Teacher helps build school — literally

Dec. 25, 2012 @ 04:17 PM

Piedmont Middle School Anne Radke traveled to the Dominican Republic earlier this month to help build a school in the town of Constanza. 

Radke was inspired by colleagues Rob Jackson and Sharyn VonCannon, who had been on the trip earlier. She applied, not imagining they would accept her. 

“My first reaction was utter horror because in the past, whenever I went on these jaunts my husband was here to keep the home fires burning,” Radke said. 

Her husband died two years ago. 

VonCannon, Jackson and Radke’s sister all told her to go.

Radke joked that deciding to go took longer than the trip. 

She, along with 20 principals from across the nation and 20 photographers with LifeTouch, traveled to Constanza. 

“It was a definite labor of love, because here we are flying out to what everyone thinks is a beautiful, exotic location,” Radke said. 

However, the teachers were carrying buckets of cement, laying tiles, carrying bricks and other tasks to build the school in one of the poorer parts of the country. Meanwhile, the students who would attend the school in the future looked on. 

“They were absolutely and totally delighted,” Radke said. “These were some of the most happy and loving kids I’ve ever seen (in) my life.” 

The volunteers were broken into two teams. One team built the school and the other team went to a nearby school in a poverty-stricken area to take school photos of the children. 

The volunteers set up the backdrop on a broken chain-link fence with barbed wire on top and took photos of the children, all dressed in their best. 

“They had never done that before in their lives, it was absolutely amazing,” Radke said. 

Before they left, the children received packets with the photos. They were able to cut out their pictures and trade them with friends.

The school is serving children grades Kindergarten through fifth grade. The second floor will open up more classrooms. Currently, the students go in shifts, with 200 students going to school from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 200 other students going to school from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Every day, the volunteers stopped working at 4 p.m. and played with the children. They brought bubbles, balls and games that the children had  never seen.

“You would have thought these youngsters were at Disney World,” Radke said.

The children forged strong relationships, some were even asking if the volunteers had Facebook, because their cousin had a computer and sometimes they could use it, Radke said.

She has still not decided if she will be able to go again, however, she encourages others to try.

“I think that anybody who wants to claim to be a global leader in today’s educational forum needs to out of their comfort zone,” Radke said.

Anyone looking to volunteer can visit www.worldservants.org.