Due to a water shortage in Cape Town, South Africa, the popular club One Dollar For Life (ODFL) canceled its annual trip for the summer of 2018. ODFL is an organization based in Palo Alto, specializing in small-scale building projects in third world countries. The cancellation of the trip was a surprise to many students due to the club’s sustained popularity.
ODFL takes its volunteers to many third world countries, such as Nicaragua, the most popular trip, and the club has visited Nepal and Kenya in the past. However, lesser-developed countries often contain safety problems such as gang violence, which is why the 2013 trip to Kenya was canceled, after going there for five years.
Robert Freeman, teacher and founder of ODFL, started the club at Los Altos High School after talking to students about their impact on the world. Freeman stressed that students felt powerless and wanted to help make a difference in the world but had no idea how to start.
“They said they couldn’t do anything about it because they were just teenagers,” Freeman said. “If they each would do the littlest bit, it would be huge. We translated that into every student in the school giving just one dollar. It worked. We built a classroom in Kenya that year and have completed 94 other projects since in 10 of the poorest countries in the world.”
The Cape Town water crisis, which caused the cancellation, began in 2015 in the province of South Africa, resulting in a severe water shortage in the region
Juniors Zach Berger and Max Kober participated in the trip to South Africa through the ODFL program last summer. Interested in the itinerary, Kober and Berger went on the trip together in hopes of making a difference in the region. “I went on the ODFL trip last year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had so far in high school,” Kober said. “Our main goal was to build a center for children with disabilities. We helped build the building itself, as well as see the release of it.”
The program left a huge impact on the boys, who felt that the trip shined a new light on their everyday lives.
“It really puts things into perspective,” Berger said. “Because I know as soon as I came home it made me realize how privileged kids in Burlingame really are.”
“The people there are grateful for every single thing they have,” he said. “It was cool to see the selflessness they had despite the fact that they didn’t have much.”
Counselor Tammy Esrailian is the club adviser for ODFL. As a friend of Freeman’s, Esrailian works as a consultant for the founder, writing scripts for video voiceovers and chaperoning trips.
“The teenagers are able to see how they actually have an impact and how they can do something that really does change lives,” Esrailian said. “You’re building a more capable and conscious culture of kids who hopefully go into the world recognizing their power.”
Despite the cancellation of the South Africa trip, ODFL hopes to make a difference on its Nicaragua trip this summer.