Shelby Goldstein Schoolhouse gets some special visitors
In 2010, Shankar Iyer and his family donated the funds to name the newly built classroom building in Zambia in memory of their niece, Shelby Goldstein, who passed away at the age of four. Recently, Shankar and his family were able to visit the Shelby Goldstein Schoolhouse at Hope Community School for the first time. We sat down with Shankar to ask him a bit more about their family’s experience:
Could you tell me a bit about how you got connected to Spark Ventures and what inspired you about our work?
When our niece passed away, we started thinking about where a relatively small amount of money would have the most impact. After speaking with our close friend and Spark board member (at the time), David Goldstein, we were convinced that Spark was the organization for us. We were further impressed with the organization’s philosophy and mission after meeting with founder, Rich Johnson. The thing we liked about Spark is how they partner with local organizations that all believe in providing sustainable solutions to communities in need. It wasn’t about doling out money and then moving on to the next project. It’s like that old saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. I also liked that the school was in Zambia where my uncle and aunt have lived for almost 25 years.
Could you tell me a bit about your motivation to have the school named in honor of Shelby and her legacy?
Our niece Shelby passed away suddenly and unexpectedly only 6 days after celebrating her 4th birthday. Shelby was quite precocious, as well as loving, so the choice to ultimately support a school and a community of less fortunate children was easy. She loved her pre-school, loved to learn, was very popular with her classmates and had a vivacious personality. It just made sense to create a lasting legacy that would be a reminder to her family, friends and all those whose lives she touched during her short-time with us.
What was it like to visit the school in person? What was the most memorable part of the visit?
It exceeded expectations in every way. And it was very emotional for all four of us. I know the visit was especially impactful and inspirational for our two children.
We weren’t expecting such a grand welcome but boy did we get one. Even though school was not in session, dozens of students, perhaps 50 or 60, showed up to entertain us with their poems, song, dance and words of kindness. The most memorable part, for me at least, was chatting with the current and former students. Their attitude and outlook on life was so inspirational. Especially the orphans, who may have lost both parents at such a young age. We were thoroughly impressed by the dreams each of them had, but more importantly, their realization that those dreams could actually come true through hard work and determination. Same goes for the few teachers, and the headmaster. All were very impressive individuals.
Meeting and dancing with the residents of the orphanage was also very memorable, and fun! And they presented a gift to us that was so thoughtful!
Were you surprised by anything you found on your visit to Hope? Was it different than what you had imagined?
I alluded to it in an earlier question, but the children’s attitude and outlook surprised me. We expected the children to be a little more down and out, considering their difficult circumstances. But, we experienced just the opposite. In spite of their circumstances, these children are not letting the opportunity of a good education pass them by. Instead, they seem to be most grateful, embracing, with positive attitudes, to the fullest the opportunity that’s been placed in front of them.
Any thought or wishes for future involvement in Spark Ventures’ work?
The visit was a great reminder of all the good work that Spark and Hope are doing there. We’ve provided support to the school annually and seeing the school firsthand has inspired us to continue to do so.
Flash back to the 2010 dedication of the Shelby Goldstein Schoolhouse in this old Spark Ventures blog post.
To learn more about how you and your family can travel to Zambia click here.