Madalitso’s Story: How buildOn and The Sonder Project Change Lives

Meet Madalitso Banda, a young man from Malawi. By the time he was 13 years old, Madalitso had lost both his parents, leaving him and his older sister to depend on their struggling grandmother. He loved school, but he had to drop out in order to work to support his family.

The future seemed dim for Madalitso. But with some help from buildOn and The Sonder Project, he was able to transform his life and create the bright future he always dreamed of.

With his education abruptly halted, Madalitso saw his dreams fading. Forced to work odd jobs on local farms, he struggled to put food on the table. It was especially difficult for his grandmother to see the trials he was facing; she had been forced to drop out of school herself when she was growing up because of high school fees. 

Madalitso’s grandmother was unable to continue her studies at a young age because her school fees were too expensive.

But then, Madalitso heard about buildOn’s Enroll Program. This program, designed to get primary school students who have dropped out of school back in the classroom, offered him a chance to return to learning.

Working in the mornings and attending classes in the afternoon, he threw himself into his studies. Soon, he wasn’t just catching up–he was excelling. Noticing his hard work, his teachers enrolled him in school with the peers he had left behind when he originally dropped out. Madalitso passed his Primary School exams with flying colors and was accepted into a well-regarded public, boarding secondary school (high school).

But there was still something holding him back: he could not afford the school’s fees. School fees at secondary school are often well beyond the means of a rural family in Malawi living below the extreme poverty line of $2.15/day.  Madalitso’s secondary school fees are ~$275/year which does not include his uniform, materials, or any additional school supplies.  buildOn knew Madalitso deserved a chance to reach his full potential, so we connected him with The Sonder Project, a nonprofit that supports talented secondary school students facing financial barriers through its Education is Power program.

After reviewing his situation, The Sonder Project decided to accept Madalitso into the Education is Power program. “It was the happiest day of my life. For the first time in a very long while, I felt hope. The sun shone eventually,” he remembers. With his fees covered, he could focus on what truly mattered–his education.

Thanks to buildOn and The Sonder Project, Madalitso’s future is bright!

Today, Madalitso is a thriving student in his second year at a prestigious boarding school. He dreams of becoming an accountant, not just to secure his own future and take care of his family, but to help others like him: “I want to be able to take care of my grandmother who has always been there for me. I also want to give back to my community by paying fees for needy students,” he explains. 

“For the first time in a very long while, I felt hope.”

Madalitso Banda

Madalitso’s story is a powerful example of how buildOn and The Sonder Project support each other in our shared goals. By working together in solidarity, buildOn and The Sonder Project are creating a ripple effect of hope, empowering individuals like Madalitso to break the cycle of poverty and rewrite their futures.

Want to help students like Madalitso? Donate today and help young dreamers reach their full potential.

Want to learn more about our partner, The Sonder Project, and the Education is Power program? Visit