This month, we are celebrating 10 years of our Makarios school, with a total of 13 years as a non-profit in the Dominican Republic! We believe it’s essential to understanding where we have been in order to celebrate where we are now and where we are headed. Our reflections on all that God has done have lead us to share with you the story of how we began, give you a glimpse into Makarios’ first year, and share with you some exciting news.
IN THE BEGINNING ...
Makarios founder, Sharla Megilligan, was only 28 when she took the leap of faith to start the non-profit we know and love today. It was 2004, and she had lived in the DR for years, falling in love with the people and the culture.
In her time living in the DR, Sharla learned that a low percentage of kids were going to high school and even lower were graduating. Public schools in the big cities were decent, but in the rural areas, they were terrible. What you might find is one teacher with 40 students, and very limited supplies. If teachers didn’t show up, there was no school. Students copied things off of the board to memorize but many of them not literate, they were just copying what they saw. In the early year of Makarios, there were students who had attended public school for years and couldn’t write their name.
Sharla researched the need over the four years that she taught at Santiago Christian School and had a notebook full of information to get started. She went to grad school and got a masters in public affairs with an emphasis in nonprofit management. A friend of hers offered a $5000 matching grant to get us off the ground, so she reached out to her communities raised the $5000 to match. She started there. That was enough to cover Brian and Bethany’s (Makarios' first teaching staff members) pay and her own flight to the DR. Many of those gifts became monthly. They collected school supplies and showed up in the communities to teach after some planning meetings with parents and local leaders.
The school began as a tutoring program to supplement public school education for students during the half day they were not in school. In a leaning house in Pancho Mateo, students, teachers, and surrounding communities witnessed beautiful things happen in that house. Our very own Cakito was one of those students.
Over the next few years, Sharla and the Makarios team planted roots with people in the communities. They learned from people around them, they build relationships, they prayed. Eventually, they decided to open up the Makarios school in the center of the communities they were serving. That handful of students has grown to over 170, and our staff has multiplied just as quickly. We are one big family, dreaming together and striving for goals together.