Building a Dream School in Malawi

By Caroline Yeager (MSM '15) | Fall 2016

“My Notre Dame education launched me into a world full of possibilities. Now it’s my turn to help make opportunities available to others.”  — Caroline Yeager

My Notre Dame Experience:

My experience at Notre Dame was nothing short of amazing. My MSM class quickly became family, my professors were my friends, and the campus immediately felt like home. I joined the Sailing Team, the Investments Club, and Women in Business. Through these experiences, I learned the value of community. Mendoza provided me with not only business classes, but also challenged me to ask more of business.  

I entered the MSM program not knowing what I wanted, and by October 2015, just four months after I had started at Notre Dame, I had discovered a passion for finance and was offered a position in the Financial Management Program at GE.

I learned more in my year at Mendoza than I had learned in the 21 years prior, and being a student there opened doors that I never knew possible. I have been at GE for a year now, and have seen firsthand how the Notre Dame community perpetuates even after graduation in the professional world. I’ve stayed in contact with my professors and friends, involved myself in ND recruiting efforts, and organized a GE Girls Camp at ND for underprivileged youth in South Bend.

I’m blessed to work for a company that fosters similar values to those of Notre Dame and Mendoza. The environment at GE encourages me to constantly ask more of business and to always give back to the community. I recently returned from Malawi, Africa where I built a school with a non-profit that was founded by a former GE FMP (Financial Management Program). This effort provided an amazing, talented group of children with the greatest of all gifts: an education.

I am eternally grateful for the education I received at Notre Dame. It launched me into a world full of infinite possibility, and now it’s my turn to help make the same great opportunity available to others.

Malawi, Africa Service Trip (May 2016):

In May, I went to Malawi along with 15 of my colleagues to build a school. We spent the week in a small village called Zandeya, about 6 hours from the capital city of Lilongwe. The entire community of about 300 people greeted us upon our arrival. The children of the community previously had to walk an hour and a half just to get to school, and had to cross a river on their way there – this river caused two brothers to pass away last year on their way there. The commute was not feasible, especially for young girls, so some of the children did not attend school at all for this reason.

The community had the bricks and sand ready upon our arrival. To our surprise, they had made the bricks 15 years ago in the hopes that someone would come help them build a school for their children. Finally, 15 years later, that dream became a reality.

We worked every day alongside the people of Zandeya. It was very much a team effort, although the average Malawian woman is about twice as strong as the average American man. They hacked away at the foundation for hours in the hot sun, all while carrying babies on their backs. We hauled bricks, mixed sand and water for concrete, and dug the foundation with their handmade tools.

We lived with families in their huts made of mud and sand. We ate what they ate and lived how they lived. We were fully immersed in their culture and their way of life. We went there to help provide them with an education, and we left with an even greater education on life. 

They taught us to smile always, dance often, and make sacrifices for the good of the group. For people who have so little, they are the happiest people I have ever seen. They give up everything they have to help others, and they know how to make any task fun through song and dance. This experience taught me how much bigger the world is than the small city we call home.