Project Share Love

Project Share Love & Gabriella Gala

Last summer, Malawi erupted in violent riots and everyone in the BeeHive community passed through a very dark and tense period filled with sleepless nights.  Across the world, loved ones fingers repeatedly dialed the country code for Malawi – 2-6-5 in a series of frantic attempts to connect with their friends and family and alleviate their greatest fears.  Hundreds of people ended up in the hospital and a few dozen were killed on the street.

I  personally remember feeling shivers reverberate through my body when one of Niall’s nephews posted a home video of men sprinting along a paved road dragging their machetes along the asphalt to sharpen them.  Malawi is known as one of the most peaceful countries in Africa and the imagery seemed completely alien to me or anyone else who has visited this beautiful country – best known as “the warm heart of Africa” – named so for the renowned kindness and hospitality of the people.  Fortunately, the BeeHive students and teachers escaped any physical assault, but the emotional trauma was jarring and the students were in shock.

At the same time, a very passionate, talented, and lion hearted young woman in Los Angeles, CA – Gabriella Gala – was following these events unfold with a deep sense of wrenching anxiety and empathy. But sitting and watching was just not enough for her.

It was during the riots that I received a frantic e-mail from this young starving artist where she asked me for BeeHive School’s mailing address.  That was not the end of it – we connected and spent hours talking.  Gabriella is a creative genius – she speaks through her art and through her dance.  She understands how art, music, and dance can transcend language and can heal deep traumas – Gabriella herself had recently faced a devastating and near-death experience that put her in the hospital for many weeks.  But rather than let the experience cripple her, she decided to use her art to rise above it and to use that trauma as a source of energy to push against and to create beauty and inspire love around her.  She told me this was what she wanted to give to the kids – a way to rise above the trauma of the riots.

Next, Gabriella jumped into action.  With little more than an idea and her passion to create positive change, Gabriella set out to raise funds for a carebox filled with art supplies to send to BeeHive School.  With the help of her friends, she started having dancing/singing fundraisers to raise money for shipping costs and collect art supplies.  And little by little – with the generosity of the kind people around her, she raised a dollar here and a few sets of colored pencils over there, until she had the funds and materials to send a carebox across the world.

But hold on – that’s not the end – this carebox is not the end of the story.  Rather, it was the first carebox of a series of a careboxes.  You see, Gabriella, rather than feeling satisfied after sending the first carebox to BeeHive School immediately felt a hunger and need to do more – to send more art across the world to help kids.

Why art? Because art is more than the action of taking a brush to a canvas – it breaks down language barriers and is a way for us to process complex emotional traumas.  Art is a way for children to process pain and anger in a safe and constructive way.  And it’s a way for a stranger from across the world to say in a very tangible way – we’re here, we care about you, we’re thinking about you – you are not forgotten.

Gabriella’s vision has continued to evolve and this incredible young woman is determined to visit Africa and BeeHive School, as well as all the other schools where she has sent CareBoxes across Africa.  To follow her adventure, please check out her project page – Project Share Love (what a great name!):
http://www.facebook.com/ProjectShareLove

Gabriella’s vision is ever expanding and recently she has enrolled in community college in biology and permaculture – she is determined to learn as much as possible in order to be able to truly serve the needs of marginalized children all over the world.  Please like her page and learn more about her journey…I have a feeling this is not the last time you will hear about this amazing young woman.  In fact, she might be writing the next update from BeeHive School – so stay tuned!

And guess what!  After four months in the post, the first carebox just arrived at BeeHive School!  The students nearly had their eyes pop out when they opened up this amazing gift brimming with every sort of artistic goodie.  It contained more art supplies than the Mzuzu general store holds in stock at one time!  Everyone at BeeHive is looking forward to meeting Gabriella in the flesh and to giving her a very, very big hug.

