Wrigleyville 20-somethings committed to building schools in Uganda
When I think of Wrigleyville, my mind turns to Wrigley Field and the lucky 20-somethings who live near the ballpark and the surrounding taverns and restaurants.
Andy Bauer, Drew Edwards and Kevin Oh, roommates who live a block away from Wrigley Field whom I can best describe as humanitarians, tell me they don’t spend any time at the nearby bars.
They are a sophisticated group devoted to the nonprofit Pangea Educational Development, which they founded in spring 2011.
The term Pangea is of Greek origin meaning all-earth. “It’s unity,” Bauer, 25, a fourth-grade teacher at Western Avenue Elementary in Flossmoor, tells me.
The dining room in their rickety five-bedroom apartment doubles as their headquarters. A tall wall has been coated with white-board paint so they can lay out their plans that revolve around mission trips to improve schools in Uganda.
They talk like seasoned businessmen but their young faces give away their ages. Two of them, Edwards and Oh, are seniors at DePaul. Edwards, 22, is a captain for DePaul’s track team and made the team as a walk-on without a scholarship.
They began talking about starting their own charity in August 2010 while working in Uganda as part of a larger mission group. All had been on previous missions and noted a common trend: Relief efforts in poverty-stricken and war-torn countries provide short-term answers. Schools built by aid groups become dilapidated over time when there is no money to sustain them.
“We wanted to create sustainable projects,” Bauer says.
They conduct market research to figure out how particular schools can benefit their communities and earn income to pay for necessities such as books and teachers, says Oh, 21.
They also go door-to-door to interview school and community leaders to determine if they are committed to the projects for the long haul.
“We need to get the impression that everyone is on the same page,” Edwards says.
For one school their group built a chicken coop and bought chickens, which are raised and eventually sold to local restaurants. Part of the profit goes to upkeep; the rest is for the school.
In a community where Oh says the school dropout rate for women was high, Pangea donated Singer sewing machines. Local women make and sell clothing, including school uniforms for children. “It’s a trade where you can learn it and teach it to others,” Oh adds.
Through social media and positive reviews from volunteers, word of the charity is spreading among college students across the country. The charity has branches known as Pangea U at six colleges, including DePaul. These groups also do volunteer work in their communities, the Pangea founders tell me.
In less than two years, Pangea has completed four major projects in Uganda, not bad for two guys who are full-time students and another who is a full-time teacher.
Bauer, Edwards and Oh seem to think of everything. They have 501(c)-3 status to accept tax-deductible donations and a board of directors for oversight.
Pangea employs a national director and community coordinator in Uganda. Next year Edwards will move to Uganda to work there full time for Pangea.
“We have a youthful feel,” Bauer says, “but we want to do something bigger than us.”