Pushing considerable boundaries and stretching across boarders, Sean Car hasn’t just exhibited entrepreneurship but established something of marked influence, a significant initiative. He has embraced the idea of changing the world with his own hands and begun ‘Edu-caring Africa’ quite literally through his very own charity. At just 21 as a Melbourne Journalism Student Sean has achieved considerable revolutions internationally and continues to constantly raise awareness nationwide.
[Who are you in a nutshell?] – “That’s a difficult one! To be entirely honest I don’t really know who I am yet. At 21 I still feel like I am figuring that out in the way of learning. But in a nutshell I guess I would say I like people.”
[What was your ‘life changing moment’?] – “I don’t really believe in the idea that one moment changes your life. I think ones life develops through learning and experience from collective ‘moments’. So I suppose if I was to point to the experience that has had the most profound impact on my life to date it would be my journey in 2012 to Africa.”
[You are 21 and have your own charity, how did that happen?] – “Good question I often look back to it all in retrospect and hardly feel like I know myself. The charity manifested during a particularly unique stage in my life. After months of living in the simple and remote world of Africa returning to the fast paced nature of the city was a difficult transition to adjust to immediately.
The wonderful experiences I had with the people I met and the places I discovered will always stay embedded in me and for that I was a very happy person upon my return. However, after working so closely and bonding with these same people I felt conflicted about the idea of ignoring the hardships that they face everyday. Seeing that a Malawian child could miss a month of school because his family couldn’t afford the 50-kwacha fee (equating to 20c Aust.). A woman dies of a curable insect wound because clinics lack enough treatments and bandages. A nursery AIDS orphanage can’t afford $250 a month to help feed over 100 AIDS orphans, provide carers with a living wage and provide resources for learning. A teenager who has passed their exams to qualify for high school but can’t afford the yearly fee of roughly $50 that will provide them with an education, uniform and books.
The potential to help encouraged change for these communities was simply too hard to ignore. So knowing that as a student I was financially incapable to personally help cure these issues I saw an opportunity to help through a collective effort of goodwill from those in the first world who are a little more fortunate!”
[Now what is Educaring Africa?] – “Educaring Africa’s belief is spelt out in its name. ‘Edu’ relates to education; ‘Car’ relates to healthcare and all of it is united under ‘caring’ for those we support. Despite most of the work currently being undertaken in Malawi I wanted to include Africa in the title with the intention of expanding my vision throughout the continent going forward. It works alongside licensed community NGO’s (Malawi Volunteer Organisation, Kidumunye Maasai Association, Kenya) in Africa whom I volunteered with. The key philosophy embedded in the foundations of the charity is a drive to promote the notion of self-help for these developing communities. This is based on providing institutional opportunities within the key areas of education, health care and social development so that future generations are given the chance to control their own destiny.
A lot of the time you find that the schools, clinics, orphanages, etc. that they have constructed and started themselves simply need guidance and funding rather than someone coming in and implementing something new. At the end of the day there is no one who knows a community better than the community itself. This philosophy gives them a sense of ownership and helps to encourage future generations of Africans to give back to their people. I think an important aspect of any charity is to help encourage as many people to be as civically active as possible from those donating to those being supported. That and transparency! I worked under a lot of charities prior to this and know how crucial this is.
I’m constantly posting receipts, photos and updates on Facebook and the website as this inspires donor confidence and encourages development. But to sum up what this entire project is based upon in one word: humanity!”
[Where did you start? It is a pretty decent project to begin your own charity, how did you figure out the road to getting this up and running?] – “The idea first came to me when I was in Malawi. I remember talking to Harry, director of MVO Malawi, one afternoon outside a classroom in Monkey Bay and discussing the problems facing the school for what seemed like the hundredth time. I remember thinking at the time why are they problems? Why can’t kids attend school? Why can’t people access basic healthcare? Why can’t AIDS orphans be provided with the right to a basic meal everyday at nursery school?
The reason I felt was that it was due to a lack of meaningful solutions. And furthermore what are indeed simple solutions. I told Harry of my idea and I remember him just nodding happily. From there we went about arranging meetings with different elements of the community relating to the various projects we were seeking to fund, which gave me an opportunity to state my intentions. More importantly though through open dialogue with the NGO and the people I was able to listen to their wishes and concerns in order to gain the best possible understanding of how to go about all of this. I think community consultation is imperative to development as it encourages progress when everyone is on the same page.
So I left Africa knowing that there was an opportunity there. However, returning home during my ‘identity crisis’ (beard, hippy clothing and all!) I found it difficult to arrange all these ideas in my head whilst adjusting back to the ‘first world’ again. Eventually I turned to my mentor Arpad Maksay, a man who I had worked closely with over the years in fair trade and social projects with, to seek his wisdom. I remember throwing a million questions at him. Where do I register this? How do I set up that? How much does that cost? He quickly shut me up…politely of course. He said, “Mate stop right there. You know what to do, so just do it.” All of a sudden everything became clearer. I realised all I needed to do was take a step outside my mind for a moment and start organising my thoughts in order to achieve my goal.
So piece by piece I registered my business, the name, launched a website, registered accounts and established links within my bank here and in Malawi, planned projects via email with Harry in Malawi, etc. etc. and before I knew it Educaring Africa had begun!”