 

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A Visit to the Beehive Primary School

By Troy Smith – In-the-Field Traveler

Everyone has his or her own view of determination. For me it’s always been Rudy, the scrappy kid who ditches the steel plant to follow his dream of Notre Dame football stardom. I mean, come on. At the end, when his whole family is there and everyone is chanting, that’s just classic. If you don’t tear up I’m pretty sure you don’t have a heart. Sean Astin, a tip of the hat to you. For some people perseverance and determination is Mandela, King, or that guy who cut off his own arm to escape from underneath that boulder (come on, you all definitely remember). However, it is pretty rare that one encounters that kind of person firsthand; a person who is literally putting everything they have, heart and soul, into one, singular goal. When I arrived in Mzuzu, Malawi I admit I hadn’t done my research. I knew I was visiting a primary school called the Beehive School, and that they had encountered some trouble as of late. Aside from that, I was pretty much in the dark.

What I found when I arrived was a man who had been worked to the core, had been run ragged, and yet still was keeping his chin up. Before I even heard his story, I knew Niall Dorey had faced some tough times. He moved a bit slow, looked a bit tired, and yet seemed completely anxious to get to school the next morning. The Beehive School was founded following Niall’s experience teaching in a local Malawian private school in the early 2000s. Faced with overcrowded classrooms, unmotivated teachers, and overall lack of proper infrastructure, Niall decided to act. “The school I was teaching in was supposed to be the best in the Northern Region, but I thought these kids were missing out on something. I thought I could make a school that was so much better.” Starting with eight students, and using a room of his own home, Niall Dorey officially started the Beehive School. The school quickly grew to a massive 210 students, all decked out in their construction orange dress shirts and black ties. Classrooms and a playground were constructed, the operation expanded, and the Doreys moved into a new home. The school was even complete with a library and a computer lab. There were definitely some busy bees at Beehive, but for the Ministry of Education, the honey left a bitter taste. Lacking proper licensing, and possessing “temporary structures” (which more often than not, were better than the facilities at local schools), Beehive was ordered to close in November 2009; this the very day they were approved for a parcel of land on which to build the permanent structures. Unsure of what to do, feeling completely hopeless, Niall tried to negotiate with the Ministry of Education, but was met only with negativity. Pressured by others, Beehive went to court. While the court battle was ultimately unsuccessful, it did allow them a stay of closure.

 

Two sessions later, however, they were closed yet again. Crushed and defeated, it seemed Beehive would simply be a dream lost by the wayside. However, the dream still lives on. With the help of some dedicated parents, Niall was able to collect funds and hastily finish construction on one classroom block at the new site. It is simple, no frills, but it is indeed a permanent structure They must split the school sessions–grades 1-4 in the morning, 5-6 in the afternoon. The walls are all blank, the blackboard has been painted onto the wall, and there’s a bit of condensation coming through the windows; but it’s a school, and a pretty good one at that. If one were to have any doubt about Niall’s passion and love for these children, they need only see him at work in the classroom. Niall has had to adopt a first grade class as his own due to staff shortages, but still he puts everything he has into molding those little, at times a bit hyperactive, minds. However, the work isn’t done. Construction on the second block is still underway, and the Dorey clan is working hard to ensure that everything about Beehive is up to code (there is quite a lot to the Malawian School Codes, just trust me, it’s pretty unbelievable). Niall’s wife, Constance, has been a rock during the entire ordeal, single-handedly lifting bags upon bags of concrete for construction, at times acting as the brawn to Niall’s more soft-spoken nature. The two, with their three beautiful children, earn couple-of-the-year in my eyes. While the stress may be overwhelming, and the staff members may be dwindling, I have no doubt in my mind that Niall Dorey will succeed and accomplish his ultimate goal—a proper education for Malawian children, and a beautiful school on a red clay hill. “I’m going to build this school, no matter what. I want this school, the parents want this school, the children of Mzuzu need this school. (Niall Dorey) Troy Smith, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is currently an In-the-Field traveler visiting GlobalGiving projects throughout Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. Follow his trip at http://troygivesglobal.tumblr.com/.