White House specialty media director Carolina Hurley helped raise over $12,600 for an indoor classroom in the Chipala Primary School in Lilongwe, Malawi, after she saw the school during the first lady’s October 2018 trip.
Hurley accompanied Trump on her four-country visit to Africa, which included a tour of several outdoor classrooms at the Malawi school. Due to the enrollment of more than 9,000 students, Hurley learned that the children frequently learned lessons outdoors, seated shoulder-to-shoulder on loose, red dirt. The school had only 77 teachers — a ratio of 118 children to 1 teacher — with up to 250 students in each classroom.
“I saw these children who sit outside all day because there wasn’t enough room for them to learn inside,” Hurley told Fox News. “Once the rainy season starts, kids would stop coming to school.”
Hurley then launched a GoFundMe page for a new indoor classroom, receiving an overwhelming response from members of the public. She said she also received separate donations from friends and family.
“Malawi made my heart stop from the minute I got there. It was completely eye-opening to me to see such incredible children — over 9,000 of them — with absolutely nothing to their name except for a desire to learn.”
She continued, “I left knowing that if I could even make a dent in helping them learn, I’d be happy knowing I contributed to something bigger than myself. Little did I know just how generous complete strangers could be.”
Staying in close contact with the headmistress of the school whom she connected with during her time there, Hurley said she sent the first group of donations in January 2019. Construction of the new classroom began later that month — a process that recently finished.
The first lady took to Twitter Thursday to congratulate Hurley’s efforts.
“After my trip to Africa, a member of our advance team raised money on her own time to get a new classroom built for the Chipala Primary School in Lilongwe, Malawi,” she wrote. “Thank you Carolina, for showing what it means to #BeBest! @CLH45“
Hurley said her life has “changed forever” since the trip and expressed gratitude to all of those who made the indoor classroom a possibility.
“Never in my life did I think someone like me could bring so many people together to change the lives of thousands of kids, and even further to be recognized by the first lady of the United States,” she said.
“The fact that I was chosen to make this trip has forever changed my life, and I’m eternally grateful for this beautiful country. The United States has made my dreams come true, and I’m grateful for my fellow Americans who worked with me to help make the dreams of these young Malawians a reality.”
The school has also benefited from U.S. assistance, receiving 1.4 million textbooks through a U.S.-funded national reading program.
Malawi’s schools have received some 9.6 million books under the program in the past several years.