[How much have you raised to date for Educaring Africa?] – “I don’t have an exact total with last week’s Irish fundraiser still receiving some late donations. But I can both safely and proudly say that in well under a year Educaring Africa have raised a little under $9000.”
[What has this money enabled the communities to do?] – “Since launching Educaring Africa has put over 200 Malawian teenagers through high school, which has included uniforms and book fees. 17 primary schools have been provided with resources such as new blackboards, pens and books. A community based medical wounds treatment clinic has been provided resources such as bandages, ointments, etc.
This clinic helps provide an arm for the hospital in Monkey Bay, which doesn’t possess the resources to help people in more remote villages. Ongoing monthly funding has also been provided to AIDS orphanages. That funding has seen more than 100 orphans fed daily, teachers receiving a living wage and learning resources provided. I am pretty thrilled with what we have managed to achieve so far but always looking to expand.”
[When you were travelling around Africa what was something that really pulled on the heartstrings, what made you go…I need to do something about this?] – “Again there was no isolated moment that triggered it. It was there before my eyes everyday whilst travelling in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa. Even in South Africa, where my family is from, the contrast in social living standards is very confronting. In Cape Town mansions can surround you one moment and then 10 minutes down the road you find yourself surrounded by slum shack villages housing 40,000 people! During my first day working in Malawi I remember walking through one of the villages that was home to one of the AIDS orphanages we supported.
Along the way you would see children with hardly any clothes on, mothers feeding their babies without a roof over their head and men selling bananas on the side of the road that were covered in ants. The main thing I remember about it though was what smiling, beautiful and happy people they all seemed. They seldom begged in desperation despite having nothing and were so warm and welcoming. However, I couldn’t let that act as a smokescreen to allow for complacency to set in. Rather it motivated me to help these wonderful people. Thus, it was more just the general state of affairs that made me wonder how can we allow other human beings to live like this? Something as simple as an education can help change all of that and provide a sense of hope.”
[To know that you are helping in such a significant way, to see the smiles of the kids in the towns you are helping, how does that make you feel?] – “As proud as I am of my efforts Educaring Africa has nothing to do with me at the end of the day! I set it up to help those who I worked alongside and to benefit future generations of Africans. I am so happy whenever I receive photos or updates from Harry in Malawi. I think when we sent 96 teenagers to high school following our opening fundraiser and seeing them in photos in their new uniforms probably had to be the most humbling moment of my life.
Seeing photos of AIDS orphans holding new bowls filled with porridge, a giant class of children surrounding a new blackboard or a child getting her leg bandaged couldn’t make me happier! I think the support of friends and people in our world also has to be acknowledged for helping make this all possible. One of the most satisfying aspects of this project has seen how much people have rallied to support. It’s these types of acts that help restore your faith in humanity and put a smile on my face!”
[The most profound moment you have had on this journey?] - Sending all the teenagers to school would definitely be up there! I also think getting five year old Gift accepted through the Children’s First Foundation to receive surgery on a renal disorder at the Royal Children’s Hospital has been a profound journey in itself.
[What’s next for Educaring Africa and Sean Car?] - Well what’s next for Educaring Africa is not surprisingly very closely entwined with what’s next for Sean Car at the moment! Gift is expected to arrive in July for his first clinic appointment so that is taking up most of my energy at the moment. We are currently at the stage of arranging his medical visa, which once finalised will see him in Australia for what were still hoping will be a July arrival!
Accompanying him will be director of MVO Malawi and my good friend Harry Komwa. Harry is incredibly excited to use his trip as an opportunity to not only map out future development strategies and goals for the charity but to educate people here about the work we are doing. So we will be aiming to tee up some school visits and some potential fundraising projects whilst he is here. However, the best part about this is that I will be returning Gift home after his surgery is complete where I plan to stay in Africa for an extensive period. This will give me a great opportunity to work more closely with the NGO and the community to expand on what were already doing.
The goal is that with increased funding we can set our sights towards infrastructure projects for schools, orphanages and clinics. In the mean time though I am planning a few more fundraisers here at home. In terms of my plans personally going forward I have just completed my journalism degree at Monash and am looking to incorporate those skills during my time in Africa by filming a documentary type piece on the work of the charity. Otherwise, at 21 a lot is still up in the air! I am currently tossing up a return to university next year in international development or seeking a full time career in journalism. In the mean time all I can think about though is returning to my second home in Africa!”
[Who is this little boy, Gift?] – “Gift is a five year old Malawian boy suffering from a renal disorder/testicular deformity, which he was born with. He is the son of William James, an employee of MVO Malawi who was a close friend of mine during my time in Malawi.
The condition he suffers from causes him terrible pain when going to the toilet and is increasingly impacting his health every day. With his family living below the poverty line they are unable to afford carer wages for their son who therefore is unable to attend school as a result. However, thankfully through the assistance of Moira Kelly’s Children First Foundation and Educaring Africa, Gift has been accepted to be flown over to receive the surgery he needs at the Royal Children’s Hospital here in Melbourne. He is expected to arrive in the coming month once medical visas are finalised.”
It just really goes to show, if you believe in doing something good for humanity and start somewhere, anywhere, you can really begin to change the world. Start locally, impact globally.
You are a true inspiration Sean, my hat goes off to you!
If you would like to help Educaring Africa you can donate, get involved and learn more at http://www.educaringafrica.org/
[Stained Pomegranate Seed - Everything in between]