Alan Roy is designing and building brighter futures for children with few life options, never mind material possessions.
Thanks to the Saanich architect, dozens of kids in the African nation of Tanzania will wake up tomorrow and head off to two schools he designed, paid for and helped build over a five-week period late last year.
“To me, it was a humanitarian investment,” Roy said of paying for the two schools himself. “It’s definitely better than spending it on stuff.”
He said he was so excited during construction that he would finish each day by writing about his experiences.
His diarized accounting serves as the basis of his first book, From Clay to Classrooms: An Architect’s Dream to Advance Education in Africa.
Roy travelled to Tanzania last year to accomplish two firsts in his life: climb Mount Kilimanjaro and explore the possibility of using his architectural talents to help the impoverished people of Africa.
He surprised himself by accomplishing both, and by how readily he was welcomed by the people he met.
The connections he made with Tanzanian villagers touched him the most – his eyes fill with tears when he speaks of them – and he says his book is a tribute to them.
“There’s a lure there,” he said, explaining why many other North Americans are trying to make a difference in Africa. “(The people are) accepting and embrace you.”
His newly published literary work, which encompasses 178 pages and eight chapters, chronicles the people he met and what it took to build two primary schools.
The tale captivated publisher Bruce Batchelor when he read Roy’s manuscript.
“It’s a light, easy read but it’s well enough written that it moves you right along, especially if you have some interest in Africa and thoughts about, ‘Hey maybe I’d like to go visit there sometime,” said Batchelor, owner of Victoria-based Agio Publishing House.
“A lot of travel books are for people to live vicariously through what’s happening,” he said. “And so I can read what Alan’s doing and really be cheering him on (through) the book.”
Roy plans to return to Tanzania this fall to build two more schools to help more of the estimated 600,000 children not attending school in that country.
Before he makes the trip, he is raising funds to pay for construction and school supplies through his registered charity, Primary Schools for Africa Society.
“It’s the human potential,” Roy said of his desire to help. “They need to develop their human potential, which is not happening.
“The long-term solution to that is education.”
To purchase From Clay to Classrooms, or to donate in support of Roy’s school projects, visit www.primaryschoolsforafrica.com or call 250-598-4207.