Block Schools & Block Homes: Your Questions Answered.

We’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries about Blocks. Here are the answers to your most common questions.

How many Block Schools and Block Homes are being constructed by Classroom of Hope?

Classroom of Hope plans to build 11 Block Schools and 10 Block Homes as part of the capacity building and knowledge transfer stage. After completing the factory, we will raise funds to build 200 Block Schools and 4000 Block Homes.

When will the factory be built in Indonesia?

The factory in Indonesia will be built by Q4 2022.

How long does it take to build a Block building?

Depending on how much labour is applied, a classroom can be built in 5-8 hours. A Block Home can be built in 2 days.

What is the cost of a classroom and home made from recycled plastic Blocks?

Initially, while Blocks are imported from Finland, the cost per classroom will be approximately USD 12,000- 14,000 and the cost per home will be USD 13,000 -15,000. When the Block Factory is built in Indonesia, we anticipate that the cost per classroom will be roughly USD 8,000 – 10,000 and the cost per home will be roughly USD 5,000 – 7,000 because blocks will be produced locally rather than imported.

How many tons of plastic waste does Classroom of Hope plan to recycle?

It takes 1-2 tons of recycled plastic to build a classroom and a Block Home, respectively. Based on these numbers, we estimate that 6900 tons of plastic waste will be recycled through our Lombok projects.

Where will the plastic waste come from?

Once the factory is built, all plastic will be sourced from Indonesia. Until then, we are sourcing Blocks from Finland-based company Block Solutions, which has been sourcing plastic from Europe.

What type of plastic is used to make Blocks?


How are the Blocks produced?

The Blocks are produced using an injection moulding process that injects liquid recycled plastic into the moulds. One Block can be produced in one minute.

Do these building get very hot?

The building materials used do not conduct heat. Therefore, these classrooms are one degree lower compared to those built with conventional materials.

What are the fire risks associated with the plastic Blocks?

Block Solutions have undergone testing with their product following NFPA 251 standard test method. The test successfully met the requirements of the test standard for fire resistance for 60 minutes. This 1-hour fire rating is achieved by using 40 mm rockwool and gypsum covering.

Will the establishment of a plastic Blocks factory also get rid of plastic waste from other countries?

Our objective is to fight plastic pollution in Indonesia, and our partnership will build a Block Solutions factory in-country. The waste used to make the plastic Blocks will exclusively come from Indonesia.

Can I buy Blocks?

COH and Block Solutions Indonesia are not yet in a position to sell Blocks to individuals or businesses outside of our project scope. When the Block Solutions factory is built in Lombok, Indonesia (Q4 2022) we will begin to open up sales for Blocks. Block Solutions Indonesia is a commercial social enterprise and will produce and sell Blocks based on capacity and production utilization after the factory is finished.

Are Block Schools and Block Homes Earthquake resistant?

Block Solution Modular Building Units with less mass (more than 100 times lighter than reinforced concrete) have several advantages. One of the advantages related to its lightweight, in addition to speedy construction, is its seismic design. Based on the fact that seismic forces are inertia forces resulting from accelerating mass, the lower the mass of the building, the lower the seismic design forces. Due to its ultra-lightweight, even during extreme conditions, such as parts of Block Solution units falling due to unexpected large seismic forces, these falling parts will have a minimum harmful effect on the building occupants. Read more.

Letter of Intent

What does it mean…and why are we so excited?

Monday 1st November 2021 was a historic day for Classroom of Hope. A Letter of Intent was signed between Classroom of Hope, our partner Block Solutions, our investors, the Government of Nusa Tenggara Barat and representatives from the Australian Consulate and Finnish Embassy.

The official signing ceremony took place at the second Block School, Sigar Penjalin.

The signing of the Letter Of Intent is an official announcement to all key stakeholders that we (the signers) intend to work together to build Asia’s first Block Solutions factory in Lombok, Indonesia in 2022.

The building of a Block Solutions Factory in Indonesia is something that we’ve posted about for months but worked towards for the last 2 years… and this Letter of Intent is the first milestone in making it a reality! We expect everything will kick off in high gear from here, culminating in the implementation and building of Asia’s first Block factory by mid-2022.

The land where the Block Solutions Factory will be built in Lombok, Indonesia.

With a Block Solutions factory in Lombok, we will be able to begin producing building blocks made out of recycled plastic waste sourced locally from Lombok. This means…

  • The recycled plastic used to create the Blocks will be rescued from the shores of Lombok, addressing Indonesia’s plastic waste crisis directly.
  • The cost of each Block classroom will drop significantly, since we will no longer have to pay for the blocks to be imported from the Block Solutions Factory in Finland.
  • The building of a Block Solutions Factory in Lombok will bring jobs and a green economy boost to the island.

