The idea to help educate underprivileged children first occurred to Robert Subtirelu on a trip to Vietnam when he was in the eighth grade, but after researching the nation he said he found most philanthropic funding would go directly to the government, not the people.
“At some point, it just clicked that not everyone has the same opportunity that I do, so I decided to act on it,” Subtirelu said.
He began scanning the globe for areas in which he might be able to help, next setting his sights on a few African nations but ultimately staying away after last year’s Ebola breakout.
Then he met a client of his father, All 4 Hair Salon owner Allen Subtirelu, who had worked with the not-for-profit Konojel Community Center in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, where most children are not educated beyond the eighth grade.
Robert, 16, and his mother Gabriella Grama began dog sitting through the online service DogVacay.com and using their profits to found the Project for American Children’s Education, collecting about $10,000.
In late July, Robert and Allen visited Guatemala for five days, seeing how their funds transformed the center into a school house and covered payment for two teachers, tablet computers and wi-fi routers there.
While Robert, who plans to study international development after finishing high school, analyzed the center’s educational and nutrition programs, his father cut hair.
“There were many differences between there and here,” said Robert, of Connetquot. “It was interesting to see how directly politics affects their daily lives. Things like that you wouldn’t think about here in the United States.”
Robert said he plans to finance the high school education of one student and arrange an internship for another, and hopes to help educate up to eight students through to graduation.
“It’s important for kids this age to learn that with a little work and effort, you can really help others,” Grama said. “They’re changing these kids lives and making an impact. You can see it.”