GoAbroad Interview

Andrew Bauer - Co-Founder

Andrew Bauer - Co-Founder

A fourth grade teacher in Illinois, and the CEO and Co-Founder of Pangea, Andrew was inspired to start the organization after leading a trip to Uganda. Four years later, and he is still working to help empower students to volunteer and create even more sustainable projects in schools throughout Uganda.

How do you know the other founders of Pangea?

I led an independent volunteer trip to Uganda in 2010. In need of volunteers, I stopped by a UNICEF meeting at DePaul University, where I met Drew Edwards and Kevin Oh. Six months later, they volunteered for the trip, and the rest is history. 

Volunteering in Uganda in Construction

An action shot of Andrew working alongside PED volunteers in Uganda.

Can you describe how the idea came about for Pangea?

In 2010, the funding for a school in Fort Portal, Uganda was pulled, and due to the dependency between the school and the donor organization, the school crumbled. I had previously visited the school and felt a personal connection to the staff and students. I wanted to help empower them in some way, so I decided to lead an independent trip that summer. The purpose of the trip was to establish an income-generating project that would help the school generate a sustainable income, which in turn would cover a percentage of the school’s annual budget in order to help them further their strategic plan. 

A group of ten volunteers worked on the project for over two weeks. After the project was completed, we were riding home in a bus and asked ourselves, “What if schools did not have to rely on donors or the government, but could generate enough income at their school to not only sustain their operations but further their strategic vision?”  After about ten hours on the bus we had the initial framework of what would later become PED’s three-phase model. 

This school is Tooro High School, which has grown from thirty students to about two hundred as a result of PED’s income-generating projects and the exceptional leadership of the Tooro staff. The projects are set to account for about 60 percent of the school’s annual income.

You are a graduate of Illinois State University (ISU), perhaps the greatest university without a competitive Crew Team! (No question here I just wanted to state a fact).

That is what I love about GoAbroad.com, straight facts with no fluff. 

Illinois State University began as a Normal (Teacher’s) University, have you always been an educator?

After graduating from ISU, I immediately started teaching for District 161 in Homewood Flossmoor, where I still teach today. Education is the fundamental building block for any society, and I hope I am able to impact education in both the U.S. and Uganda. 

You teach fourth grade in Flossmoor, Illinois. How is it different than teaching children in Uganda?

Access to materials is the challenge most Ugandan schools face. In the states I have virtually unlimited access to educational resources through digitized curriculum and online resources. That is the reason PED implemented an internet café at Tooro High, the school I previously mentioned. We believe that access to the Internet can make all the difference in shrinking the gap.

How is it the same?

The passion from the educators is the same from Uganda to the U.S. Each school we work with has such strong leaders, all with equal passion for their students, peers, and their strategic plan.

Uganda has plenty of needs both social and environmental, why such a specialized focus?

Education is a human right. We also see education as the most powerful tool to uplift a community. Our goal is to ensure that these schools are open and empowered by their own income for years to come.

There are so many young people with incredible ideas on how they would like to change the world. Many of those ideas never take root. Pangea is several years in and making a difference, what advice would you give a young social entrepreneur?

Be genuine. Know what your organization or product is and own it. Also be resilient, there will be things that challenge and you will have to make adjustments, be flexible and persevere!