Melony Franchini was a Greenheart Travel Teacher in Georgia who applied for our Greenheart Travel Grant to be used towards a community development project. Below Melony describes her community development project and how she used the funds.
I’ve recently completed a semester volunteer teaching English in the country of Georgia, in a village named Shroma. It has one of the largest village-schools in the entire region with a student enrollment of over 380 students from grades 1–12.
The first, and only thing to notice in each barren room is the one piece of wood clinging to the wall. These boards are painted a dark brown and have somehow passed as chalkboards for over a decade (maybe two). Many of these boards were ripped, torn, and scratched making the ability to read anything written on them extremely difficult if not close to impossible. As a teacher, I would have to press very hard on the chalk to try and get some sort of writing to stick to the board, and even then, it was usually very faint and barely legible.
After doing some research and finding the Greenheart Travel grant opportunity, I approached the school director and other teachers with this question:
“What is the one thing you’d like to change in this school?” Their unanimous reply was, “We need new chalkboards.” So with the help of some proactive teachers, community members, and their local contacts we got to work! We split up the community into four committees to calculate the total cost of the project, apply for the grant, and organize the purchase, transport, and installation of the chalkboards.
Locating new chalkboards in this developing country turned out to be the most challenging part of the project, however just weeks before the end of the semester they located some high quality chalkboards in a little, hidden stationary store that was tucked away in a large market in the city nearby!
Transporting four of these large 6 feet x 3 feet boards was no easy task either. They had to be hoisted on top of a large bus by 3 men and then strapped down for the bumpy ride home. We had a large Supra, which is a traditional, celebratory meal, and then took down the old, illegible, wooden boards. As we installed one of the new and very beautiful chalkboards, gratitude seemed to well up in every ones eyes. Nothing like this has ever happened in this large but run-down school.
A week later, we found a local donor to match the Greenheart Travel grant, and the community did it all over again: purchase, transport, Supra, and Installation. In the end, we replaced 9 chalkboards in total. Now, once a student enters the fifth grade in this school, they will be taught from one of these new chalkboards in every grade thereafter, all the way through the end of high school!
Oh, and the kids were ecstatic! Each time we came in to install a new chalkboard they would jump and dance and shout. The younger kids bombarded the teachers with hugs, while the older students would help out with huge smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes because they knew this is going to change everything.
With these new boards, lessons flow quicker and smoother, students don’t have to struggle to see what’s being written, and teachers don’t have to repeat themselves as often, making the school days more enjoyable and productive.
This project has given the school of Shroma, its students, teachers, and community members a revitalized sense of pride and accomplishment in the education that is more accessible now. Children for years to come will benefit from our efforts.
Thank you Greenheart Travel for making this all possible and for helping to inspire a local donor to match your donation! We had double the effect we were hoping for… and nothing can be sweeter than that.