With the amazing show of support from the Nusa Tenggara Barat government as well as the Australian and Finnish governments, Classroom of Hope and our local partner Yayasan Classroom of Hope Indonesia are closer than ever to embarking on our goal of building 200+ Block Schools on Lombok and expanding this amazing sustainable technology throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

An Update: How our schools and students have been affected by COVID-19

In February and March 2020, schools supported by Classroom of Hope across Indonesia and Southeast Asia were forced to close due to increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. Some countries reopened schools and then closed schools again. Some countries have partially opened schools, while other countries have had their school doors closed for most of the past year. It’s all a little confusing, and if you have had a hard time keeping track of what’s happening with our schools, we can completely understand why. To provide some clarity, we’re going to break it down for you, country by country.

Photo by Geoff Bartlett


On 24th March 2020, Laos confirmed its first two COVID-19 cases, becoming the last Southeast Asian country infected with the coronavirus. On 29th March 2020, the government announced a national lockdown, effective 30th March. Schools closed at this time. On 18th May, restrictions began to loosened and by 2nd June schools reopened and have remained open.


In late March 2020, the virus was confirmed to have reached Myanmar. By April 2020, the Myanmar government-imposed nationwide full lockdown, with strict restrictions on movement, to curb COVID-19 infections. Schools across the country were on school break at this time. In July 2020, 6500 of 7173 secondary schools reopened, one month later than the usual term start date. In September 2020, due to an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases, schools across the country closed again, indefinitely.


In late January 2020, the virus was confirmed to have reached Cambodia. In March 2020, having observed an increase in case numbers of the virus, government-run schools and universities suspended in-person classes and moved all learning online. On 7 September 2020, schools reopened for in-person classes after a six-month closure. In early December, due to a significant increase in cases of the virus, the remainder of the 2020 school year was cancelled. Starting in 2021, schools were reopened again and teaching continues as usual.

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

Challenges for Southeast Asia

The most crucial problem across the region is that school dropout rates are increasing significantly due to COVID-19 since kids are being deployed as labour. According to our local partner, Child’s Dream, bringing these children back into the educational cycle will be an enormous task.

At this stage, Child’s Dream is not able to measure the extent of the dropouts in Myanmar in particular because schools have been closed since September. A reopening is hoped for in June 2021, when the next academic year starts. But this is yet to be confirmed. Additionally, the coup in Myanmar may also have an impact on schools, although at this time it is difficult to estimate what that impact is. The founders of Child’s Dream are in constant communication with their team in Yangon, Myanmar and they are currently safe, but the situation changes by the day. You can read more about the situation in Myanmar in the newsletter Child’s Dream shared with us last week.

Lombok, Indonesia

NOTE: In Indonesia, Classroom of Hope only supports school programs in Lombok through our Pop Up Schools program. Across the multiple Indonesian islands, school closures have varied. To keep you informed on how closures have affected our programs, we will only focus on Lombok.

All school activities closed in February 2020 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Currently, we are not certain when schools will fully reopen. This will be decided by the Education Department. Some schools are open but only for the last grade of each level (e.g. 6th, 9th and 12th grades). This is because these grade levels are preparing for the national exams. These students have classes and activities for a maximum of three hours per day. Some of our Pop Up Schools are currently being used for these students.

Photo by Manuel Gussmann

Staying the Course

At Classroom of Hope, we are proceeding with our education mission as usual. Our Building Schools program continues as building services are seen as essential in each country we work in. We will keep you updated about how COVID-19 is affecting our schools and students and how our local partners are navigating their way through these challenging times. Until then, keep safe and thank you for your unwavering support.

Special Update: Myanmar

Our local partner, Child’s Dream, shared this newsletter last week about the coup in Myanmar. We are posting it here for our Classroom of Hope community because we feel it is important for our donors to know how this coup is affecting our local partner and the students and schools we support together.

Myanmar Citizens Need All of Us More Than Ever Before!

Dear Child’s Dream friends,

We would like to update you about the situation in Myanmar. In the early hours of February 1, the Myanmar military, under the leadership of General Min Aung Hlaing, took control of all three branches of government and arrested many elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, connected to the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the elections last November by a landslide. The Myanmar military also immediately declared a year-long state of emergency, but promised free and fair elections afterwards. Hundreds of thousands joined peaceful protests throughout the country, including government employees, demanding the release of their elected leaders and the restoration of democracy. Although the protests are still largely peaceful, the military’s response is becoming more aggressive and heavy-handed, leading to the first casualities.

Luckily, all our staff and the beneficiaries in our numerous projects are still safe, but we are very worried that the situation might escalate and become more violent. Our office in Yangon is temporarily closed and our staff is working from home. All our projects are still running; however, they are taking safety precautions.

