Seven miles, four times a day, is a long way to walk to go to school.
But, in the village of Ferekoroba, Mali in West Africa, more than 60 students were doing just that – until recently. Now, thanks to Building Youth Around the World, a West Jordan-based humanitarian foundation, they have a middle school to call their own.
“It had been 50 years since any school had been built in their village, so it was really exciting for them,” said Braedon McCracken, the organization’s co-founder.
Last October, the youth-driven foundation donated $50,000 to Empower Mali to use toward the three-classroom building.
In April, Braedon McCracken, a recent graduate of Copper Hills High School, traveled to Ferekoroba with his father, Ian McCracken, to participate in a nationally broadcast ribbon-cutting celebration. The new Building Youth Around the World Academy of Ferekoroba means a higher percentage of students in the area will have the opportunity to continue their education.
During their stay in Mali, the pair also distributed school supplies, solar lamps and food.
It was just one more opportunity to serve. And in the McCracken family, service is a way of life.
More than five years ago, at the age of 13, Braedan McCracken formed Building Youth Around the World as part of his Eagle Scout project. His family said working with the foundation has given them a greater perspective on life.
“Not everyone is blessed to be born in America, and they don’t have as much as we do,” Makel McCraken, 13, said. “It’s really great to go out and to serve them.”
For 6-year-old Kaetlyn McCracken, helping others is what she’s always done. She was only two days old when her brother’s ambitious plans were put into action.
“We are so glad we can help the people,” she said.
This summer, the McCrackens traveled with three other families to the Goshute Reservation in Ibapah, Utah to repair aging structures, build playground equipment and donate food and school supplies.
“I’m always excited to go help,” Caden Andrews, 17, said. “I like it; it makes me feel good.”
Andrews and his family spent two days repairing the gymnasium floor at the reservation’s tribal center. They said that they enjoy the opportunity to make a difference.
“It helps me to think not only about myself, but about others,” Nick Andrews, 13, said.
In the years since its inception, Building Youth Around the World has grown to include more than 100 youth and adults, working together to improve lives close to home and throughout the world.
To date, youth in the organization have completed more than half-a-dozen projects in Mali, Samoa, the Navajo Nations and on the Goshute Reservation. Later this year, they’ll travel again to Samoa to build classroom furniture and provide free dental care.
In 2015, they’re planning a trip to renovate an orphanage in Mexico.