Tom Affleck

Tom Affleck (photo)
Degree Title: 
BA Honours, Major in ID with Area of Emphasis in Political Economy and Administrative Change
Graduation Date: 
2002

When I graduated from the IDS program in 2001 I was rather disillusioned with the international development sector and decided to switch fields and focus on a small cottage maintenance company that I had started to help pay for my degree.  Yet a year later, I was bored, itching to travel and increasingly excited about micro-finance as a means to truly empower the economically impoverished.

I was thankful to get a CIDA internship with MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) working on an innovative microfinance project in Peru.  I grew a great deal in this role and was eventually promoted to Project Manager.  With funding from USAID, we were able to extend credit to 200+ Peruvian rice farmers and pilot a new model for extending loans to small farmers.  Following this project MEDA offered me a job on another microfinance / economic development project in Nicaragua.  

I quickly found myself stashed away in an office in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, working on field data analysis for CIDA reports.  This couldn't have been farther from my skill set or worse for my mental health.  Ultimately, I ended up crashing and then quitting.  However, out of the ashes came SchoolBOX, a Canadian charity that I founded in 2006 to 'Make Education Possible' for children in Central America.

SchoolBOX (www.schoolbox.ca) has been an incredible challenge and an amazing gift.  Many times I felt like it was totally impossible and that the entire venture was doomed to failure.  Thankfully however, we didn't give up.  In 2012, SchoolBOX is empowering over 11,000 students and teachers in Nicaragua.  It is amazing to think that we recently completed the construction of our 30th classroom.  To date over 200 international volunteers from Canada, the U.S., Western Europe and Australia have travelled to Nicaragua to build schools with SchoolBOX.  

It has been an amazing journey.  My IDS degree was an important part of it.

Check out the SchoolBOX Documentary!