SJU seniors John Burns and Cole Schiffler spent three weeks of their Winter Break building chicken coops at Hope Academy in Uganda.
Hope Academy strives to restore hope to children who have faced hardships. The Academy was started by an SJU alumni, and it currently has about 150 students. The school is located in a very poor area of Uganda, and it relies on donations to keep it running.
Hope Academy needed a sustainable income; Burns and Schiffler found a way to provide it.
After raising $3,500 from the St. John’s Senate, SIFE and other businesses, Burns and Schiffler bought building supplies, 600 chickens and plane tickets to Uganda. With the help of the community, they built two chicken coops on the school’s property.
By selling the eggs from the chickens, the school will be able to pay the salaries for all teachers and staff. Eventually, they will be able to buy more chickens and expand the school.
“It’s now a self-sustaining school,” Schiffler said.
Teaching kids to raise chickens and sell eggs served a dual purpose. Besides providing income for the school, it fulfilled Burns and Schiffler’s goal to equip students with entrepreneurial skills.
Unlike public schools in the United States, children in Uganda need to pay to go to school. Because of this, most kids only go to school until about 10th grade. The entrepreneurial skills that the children of Hope Academy learned will enable them to earn the money necessary to continue their schooling.
For Burns and Schiffler, this was no simple project. The process started a year ago as part of a Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) project.
After Extending The Link filmed a documentary about Hope Academy, SIFE decided to sell hope beads (jewelry women and children create from recycled paper beads) to raise money for the Academy.
At the same time, Burns and Schiffler were also taking an entrepreneurship class from Professor Paul Marsnik.
Eating lunch after class one day, Marsnik told Schiffler and Burns that they should start a project and go to Hope Academy.
“I saw in these guys an entrepreneurial spirit,” Marsnik said.
Burns and Schiffler took the idea and ran with it.
“Usually, projects like these fizzle out… but these guys aren’t typical,” Marsnik said.
Burns and Schiffler lived up to that.
“They had an attitude of not ‘I hope we can make this happen; but ‘we are going to make this happen,’” Marsnik said.
With the money the chickens will raise, Hope Academy now has a sustainable income, but there is still more work for future CSB/SJU students to do.
“We want another group to take on a new entrepreneurial project,” Schiffler said. “There are endless opportunities; the school needs everything.”
Hope Academy’s continued need and the precedent set by Burns and Schiffler will provide future students with the same invaluable experiences.
“What most impacted me most was how little they have and how much (our work) will affect them in the long run,” Burns said.
“Cole and John have been great examples of what our students can do at their best,” Marsnik said. “They are an inspiration to me and to the students of St. Ben’s and St. John’s.”