Ultimate roommate: Alumnus shares friend’s post-college adventures

Published: February 7, 2013, 1:05 am ET
Contributor, '09

Simply, Zach Lager is my roommate of three years from college and one of my best friends (and I’m sure others would say the same).

But so what? Who writes an article about a friend of theirs for all to read? Well, in the three years since we have graduated, I have seen Zach maybe four times, once during each of the visits that he has made back to the U.S. from Mozambique.

Upon graduating in 2009, Zach decided he wanted to take his international studies major and move abroad to do non-profit work helping those who are less fortunate. Shortly after that, Zach did what he does best: his own thing.

Lager (as we usually refer to him) saw an opportunity and started a non-profit organization to help promote and foster the development of a local community in Mozambique. Local Development Catalyst Network’s (LDCN) mission is to support local education and sustainable economic agricultural development in Nguineia, Mozambique.

Zach has had his fair share of experiences thus far in his life, but as he puts it, none compare to his post-grad experience in Mozambique. And his friends, myself included, couldn’t be more proud of him.

During the past 18 months, LDCN members have begun to make a real difference in the community. The first two projects they took on were the construction of a learning center for the village and a LDCN volunteer shelter for those who came to help.

The learning center is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, and will not only help establish a base for future work, but also serve as a sign of trust between Zach and the people. Since then, LDCN members have focused on the growth and development of Nguineia.

During the last 12 months, they have introduced a crop rotation agriculture plan, planted important trees around the villagers’ fields, dug a swale to collect rainwater and even started a composting pile. In the first year alone, they were able to produce about a half-year’s amount of nutritious food for about 10 people. Pretty amazing.

But it doesn’t end there; one of the biggest achievements of 2012 was the construction of a local preschool. This project, which was initiated, organized, voted on and completed by the local community, allows young children to get an education without having to walk 7 miles each morning to the nearest primary school.

The community split itself into work groups, and each Friday came together to construct this two-room schoolhouse. The primary school, which was seven miles away, has even agreed to send a first-grade teacher to the newly built preschool to teach the local children!

So what’s next for Zach? Well there are plenty of plans in store for 2013 including:

1. Build a primary school for the local community

2. Establish a local environmental education program

3. Expand the agricultural fields to grow more vegetables and begin raising bees to produce honey for the community.

4. Women’s Group — continue to support local women by establishing cooperative vegetable programs and teaching them about sustainable agriculture practices. This group will teach them about the local agriculture and help them cultivate their own vegetable gardens.

5. Project H2O — partnering with a multinational sugar cane company to dig a deep borehole well that will provide clean drinking water for the community.

And knowing Zach, that’s only what he’s been able to write down.

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