Del Mar residents Adan Chinchilla and Mitchell Brean have started their own nonprofit organization, Escola Primaria de Makandzene, which is dedicated to helping school children in the remote village of Makandzene, Mozambique.
For the last two years they have delivered school supplies on their own, both times 280 pounds-worth stuffed into their luggage on their African travels.
The idea behind all of those much-loved school supplies that bring so much happiness to the children and teachers of Makandzene all started with a fateful house party.
Every other year Chinchilla and his husband would host a big theme party at their home encouraging guests to bring items to share. After everyone brought baguettes to their French-themed party they decided to change tack. As they were in the planning stages for a trip to Africa, for their next big party they asked guests to bring school supplies for them to take on their travels.
“I thought people would bring a few pencils,” Chinchilla said. “But when people showed up it was so overwhelming, we had a mountain of stuff, it was just amazing. I have goosebumps thinking of how generous people were.”
Chinchilla said they picked the country of Mozambique fairly randomly—it was where their flight would land before they traveled around southern Africa. Finding a place to donate the school supplies proved to be a challenge and after failed attempts contacting several organizations, he was finally able to connect with the Embassy of Mozambique in Washington, D.C. who helped set them up with a school in Makandzene.
Chinchilla’s one demand was that he wanted to deliver the supplies to the school himself, he didn’t want there to be any middle man.
In December 2017, they made the three-hour journey from the capital of Maputo to Makandzene, where naughty hippos eat the village’s corn and the people and schoolchildren have very little. They have two small huts for the school but most classes are held under the shade of a big tree.
Chinchilla said it’s hard to put into words the overwhelming emotion he felt as they delivered the supplies and how grateful and happy everyone was that someone was thinking of them. He said it was humbling and awesome. The villagers prepared a meal for them and the students sang songs for them.
“Seeing all those happy, smiling faces is priceless,” Chinchilla said. “We promised them that we would try to help them again.”
Staying true to their word, they returned to Makandzene again in December 2018. Chinchilla and Brean barely pack anything of their own in their suitcases, choosing instead to bring as much clothing and supplies to donate to the children as they can carry. In addition to the 280 pounds of supplies, on their second trip they also brought a wheelchair.
While it took nine months to receive his 501(c)3 nonprofit status, Chinchilla finally received it three weeks ago and he is looking forward to being able to expand on his efforts. With the nonprofit, the goal now is to raise enough money to build real permanent classrooms.
To learn more about the effort, visit escolaproject.com