Arlington-based commercial-office-furniture dealer Washington Workplace has put itself on the front lines of supporting improvements in education in Africa.
The firm partnered with Business Furniture Installations (BFI) and a nonprofit alumni association to donate unused office furniture to Pioneer Middle School in Senegal.
Ashley Prout, the design-team lead at Washington Workplace, coordinated the company’s donation, which had a personal connection: Prout’s husband, Lamine Ly, is a Senegal native who attended the school.
Senegal’s literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world, and Ly’s alumni group started the nonprofit last year with a mission to renovate the facility. Their initiatives include updating restrooms, planning for a library and upgrading each classroom.
Earlier this year, Washington Workplace moved locations and BFI retired from the furniture-installation business, leaving each with inventory that was no longer needed. Prout approached Washington Workplace president John Murphy and BFI executives about donating the unused furniture to Pioneer Middle School.
“In our line of work, we see a lot of perfectly good office furniture being discarded, so I told my husband about it,” Prout said. “With the help of his alumni association, we were able to determine exactly what the school could use.”
For two months, Prout and her family collected and organized chairs, desks, glass boards, lateral files and bookshelves. They rented a truck and hauled them to storage until they could procure a shipping container. Last month, the shipment arrived at the school in Senegal.
“Giving back is always rewarding, but making a difference through a personal connection with a staff member was extra special,” Murphy said. “Doing so during a challenging time for all of us due to the pandemic gave us another reason to be thankful.”
The alumni association’s next goal is to build a library and stock it with books in French, the country’s official language.
For information on the effort, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Website at https://www.gofundme.com/f/renovate-middle-school-senegal-cem-des-pionniers.