All we could feel was shock and profound sadness at the loss of our former student Nerea Perez-Arrospide in a tragic motorcycle accident during her internship in Senegal in September of 2015. But darkness was no match for Nerea’s infectious positivity, which inevitably transcended her passing and inspired those around her to finish what she had started with that same upbeat determination.

Up until her last moments, Nerea was busy sewing the seeds of a cultural center she had envisioned for Hahatay, an educational NGO founded by her Senegalese friend Mamadou Dia, whom she had met in previous volunteer stints in her beloved Senegal. Today that center is becoming a reality, its construction nearing completion thanks to donations and the hard work of Nerea’s family, close friends and the Gandiol community.

Together with her sister Ainhoa, Nerea’s classmates Ana Martín and Thaisa Comelli got to work on Nerea’s initial drawings last March, working with a local team of builders to construct the center with adobe bricks made on-site. Named after Nerea’s given Senegalese name, Aminata, the Sunu Xarit Aminata (Our Friend Aminata), is slated to open its doors next October to offer youth in Gandiol access to cultural activities lacking in the area. The building consists of a library, classrooms, a multifunctional space and a radio station.

Former students Thaisa Comelli and Ana Martín at the Sunu Xanit Aminata building site.

You can see much of the construction process documented over at Ana Martín’s blog. “Wherever you are, we know you are proud of what we’re doing. It is incredible what you’ve achieved, even after having left us,” she wrote in one entry.

Since Ana’s move to Haiti to build a school for the Spanish Red Cross, and Thaisa’s move back to her hometown of Brasilia, the project is being supervised by their colleagues Adriano Redondo y Déborah Cohen.

The center, however, still needs help to finish by October. After collecting 65,000 euros in donations in record time, they only need 15,000 more to cover the remaining costs. Help them reach their goal!

Read more about the project in last week’s story in El País.

Top photo ©Alfredo Cáliz via El País.


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