When considering her school’s community service requirement sophmore year, May Lan wanted to do something out of the ordinary. Having seen the extreme poverty in Africa on several trips, she realized that volunteering in a third world country would have a greater impact on human lives than working locally. A family friend working in Guinea told her about the need for schools there. The next Spring Break she was off to Guinea to do research the educational system. May Lan fell in love with the children there, as they were smart and hard working but lacked decent schools. Only one third of the girls and two thirds of the boys attend school. She comes from a background where education is very important and wanted to give the children of Guinea the same educational opportunities as she has had.
She decided to work for three schools: a girls orphanage, a vocational school and a high school. She met with students, talked with the schools’ directors and discussed their needs. Over the course of a year, she raised $ 50,000 and received many donations in kind to support the three schools. The first school is the NAFA Center, an orphanage for 90 girls. She raised $16,000 from friends and family to purchase 43 sewing machines and embrodery materials so that the girls could learn how to make clothes. The goal of the orphanage is trying to teach job and domestic skills to the girls.
The second school is the Center for the Formation of Professionals (CFP) Boke, a vocational school providing training in construction trades. When she visited, she noticed that only 1 in 10 of the students were female. The low female enrollment was due to a lack of housing for women. May Lan raised $ 27,000 to build a girls dormitory. This would allow more women to have access to higher paying jobs.
The third school is the Sangaredi High School. She toured the classrooms and was struck the fact that they did not have any textbooks. The teachers wrote the daily lessons on the chalkboard and the students meticulously copied all the notes verbatim. She received over 1000 donated books and used sports equipment from schools in Boston, LA and NY. She raised an additional $ 10,000 to purchase math and science textbooks.
Through this wonderful and successful experience, she learned to appreciate all that she has, especially the simple things. Helping schools has made her appreciate her education, so she says that she won’t complain the next time she has study for a Spanish test. Also seeing the extreme poverty in Guinea was depressing for her. Few homes have electricity and many people live on the streets. Although this situation makes her sad, it motivates her to help the people of Guinea. The experience has created a passion in her to help those in need, especially the children of Guinea.