
“It’s one of the main staples that they eat, and they have it within the community now,” he said of the mill. The foundation has also helped build two water wells and a retail shop in the community where villagers could purchase goods purchased wholesale in a nearby town. Local Zambian construction firms and villagers are building the Chikapata Academy, and the foundation has partnered with other non-profits, including a team that presented a project to the Clinton Global Initiative for a pilot school program in Zambia.
“We have subsequent phases to finish,” said Mizzi of the school. “We have plans for a community center and a health clinic in the same town.”
The foundation has acquired 250 acres of land in the area where the school is being built, and is also planning an orphanage for children attending the school, who will also be provided with healthcare.
“One of our initiatives is sustainability through agriculture, so part of the land will be used for crops and livestock to support the school,” said Mizzi.
Mizzi plans to visit again in late November, and recently visited and made arrangements for children in the village to have checkups and treatment at the nearest health clinic.
In December, a volunteer group will be making a trip to Chikapata to build housing for teachers. “Ultimately the Chikapata project will never be fully sustainable without our support, said Mizzi. “Through sustainability in agriculture and programs our goal is to make it as sustainable as possible and continue to build schools and orphanages in Africa.”