• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Building a future: Mark Arendz

      April 30, 2014

      Original article   (www.markarendz.com)

      Mark Arendz building a school in Nicaragua for SchoolBOX
      For the past four years everything I’ve done has been about getting ready for the 2014 Paralympic Games. All the focus is on a singular goal. Every step I took was building to a purpose, at the end you are on such a high. To perform you need to manage the emotion and remain in control and focused on the task at hand. The excitement builds until the very end; then suddenly it’s over. The Games come to an end. You travel home and for the first week or so it’s not that same building excitement approaching the Games but an excitement of celebration. There is a lot to do; some get right back into competition, others go from one media event to the next. Before long the last races of the year are over. First, you step back, take a deep breathe in, exhale. Unwind from everything that has occurred over the past few months and years building towards the Games. Then comes the time when you reflect back not only about the Games but the year before, the past four years, then some even look back upon a career. You remember the good times, the things you learned, and the days that were tough to get out of bed. It all played its part in where you’ve come. Next you think about your goals, determining your success from how you achieved those goals. Finally, the biggest question of them all, the one that most athletes get hung up on. What’s next?

      What helps to find an answer is to do something completely new. My something new was to travel to Central America to work with SchoolBOX. SchoolBOX is a Canadian non-profit organization that is based in Almonte, Ontario. The idea for the organization came when founder Tom Affleck, while doing some other volunteer work in Nicaragua, handed two sisters a notebook and pencils. The girls were very grateful but it was the reaction of the father, who was in tears. He said that that gift would let the girls attend school that year, without it they could not go. From there SchoolBOX was born, first as a way to hand out notebooks and pencils allowing the kids in Nicaragua the chance to go to school. As the organization went to the schools handing out supplies they were taken aback by the conditions that some of the schools were in. Teachers would be teaching class under a tree or a tarp. At this point SchoolBOX evolved and started to build schools in communities that really needed their help. This was where a group of skiers and I come in. Perianne Jones, a National Team Cross Country skier has worked with SchoolBOX for several years and had always wanted to take that one step further and make the trip down to help build a school. There was no better time than this spring, after the Games. Perianne asked several other skiers to join her and I couldn’t pass up the offer. In all, eight skiers headed down to Nicaragua on a life changing journey.

      On April 3 the group headed south to begin our time in Nicaragua. We would be helping build Brett B Crawford #3 School in the community of Jardines de Apoyo. The community is extremely poor; with the majority of the residents having been relocated to this community after a landslide destroyed their homes. Parents work long hours and about 80% of the children live with single parents. When the school is finished there will be four classrooms, three washrooms and a sports field...