It’s hard to imagine a life without education. For many, learning started at five-years-old. Through elementary to graduate school, teachers and homework are all we knew—and many of us longed for an end. 

But some children aren’t even able to begin.

Southern Africa Education Fund (SAEF) hopes to change that and believes that no child should be limited by their circumstances. Paige De Kock, executive director of SAEF, raises funds to provide education to the children of Africa who may otherwise never learn to read or write.

Brianna: Tell me about yourself. 

Paige: I’m a 28-year-old professional rock climber from Estes Park, Colorado. Climbing has taken me around the world, and these travels have taught me what a privileged life I lead. When I met my husband, who is South African, in 2014 and began working on his table grape farm in Aussenkehr, Namibia, I felt compelled to contribute to this remote, rural village. We live part-time in Colorado where I focus on fundraising for SAEF and part-time in South Africa and Namibia, where SAEF’s projects are based.

Brianna: Tell me more about SAEF and its mission.

Paige: SAEF is registered in Colorado as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and our projects are primarily based in Southern Namibia, in the remote village of Aussenkehr. Our mission is to help children access the education necessary to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Over 50% of the 800 children at the school we support are on the orphans and vulnerable children list, meaning their families cannot provide for their basic needs.

Brianna: How do you typically raise funds for SAEF? 

Paige: We’ve worked hard to make fundraising interesting, exciting and tangible for our donors. We want donors to feel connected to our work, and understand exactly where their money is going. Birthday Fundraisers allow supporters to donate their birthday by asking for donations instead of gifts. In October, we hosted our first fundraising event.

Brianna: What impact has this made on your life? 

Paige: My work through SAEF has taught me that while people may be “poor” from a western perspective, they are rich in tradition, strong relationships and pride in their culture. I’ve learned that I so often fret about time management, ticking things off my list, and rushing to get to the next place, that I can easily miss out on these riches of culture, relationships and tradition.

Brianna: Tell me about some of the children, teachers and communities that you help first hand. 

Paige: Aussenkehr is a remote village of 30,000 people in the middle of the Namib Desert. Families live in small huts made of reeds from the nearby Orange River. Over half of the 800 students at Aussenkehr Primary School are on the “orphans and vulnerable children list.” The number of available classrooms at the school can only accommodate 400 students, so the school has adopted a system of half-day shifts. SAEF’s current initiative, The Classroom Project, is building 16 new classrooms so that Aussenkehr Primary School can transition to full days of class during regular school hours. 

Brianna: What do you hope people take away from your work? 

Paige: I hope SAEF’s projects generate momentum for greater change, in this community and in others. I’ve seen that simple improvements in the school can spark ideas and motivation for future projects. I want the students and teachers to value themselves and seek opportunities they deserve, like higher education and expanded career opportunities. 

For more information or to donate to SAEF, please visit SAEducationFund.org