ETHS comes together to help schools in Malawi


Students in Malawi attend a school assembly

Sam Calian, News Editor

ETHS students raised $1,600 to buy six acres of land, fertilizer and seed for a school in Malawi, Africa to help students survive starvation.

“We tried to do as much as we could, as quick as we could,” Mark Vondracek, senior Chem/Phys teacher and donation-organizer said. “Malawi is suffering a drought and is one of the poorest countries in the world, where 90 percent of its citizens live off $1-$2 a day.”

While collecting his global teacher award in Dubai, Vondracek met Andrews Nchiesse, an African teacher who reached out to him and others in September about the dire circumstances in his home country, Malawi.

After learning about the current crisis, he was shocked by the lack of coverage by the American press. So, he took matters into his own hands.

When he returned, he immediately asked his Chem/Phys students, “Do you know where Malawi is?” The majority didn’t, but when he explained the current situation within its borders, they all wanted to help.

“I thought about how much I took my education for granted, and about the fact that there are students who can’t attend school because of famine, so I decided to start asking my classes and family members to donate,” senior Nadia Goldberg said.

Currently, young students can’t attend school because they spend the day scrounging for food, including plant roots and nuts found in the dirt. The Malawi president has even instructed citizens to try and capture mice, rats and other small rodents to eat.

“As bad as our situation may be, there are supports we can rely on, like being able to come to school and get lunch,” Vondracek said. “In many countries, this isn’t in place, and it is up to us to help them.”

After getting approval from administration, Vondracek, along with student volunteers, visited classes around school, explaining the situation and then asking for donations. After a few weeks of raising money, Vondracek transferred the $1,600 to Nchiessee in early November.

“We worked very hard to organize the fundraiser quickly so that we could help them out immediately,” senior Molly Conover said. “Those schools were in such bad condition, so it was the least I could do.”

The help has yet to stop; Vondracek is looking for some more organized, long-term solutions, like a GoFundMe campaign. Vondracek also wants it to be known that he is still collecting donations, so if students want to contribute or have a conversation about the situation, they can stop by his classroom, H322, or email him.

“It’s not until we go outside the safe Evanston community that we realize there are people in this world who are truly suffering,” Vondracek said.