that every child has a right to a good education, that every community has a right to clean water in their homes, and that schools can be a foundation for a stronger, more vital, and sustainable future for the whole community.
With an emphasis on community-building and local volunteer participation, Project Schoolhouse partners with recipient communities to build new schools, provide clean water, improve sanitation, and help students continue their educations.
Where It All Began
Thomas ‘Tab’ Barker founded Project Schoolhouse in 2004 with the goal of building schools. After college, he spent 1997 teaching English as a second language in a small community in Costa Rica. During his time in Costa Rica, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study Economics in Argentina where he spent all of 1998. After extensive traveling through South America and Europe, he returned home to Wyoming in 2000. That summer he raised $20,000 and returned to Costa Rica to build two additional classrooms at the school where he had previously taught. The experience was life-changing and in 2004 he founded Project Schoolhouse to continue this work, this time in Nicaragua.
Tab wanted to work with communities that would get no other aid, which landed him in the middle of Nicaraguan working with communities that are logistically very challenging to reach. Overcoming immense logistical challenges and collaborating with communities with limited literacy levels and distrust of outsiders have become the competencies and keys to our success.
Our name is Project Schoolhouse, but we also build water and sanitation solutions. In those first projects, through listening to community members, it became clear that safe water was their highest priority. Responding strictly to voiced needs and allowing communities to guide the projects in which they want to collaborate are our highest guiding principles. In 2009, we added the construction of distributed water systems to our areas of focus.
We Do 3 Things
Project Schoolhouse partners with communities to build water systems, schools, and sanitation solutions.
We Do Them Well
The typical community is rural, lacks clean water and electricity, and lives far from a traversable road. Our in-country team has the patience and expertise necessary to solve the logistical challenges inherent in working in some of the most remote communities in Nicaragua.
We Stay Focused
Responding strictly to voiced need, we work with communities that have identified both the problems they want to solve and the solutions to fix them. Our purpose is to facilitate projects that have real grassroots support and local buy-in that result in sustainable progress.
How We Are Different
Project Schoolhouse works with communities to tap local springs and distribute pure spring water, via gravity, to every house in the community. No moving parts mean nothing that can break.
Men and women who collaborate on the projects become experts. Our local team works with community members as they form Water and School Boards, allocate the jobs, and schedule work hours. Working side-by-side with our engineers, they learn the ins and outs of the water project, ensuring its care and sustainability in the long run. Our head builder teaches building skills and these projects, which can last 6-12 months, provide an experience that will serve the community members in future professional endeavors.
Successful Community Engagement
Our recipient communities choose us.
Through direct contact from the communities themselves or through a reference from local authorities, communities come to us. Because we require enormous investment from the recipient communities we only partner with those who demonstrate a strong commitment to the project.
Our innovation is in combining short-term, immediate need projects like safe water, with longer-term, more strategic needs like education. No one gets water to their home until they have worked all of the committed volunteer hours on both the water project and the school, ensuring projects are completed on time and with equally fair participation.
Responding To Voiced Need
Responding strictly to voiced need, we work with communities that have identified both the problems they want to solve and the solutions to fix them.
Our purpose is to facilitate projects that have real grassroots support and local buy-in that result in sustainable progress. We remain diligent in our focus on safe water, sanitation, and education solutions.
The families in communities where we work are the biggest donors, volunteering up to 25,000 hours, digging miles of trench for the water system, leveling a building site, and creating concrete blocks from sand that is dug out of a river. They pick which projects are priorities because they are doing most of the work.
We Bring Water Home
There are enormous economic, educational, health, and empowerment benefits to a community from the development of clean water and sanitation.
Nearly 1 in 10 people in the world live without access to clean water. They mostly live in rural communities and spend hours walking long distances to collect water for all their household needs. Even worse, it is usually children, girls, who collect this water, which reduces the time they can spend in school. Studies show that the biggest impact is in terms of time savings, allowing people to use time previously spent collecting water to spend it on other things such as working or studying.
Project Schoolhouse believes that making clean water convenient is extremely important.
Our water systems are designed to bring safe water directly into the homes, eliminating the need to walk for water ever again, releasing children back to the classroom and allowing parents to focus on economic ventures.