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The school, called Twitti, which means from a small branch a tree grows, was completed in July and will accommodate 360 students.
The school, called Twitti, which means from a small branch a tree grows, was completed in July and will accommodate 360 students.

GIVING BACK

From a small branch, a school in Zambia grows Add to ...

The Donors: Patrick and Shelley O’Callaghan

The Gift: Raising $760,000

The Cause: To build a school in rural Zambia

Shortly after Patrick and Shelley O’Callaghan graduated from the University of British Columbia in the early 1970s, they headed to Zambia to work as teachers through CUSO, or Canadian University Service Overseas.

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They spent two years at a boarding school run by a local couple, Simon and Lydia Maonde. “That really was quite a formative experience for both of us,” recalled Ms. O’Callaghan, an environmental lawyer in Vancouver.

The couple kept in touch with the Maonde family over the years but largely left the experience behind.

That changed about six years ago when the O’Callaghans received a letter from the Maondes.

The Zambians, now in their late 70s, had retired to a small community outside Lusaka. But since there was no school in the area, they had turned their home into a makeshift school. Soon 300 children were showing up and while the couple managed to hire some teachers, they lacked supplies and enough space. The Maondes wondered whether any former teachers from abroad could help.

Ms. O’Callaghan had longed to reconnect with Zambia and she jumped at the chance to get involved. With the help of another former CUSO teacher, Patricia Ellsworth, she set up a Canadian charity and began raising money to build a school. As donations came in, including cement donated by Lafarge North America Inc., sections of the building went up and Ms. O’Callaghan made annual trips to Zambia to follow the progress.

The school, called Twitti, which means from a small branch a tree grows, was completed in July and it will accommodate 360 students. The O’Callaghans attended the opening.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to see a vision come true,” said Ms. O’Callaghan, whose charity raised $760,000 for the project. “These are people [the Maondes] whom we greatly admired when we were there [in the 1970s]. It was their vision to have a school as a legacy for the community. This is their dream that we helped execute.”

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