Retired OPP officer gives back with construction of new school in Nicaragua

(Mark Radke seen with some of the school children from the school he helped construct in Nicaragua. Photo via Ilham Reda – SchoolBOX)

In June 2018, Stittsville Central brought you the story of Stittsville’s Mark Radke, the retired OPP Sergeant who was feeling idle after retirement and got involved with the SchoolBOX organization. He sponsored and helped in the construction of a school in Nicaragua. We received an update to his phenomenal project and are happy to share his journey with you.

Heroes y Martires de Nandaime School opened on November 4th, 2019 to support the education of 140 local children. One of the three classrooms was sponsored by retired OPP Sergeant, Mark Radke, who recently travelled to Nicaragua to assist with the construction.

Mark Radke was a dedicated police officer for 30 years before his retirement in 2018. While most people have a hard time adjusting to retirement, Mark was eager to have more time to give back to both his local and global community. He has chosen to take this new phase of his life to build a new school in Nicaragua with SchoolBOX.

As an OPP Sergeant and avid traveler, Mark has always been aware of his good fortune in comparison to the many people worldwide who struggle to meet their basic needs. Mark saw charity work as a natural continuation of his career supporting the community but was not sure where to start. He just knew that he wanted to help children and he recognized that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Mark decided SchoolBOX was right for him after almost a year of research. He appreciated that SchoolBOX presents a specific mission to build schools and libraries in Nicaragua, maintains low overhead costs, and deliver results as he could see from the growing list of schools they had built.

Mark recognized that people are struggling all over the world and felt that it was important to support people in his local community as well as abroad. As a cancer survivor, Mark has seen the challenges many people face if they do not have family support throughout their illness. As a result, Mark also spends his time driving cancer patients to their doctor’s appointments with the Canadian Cancer Society.

(Heroes y Martires de Nandaime School that Mark Radke helped to construct in Nicaragua through SchoolBOX. Photo via Ilham Reda – SchoolBOX)

Since getting involved with SchoolBOX, Mark has generously donated $23,000 to build one of three classrooms at the Heroes y Martires de Nandaime School. Prior to reconstruction, this school had been falling apart. The roof leaked when it rained, pieces of the wall blew off with strong winds, and a wooden beam had fallen while the children were fortunately playing outside. SchoolBOX recognized that this was an unsafe and unfit learning environment for the children of Nandaime and they needed donors like Mark to start construction.

Mark Radke, Natalie Gunn (we also wrote her story in July 2019), and St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata have each sponsored a classroom to accommodate the 140 children who attend Heroes y Martires de Nandaime School.

Once construction was underway, Mark was keen to join the boots on the ground to see the progress first-hand. Although he had witnessed poverty in his previous travels, it was a different experience to spend a full ten days in the village and join the local’s daily lives. He saw that the school was the central hub of the community and acted as a gathering place for children and adults of all ages.

The whole community was immensely grateful for the support in rebuilding their school. Parents would join in to help the construction team whenever they could. Mark was especially inspired by two young girls who eagerly joined in on the work to help build their own school. Mark and his wife, Juliana, have written a message to the community which has been translated to Spanish and made into a plaque for their classroom. The message reads:

“It has been an honour and a privilege for us to be able to fund and assist in the construction of your new school. We believe education is the foundation from which to achieve your hopes and dreams and to improve ones life, family and community. Mark and Juliana Radke”

(Mark Radke with some of the construction crew in Nicaragua. Photo via Ilham Reda – SchoolBOX)

Mark’s contribution helps provide a safe learning environment for the children of all 120 families in the Nandaime community for many years to come. While everyone wishes they could make such a generous gift, Mark is quick to point out that even small gestures can have a big impact. Mark recalls an afternoon in Nicaragua when he saw an ice cream cart approaching and wanted to get a few people a special treat. With the help of Steven from SchoolBOX, he gathered all the nearby children and the construction crew to choose their ice cream. Mark ended up purchasing 51 ice cream treats which cost approximately $15 USD.

“Why is this important? Because it is an amazing story – Mark is an inspirational person himself who will inspire other fellow Canadians!” exclaimed Ilham Reda, Community Outreach Manager with SchoolBOX.

SchoolBOX, a local NGO that builds schools, provides school supplies and books in Nicaragua. To support SchoolBOX and the children of Nicaragua, join a volunteer trip and have hands-on involvement in improving learning conditions for generations to come. Visit the charity’s website to find out how to get involved https://schoolbox.ca/volunteer.

Mark wants everyone to recognize that “it doesn’t take a lot for us to help out and make a big difference”.

Small gestures and contributions can bring so much joy to those in need.


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