This is only the beginning

During the summer of 2010, I traveled to Kenya for a month to teach math in a primary school. Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the drastic differences between my way of life and that of the Kenyan people, in a small town called Kitengela, about 30km outside of Nairobi. Immersed in an impoverished community, I quickly learned that their resilience and hospitality more than made up for the lack of amenities. Soon I realized that our similarities far outweighed our differences.

It was this experience, as well as a similar trip to Ecuador the following summer, that led to the recent formation of Purple Wagon, Inc.

“I quickly learned that their resilience and hospitality more than made up for the lack of amenities.”

Purple Wagon is a nonprofit organization devoted to giving high school students the opportunity to walk, work, and live in the shoes of cultures across the world. Through volunteer work, students will come to understand that working and communing with others is a universal experience that cultivates global perspective and lasting compassion.

Why Purple Wagon?

As a child, I was always a mess – grass-stained, muddy, dusty, bruised. Childhood was defined by interactivity, by collecting rocks, digging in the fields and navigating the nearby woods. Elementary school reinforced this with hands-on activities of cutting, gluing, olympic days in the fields and show-and-tell.

In a traditional education system, a colossal shift unfolds in middle school that carries into high school. Classes become more “academic”, and students trade hands-on experience for thick textbooks and lengthy research papers, recess for 8-minute passing periods. No doubt, these new additions have great value.

But what we’ve left behind is that which we can touch, manipulate, fold and unfold, and ultimately, we’ve left the things that years ago we would have tossed into our wagons we pulled around the neighborhood.

Purple Wagon envisions a more interactive education system – one that combines service learning, both in the U.S. and abroad, with academic learning in the classroom. So grab your wagon, and let’s experience the world together.


Chris Ramacciotti