Ndawala’s Story – A Father’s Journey


“I no longer need to fingerprint my name. It makes me free.”
– Ndawala Banda

Before buildOn came to Zumani village in Malawi, Ndawala Banda couldn’t read or write. At age 53, he was embarrassed that he couldn’t sign his own name to deposit or withdraw money at the bank. He had to use his thumbprint instead. Many would laugh at him because he couldn’t even read the bus signs to know which bus to take. Ndawala was held back by illiteracy.

When a buildOn team arrived in July 2009 to build the village’s first primary school, Ndawala didn’t hesitate to volunteer his time, alongside American students and his local community, to help with the construction. He knew how important education was to his own children’s future and the development of Zumani village.

Zumani’s first school was completed just ten weeks after signing the covenant – a commitment between buildOn and the community to provide locally sourced building materials, to contribute the volunteer hours necessary to build the school, as well as a promise to send girls to school in equal numbers to boys. The second school block was completed two years later in July 2011. Since then, hundreds of boys and girls have attended the school.

Prior to the building of the schools, Ndawala’s children would have to travel long distances to neighboring villages to receive an education. Not only have six of his children attended buildOn schools, but he himself has had an opportunity through buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program to learn how to read, write, and gain the knowledge needed for him and his fellow students to develop their community.