While student service is always inspiring, there is something really special when a student takes a highly specialized skill and finds a perfect fit with a community's needs. Daniel Clavelli ‘22 found himself in just such a situation: as a computer enthusiast, he and his dad got involved with the Africa Education Initiative and learned that Daniel’s computer knowledge was just what a university in Nigeria needed to set up a computer lab.

Daniel’s effort not only helped these students this past summer, but he continues to support them remotely as they develop their computer program. Additionally, he helped St. Luke’s with our recycling program as he found a meaningful purpose for some of our retired iPads. Read below to learn more about how Daniel is growing as a leader.

By St. Luke's Sophomore, Daniel Clavelli 

The moment I saw twenty university students sit down at desks to use a computer for the first time, was one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences of my life.  Last summer, I was able to travel with the Africa Education Initiative, an organization that supports education and healthcare for students in Abuja, Nigeria.  I was given the incredible opportunity to serve people there, helping to open doors to resources that had remained out of reach to college students in Nigeria’s capital city.  

In preparation for the trip, I worked to gather toys, clothes, and books for the students and raised money to buy food and other materials.  The St. Luke’s Technology Department also generously donated fifteen gently used iPads for us to bring to schools in Nigeria that lacked educational technology.  I spent hours leading up to the trip setting up the iPads by finding educational apps and games for elementary school students. I also made tutorial videos to help the kids learn to use the devices, as many of them had never used or even seen an iPad before.  Using the clothes, books, and toys that we had gathered, I filled three full suitcases of items for donation to the children, and the others who traveled with us brought many supplies as well.

SLS_DanielClavelli22atNigerianOrphanageED1-1Donations shared with orphanage children

Once in Nigeria, it was both a busy and rewarding week.  We began by spending a few days at the country’s capital college, the University of Abuja.  The organization had provided funding to set up the university’s first internet lab. Before our visit, the students had never had computers or even an internet connection for their use.  Twenty computers were donated to the university, along with an internet server and a generator for powering the system, since the local power grid is not reliable. I spent time setting up the computers, upgrading them to the newest operating system, and finding useful programs for students to use.  When everything was ready to go, we met with the Vice-Chancellor of the college to officially open the lab up to the students with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was extremely rewarding to watch the students as they came into the lab and were able to experience computers for the first time, a technology that we tend to take for granted.  Since my visit, I have spent much time helping the students become more comfortable with the technology that is now available to them.

SLS_DanielClavelli22withUniversityStudentsNigeria           With University of Abuja students in new computer lab

As the week progressed, we went to an orphanage that was connected to the Africa Education Foundation.  We brought them two full suitcases worth of games, toys, and clothing. It struck me how significant this was to the children, as little things like this could mean so much for them.  We also painted the exterior of the orphanage, as it had been falling into disrepair for lack of the resources to maintain it. The people there saw us as important people from America and felt that we shouldn’t be doing work such as this, but we insisted that helping them out was important to us, and we were able to have a strong impact on the lives of the young children.

SLS_DanielClavelliPaintingOrphanageinAfricaPainting the orphanage

Towards the end of the trip, we spent a day at an elementary school in Abuja.  I brought five of the iPads that I had set up for them. I was able to meet with the head of the school and present her, along with a group of their students, with the iPads.  After the work I had put into preparing them, it was great to be able to open up educational possibilities for these students who had never been able to work with such technology before.  The other ten iPads were sent to other elementary schools around Nigeria, however, I was unfortunately not able to personally present them to those schools.

SLS_DanielClavelliDonatesiPadstoSchoolinAfricaDonation of SLS iPads to head of elementary school

SLS_DanielClavelli22withStudentsinNigeriaVisiting with many elementary school students and administrators

My trip to Nigeria was the most eye-opening and rewarding experience I have had.  We often hear how privileged we are, and I have always thought I understood that, but I now have a new appreciation for what it actually means.  Not only in the places I visited but also in the city and towns I drove through, the infrastructure is crumbling. The government refuses to put funding into it and similarly puts no money into education.  The capital university didn’t even have internet service. It was interesting to come back and see how different the infrastructure is here and how people have so much more opportunity in terms of education. I keep that contrast in my mind all of the time now.  The people there are super friendly, welcoming and happy. They recognize that they have less than us, and yet they’re still so warm and inviting. Their situation doesn’t stop them from being hospitable and happy. So while there was satisfaction in being able to bring them things to add to their comfort and convenience, it’s possible that I left with a greater gift: a deep understanding that happiness isn’t found in things.

I’ll be helping the Africa Education Initiative prepare for their trip again so please check out their website or let me know if you’d be interested in seeing how you can help (clavellid22@stlukesct.org).



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