Xavier is only 18 years old but already has his own school in Zambia.
Xavier Friesen graduated from the Stedelijk Gymnasium in Nijmegen last school year. He took his exams in two profiles and passed both cum laude. Learning is easy for the 18-year-old. And so he has time for other things. Xavier Friesen, for example, is 18 years old and reigning European bridge champion. “I started playing bridge as an extra floor at primary school. I turned out to have a talent for it”, he says soberly. “The aim is to become world champion one time.” Anyone who knows him a little knows that there is a good chance that he will one day achieve that ambition. Because if Friesen goes for something, he will succeed. De Limburger graduated cum laude from the Stedelijk Gymnasium in Nijmegen last summer. But that drive can perhaps be better illustrated by his greatest passion, his foundation Building blocks for Zambia. In group 8, the then 11-year-old Xavier was told that his primary school no longer had much to offer him. He had learned to do it. And so he planned to volunteer somewhere in the world as an assistant teacher. “I really wanted to go to Zambia or Ghana. There were projects where I could make a difference.”
With 100 lessons in a 4 by 4 classroom
The school and the attendance officer gave their consent and through Travel Active, a youth travel agency in his hometown of Venray, he was linked to the school of the Linda Blind Farm, a small community just outside Livingstone in Zambia. Well, there was a building of 4 by 4 meters that was divided into three rooms. About a hundred children between the ages of 4 and 8 were taught in this pre-school. “One hundred”, says Friesen. “I knew immediately: if I really want to help, I have to make sure there is a better school building.” He decided to raise 10,000 euros and set up a sponsored run together with four friends from primary school. In addition, he was handy enough to tip the Jeugdjournaal. And because Hart van Nederland also fell for “the cute face of an 11-year-old”, they raised more than double that in six weeks. After a week’s crash course in English in England, he left for Livingstone with his mother. Without telling about his actual plan, he volunteered for three weeks. “I wanted to find out how it works there, who is responsible for what.” After his research, he, a primary school student from the Netherlands, joined Dream Livingstone, a local NGO (non-profit interest group). “The people of the NGO explained that building a new school could take up to six years. When I told them that I had 21,000 euros with me, they got emotional. Suddenly it turned out that much more could be done. I came into contact with the right people from the community, with teachers and an architect. The contract was signed an hour before our plane took off.” Five months later, in August 2014, the new school was opened by dignitaries. “Everyone was so grateful, it really made me feel great. I was very proud of what we had all achieved.”
Now with 30 in class
It turned out to be only the beginning, because Friesen did not leave it alone with the stones. In recent years, the school has evolved from a refined nursery to something that is very similar to our primary school. “We are now teaching what we would call groups 1 to 5 here. There are not sixty to ninety students in a class, which is quite normal in Zambia, but a maximum of thirty. And every year there is an additional year.” Thanks to money from the Netherlands, two teachers who have been involved in the school from the start, were able to receive training and the team was expanded to include four teachers, an auxiliary teacher and a headmaster.
Because the school was in danger of growing out of its coat again due to the annual expansion, Friesen started a new fundraising campaign in 2017. This time, the now 15-year-old pupil of the Nijmegen gymnasium did not hold a sponsored run, but addressed seven hundred Lions during their European convention. He has already proven that presenting to large groups does not deter him by giving a “talk” in his best English at the age of 13 about his motives behind the foundation for the prestigious online platform TEDx. “Still, giving that speech was a kick,” he admits. With his uninhibited enthusiasm, he also won Wild Geese that same year. This foundation – which supports local poverty reduction initiatives – has since donated 50 cents on top of every euro raised for the school.
The involvement of the internationally renowned Wilde Ganzen also helped to convince the government of Zambia to officially recognize the school and to grant permission for expansion of the school building. Special, according to Friesen. “Of the eight thousand public schools that apply annually, an average of two are awarded. We are now one of them.” Incidentally, the recognition had a consequence that the modest teenager was not really waiting for. “An official name also had to be given when the school was registered. Although I protested quite hard against the plan, the school got my name. The children now say that they go to the Seevjier Community School.” Although things have become increasingly professional since 2014, the children in the meantime still followed the lessons from the floor. And so, in 2018, Friesen arranged a sea container with two hundred tables, chairs, books and a few computers. As a thank you, he received a video that shows how happy the children are with their new school supplies. “So beautiful”, he says with a moving voice.
Three new classes
During an emergency visit last December, the plans for new construction were discussed. And although the corona crisis has caused some delay, the construction of three new classrooms, a computer lab and a public library is now almost finished. Well in time for the new school year that starts at the end of January. And so Friesen can focus on his next ambition; ensure that children receive at least one nutritious meal per day. Fortunately, there are plenty of parents who want to help maintain and grow their own crops. Because there is only one tap in the entire community, we now also want to have a well built. The fight against hunger represents a new step towards self-reliance for the children of the Linda Blind Farm. Made possible again by “teacher Seevjier”.
You can donate via www.bouwstenen-zambia.nl.
For privacy reasons, Xavier’s own illustrations (with the exception of the title photo and the YouTube recording of Xavier’s TEDx speech) are not included in this blog post. An article about his private circumstances has also not been translated.