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Building a Space for Innovative Education

Thursday, July 15, 2010

For 216 young people in rural Madagascar, every dollar that Kirsten Burt 94F helps raise brings them closer to having a permanent school.

Burt, who resides in California, is a volunteer fundraiser for The Chrysalis Private High School in Ivato, a small town about an hour from the capital. Since it opened in 2006, the school has resided in a rented building, providing innovative education for local children. Prior to this, those children's options were limited to commuting to the capital or "settling for poor quality schools in their community," says Burt.

Kristen Burt
Graziella Masindrazana, Burt's sister-in-law and a lecturer at the University of Madagascar, started the school. She established a curriculum that focuses heavily on reading and language skills so that the children can aspire to more than factory jobs and menial labor as adults. With the global economic recession, her work became more difficult this year.

"Six months ago, Graziella contacted me to say that because of the global crisis, a lot of parents have lost their jobs and students were dropping out," Burt says. "She was afraid she would have to close the school because they couldn't afford rent."

"We got the idea to buy a small piece of land to build their own school building," says Burt. She has helped raise about 25 percent of their goal of $20,000 through events, art auctions, and baby clothes that she makes and sells on

Burt first traveled to Madagascar as part of study abroad during her second year at Hampshire. "Madagascar has a rich cultural history, and I found that people there go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome," she says. While there she met her future husband, who moved to the United States in 1998 when they married.

Her time at Hampshire, she says, encouraged her to be an independent thinker and self-motivated, which is "important for tackling a big project like this, especially since I have no experience with fundraising."

Despite her lack of formal experience, Burt has fundraised on a small scale for The Chrysalis School since it opened, encouraging family and friends to donate money, school supplies, and books. However, this is the first year Burt's fundraising efforts have had so much at stake for those involved.

Learn more about The Chrysalis School  >>


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