Sarah Kerr and Tom Affleck have a special affinity for Nicaragua. For the last 11 years, they’ve regularly visited the impoverished country to build classrooms and provide children with much-needed school supplies and books through their charitable organization, SchoolBOX.
Back in 2006, Affleck, who currently works as the entrepreneurial leader for Knox Presbyterian Church, was doing large-scale development work in Nicaragua when one weekend he visited a friend in a rural area and gifted some school supplies to some local children. It was a small but life-changing gesture that ultimately prompted him to create SchoolBOX, which was officially registered as a charity in 2007.
“That small donation enabled two young girls to attend school,” Kerr, SchoolBOX’s executive director, shared during a recent interview at their Beach Hill home.
“It’s been so moving to see kids we’ve helped succeed in school, have a better future, break the cycle of poverty and follow their dreams.”
When SchoolBOX was founded, Kerr was working as a volunteer educator in Guyana. She met Affleck, who was from the same town of Almonte, Ont., and together they started directing their efforts to helping children in Nicaragua, which is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.
In 2008, with a group of volunteers Kerr and Affleck headed back to Nicaragua for the first classroom build. Next spring, SchoolBOX will be building its 100th classroom.
“We’ve got the work plan in place and we should be breaking ground in March (2018) in the rural village of El Caracol,” said Kerr, adding volunteers are always needed and welcome.
“We’d love to invite friends and neighbours from this community to join us. It’s definitely life-changing for you as an individual, but also a great thing to do as a family. It’s a different way to give.”
The couple along with team members travel back to Nicaragua two or three times a year for both classroom builds as well as to scope out new project possibilities.