Donald Alversa Memorial Scholarship

The Donald V. Aversa II Memorial Scholarship

I wanted to create this student scholarship in honor and in memory of Donald Vincent Alversa II. Don was a young, hard-working commercial fisherman who lost his life at sea. He was well loved and sorely missed by many in Montauk, New York. Those of you who were lucky enough to know Don knew that he had a heart of gold and would give anyone the shirt off his back. Besides extreme generosity, Don had an insatiable appetite for adventure; whether he be off-shore fishing, driving around in his fleet of Chevy's, skateboarding, or just having a good time with his friends. He loved his friends and family, and especially his mom Renee, whom he spoke of frequently and fondly. When I reached out to Facebook friends in Autumn 2015 asking for assistance to sponsor a former Malawian student of mine, Renee was the first to contact me and contribute. This former student of mine had wrote me a letter thanking me for tutoring him and saying he finally passed his exams. Unfortunately, his family did not have the means to support his school fees, nor did I with the costs of graduate school. However, Renee and my Mom saved the day by offering to pay for his education. Because of their kind act, and my love for Donald, I decided to create this memorial scholarship for the sons and daughters of fisherman in Ruarwe, Malawi. I know Ruarwe would have been a place Donald would have loved to visit, but he was there with me in spirit.

UPDATE: My mom, Susan, passed away suddenly on Friday, November 23, 2018. My mommy and Donald were very fond of each other and I am glad they are together now. In lieu of sending flowers my brothers and I ask you to donate to the children of Malawi for this cause. My mom and Donald's mom were the first to donate to help a student in Malawi. My mom also worked in the school district for over 20 years. She was very passionate about education and loved all her students dearly, it would mean a lot to her if you chose to help.  Thank you all for your support. 

In Spring 2015 I traveled to Malawi to volunteer with Phunzira, the British-based non-profit that helps support the community center Nyumba ya Masambiro (NYM), in Ruarwe, Malawi. Phunzira is a completely non-profit and transparent charity founded by Rosa Nissim. Phunzira has helped NYM build sustainable businesses to support the center, create a nursery, clinic, library, educational and non-educational services, and much more. To learn more about Phunzira and NYM, visit their website (link below) or feel free to contact me personally. While volunteering I lived in Ruarwe and taught primary students in a classroom setting and tutored secondary students in small groups of 2-4 individuals. I also organized non-academic activities with the Youth Leader, such as art classes and swimming lessons.

General Information: Ruarwe is a small fishing village in the Northern District of Malawi. It is located approximately half-way between Nkhata Bay and Chilumba on the coast of Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa). Ruarwe does not have electricity or direct passage by road. All travel of people and goods must be completed by local boat or ferry which passes the village approximately once a week in each direction. Travel can be difficult, for example, the local boat can take at least ten hours to get to Nkhata Bay. However, Ruarwe does have a primary school and NYM which is crucial to community life. Secondary school students must walk to a neighboring village  to attend school.

In Ruarwe fisherman use dug-out canoes, wich can take anywhere from 2-4 years to produce depending on quality. They also hand weave their fishing nets. Like any fishermen's job, catch may be inconsistent which impacts the socioeconomics of the village. Making a livelihood from fishing may also be very dangerous. The canoes are difficult to balance and Lake Malawi conditions may change rapidly which can cause canoes to capsize and lives to be lost. Even though the people of Ruarwe may face many hardships, they are some of the most loving, friendly, and giving people I have ever come across. From my experience in Ruarwe, it is apparent to me why Malawi is often referred to as "the warm heart of Africa."

In general, Malawi is developing country located in southeast Africa. Malawi is geographically quite small in comparison to some of its larger neighbors, including Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Though literacy rates and school attendance has increased in recent years it is still low by western standards. Most students only complete education through the primary school level and dropout rates are higher for girls than boys. However, attendance rates for all children are improving, with enrollment rates for primary schools increased from 58% in 1992 to 75% in 2007, while the number of students who begin in grade one and complete grade five has increased from 64% in 1992 to 86% in 2006. Youth literacy has also increased, moving from 68% in 2000 to 82% in 2007. This increase is primarily attributed to improved learning materials in schools, better infrastructure and feeding programs that have been implemented throughout the school system. But many students still go without education. A major reason why students may not be able to attend school is because they are orphan or vulnerable and their families may not be able to pay school fees. Life expectancy is low for adults and maternal mortality rates still remain high. As a result, many girls stay home to fulfill a mothers' role taking care of the home, and boys may go out to look for jobs. 

Who are we helping? The Donald V. Alversa II Memorial Scholarship will support orphaned and vulnerable, male and female students in Ruarwe and the neighboring area. Students will be selected based on good grades, strong work ethic in academia and motivation to succeed, good interpersonal skills, and friendly, outgoing characteristics. The memorial scholarship will be in association with scholarship scheme already in effect with NYM. There are NO administration costs taken for volunteers facilitating these scholarships, we are VOLUNTEERS! :) Erik Grootveld of Denmark has developed the overall scholarship scheme (link below) and I aim to make one large donation in honor of Don! Again, Rosa, Erik, and I are volunteers. Erik has established a Malawi Scholarship bank account in which donations are placed TEMPORARILY until they are DIRECTLY deposited in the schools' bank account in the name of the student to pay for the years school fee. Donors receive proof of deposit and updates on students. The school year starts in September so I would like to raise as much money as possible by early summer so students may be selected. I have one very gifted, former student of mine who has been accepted to a boarding school which will cost approximately $300 for the year. I'd love to raise enough to support her and any other students who need financial assistance!
Depending on currency and exchange rates, the typical cost for a secondary student to attend school for a year is approximately $100. For example, the secondary schools work in trimesters and for Bunga and Kondohwe Secondary Schools which are located near Ruarwe the fees are broken down as such:
14,500 kwacha/trimester = 43,500 k or $70-$80 depending on conversion.  In general, the school fees are to maintain and fund the schools infrastructure, staff (teachers pay), and learning environment (textbooks, lab equipment etc).
The remaining finances will go to the individual students supplies, for example, here is what things cost for the student Renee and I sponsored already:
Uniform: trousers 3,000 k, school shirt 2,000 k, shoes 3,000 k (this is typically a one time expense)
Math set (ruler and compass): 500 k
Photocopying reading materials (personal copies of books are limited) 12,000 k
In total, 20,500 kwacha = approximately $30
As I mentioned before, currency may vary. It was approximately 450 kwacha per US dollar in spring 2015. At present (February 18, 2016) it is 754kwacha per dollar but a month ago is was 650 kwacha per dollar. however, I do not know how this will impact the cost of supplies.

THANK YOU!! If you are unable to donate financially, I ask you please to share this cause with friends and family who may be able to. Even the smallest donation may make a difference as you can see from the cost of a math set (less than $1!) so think of how much $5-$10 could help. This is my first time using GoFundMe and trying to make a scholarship fund but I'd love to be able to do this in honor of Don, one of my best friends, every year! Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Once the donations are gathered, and school fees are deposited, I will send out proof of deposits and updates on students in a mailing list (via email) to donors.


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Mandy McCarthy 
Oakdale, NY
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