DEL MAR — Del Mar residents Adan Chinchilla and Mitch Brean were met with no shortage of smiles when they first arrived in the small Mozambican village of Makandzane in late 2017.
With four 70-pound bags of school supplies in hand, the couple spent a day distributing crayons, notebooks and backpacks to the village school’s approximately 600 young students.
“It was just overwhelming,” said Chinchilla.
The experience not only inspired a second trip and another 280 pounds of supplies, but the recent formation of a nonprofit organization called Escola Primaria de Makandzane Project. Galvanized by the joy and energy of the students, the pair’s ultimate goal is to one day fund the construction of a new school for the village.
So far, this has meant going door-to-door, harnessing community support and hoping that locals will catch on to their vision.
“It hasn’t quite cracked yet,” Chinchilla said.
Their efforts began in mid-2017, when they decided to throw a fundraising party to help gather supplies for a donation effort. Although they knew they wanted to deliver the supplies to a school in southern Africa, they hadn’t ironed out the logistics of where or how they would carry out their mission.
Defying expectations, well over 100 guests attended, contributing a “mountain of stuff” to the residents’ efforts.
Chinchilla, who works in project management, and Brean, a designer, then had to figure out how to get the supplies directly into the hands of students in need.
After searching in vain for a contact in Africa, they were able to get in touch with an organization called Mozambican Community Association in Washington, D.C., which helped them get their supplies through customs and locate a village to bring them to.
Through their contact, Brean and Chinchilla were able to travel to the small and remote village of Makandzane in the Gaza Province of Mozambique. Chinchilla called their experience meeting the villagers and young students “the most humbling thing ever.”
“We promised that we will go back,” he added.
And so they did. Brean and Chinchilla returned to the village in late 2018, after having gauged the needs of the school and community on their first trip to see what else they might need in the future. They again brought 280 pounds of supplies, as well as a wheelchair for one of the villagers. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Del Mar contributed many of the backpacks they took for donation.
Although Chinchilla has a propensity for charitable efforts — he once collected hundreds of abandoned towels from local beaches for donation — he said his efforts in Mozambique and the formation of the nonprofit was simply a matter of serendipity.
“It just happened by chance.”
Regardless of what future funding allows, the Del Mar residents are hoping to return to the village in 2020.
To learn more about Escola Primaria de Makandzane Project, or to donate, visit http://escolaproject.com.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.