The timing of this coup is terrible as Myanmar has already been suffering tremendously from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a survey by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the poverty level (daily income of less than USD 1.90) increased from 16% in January 2020 to 62% in September 2020 and current events are only accelerating this trend.

The last three weeks since the coup have been very unnerving. Besides the uncertainty of Myanmar’s future, we are increasingly concerned that more international donors will pull out their funding, which would be catastrophic for the country and its people and jeopardise the progress made over the last decade. Myanmar citizens needs our support now more than ever. Our priority is to ensure the continuation of our current programmes and projects in Myanmar.

Child’s Dream does not have and has never had any connection with the military, as we have always been opposing their role in the government and their atrocities against the country’s ethnic groups. Our focus has always been on supporting uncontroversial health and education interventions directly or through our community-based partners to promote sustainable development towards a free, fair, peaceful and prosperous Myanmar.

We have been working in Myanmar for over 15 years and we have fallen in love with the country and its people, with whom we stand in their aspiration for peace, freedom, human rights and development. Let us show our solidarity and work together to safeguard these aspirations!

Seeing is Believing: Our Remarkable New Storytellers

We have all heard the old sayings “seeing is believing” and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But did you know that the human brain processes images about 60,000 times faster than text? Photos and videos have incredible power to communicate hard-to-describe situations and invoke strong emotional reactions. NGOs depend on donors’ emotional connections and desire to make a difference. For nonprofits, the power of visual storytelling is vital. 

Earlier this month, we introduced you to Classroom of Hope’s original field photographers: Simon, Geoff, and Rakhal. Now, we want to introduce you to three new extraordinary professionals. These visual storytellers have helped to take Classroom of Hope to the next level! Meet the most recent members of our creative support team below.

Shayna Pitch

Duncan and Nicola met Bali-based photographer Shayna Pitch and her husband Brandon through mutual friends in 2016. The connection was immediate. When we told them about the work we were doing in Indonesia, Shayna showed us her photography and volunteered to help. Her moving and evocative photos immediately struck us!

Shayna first came on board to document our work with the Bali Hope Ultra and Bali Children’s Foundation. With her talented eye documenting our projects in Bali, our reach grew. Shayna’s ability to tell stories through her work allowed us to really show donors our positive impact on children’s education on the island.

Thanks to Shayna’s help and the dedication of all those involved in the Bali Hope Ultra, we raised over $80,000 for children’s education!

Photo by Shayna Pitch

This year, when Classroom of Hope began our new partnership with  Scholars of Sustenance (SOS) and Social Impakt, Shayna and Brandon reached out to offer their help once again. In August, Shayna and her camera accompanied our partners to help distribute nutritious meals and water filters to vulnerable communities in Bali. The powerful portraits she took have become the face of Classroom of Hope’s fundraising campaigns  for Bali food and water aid.

With these photos and the generosity of our major donors, Classroom of Hope has been able to raise enough funds to help our partners distribute over 180,000 meals and 130 water filters!

Photo by Shayna Pitch

What made you willing to volunteer as a photographer for Classroom of Hope?

“My husband and I have lived in Bali for about 8 years now and what we love most about the island are the wonderful local people and their genuinely caring nature. We saw this collaboration as an opportunity to give back to the locals whose island has provided us with so much over the years while also helping our two amazing friends with their mission.”

Photo by Shayna Pitch

Shayna’s Brand as a Photographer

Shayna is passionate about capturing life’s authentic moments. In defining her brand, Shayna calls herself a “street portrait photographer.” She conveys the feeling of a specific location by capturing the faces, emotions, and natural beauty of its people.

See More of Shayna’s Work:

Shayna’s Instagram

Mark Harrison

Travel videographer Mark Harrison got involved with CoH in early 2019. He joined us during Project Lombok, the viral social media campaign to support Pop-Up Schools in Lombok, Indonesia.

This was Mark’s first time doing videography work for an NGO, but you wouldn’t know it. He blended in seamlessly with the team and connected immediately with the students. His work that week was instrumental in the success of the Project Lombok campaign. 

Mark’s video tugged at the heartstrings of donors across the world. His footage captured the true devastation of the earthquakes that hit the island. His storytelling focused on the strength of the children who lived through the earthquakes and their joy as they ran into their new schools. This positive focus in the face of disaster is reflected in Mark’s favorite memory of the week:

“Seeing children be children. They’re always positive, laughing and playing regardless of their situation. I love that. It’s a reminder to myself to always be grateful for what I have and not get caught up in the never-ending cyclone of wanting more.”

Video by Mark Harrison

Thanks to his work, Project Lombok didn’t just hit its fundraising goal of $104,000 – it exceeded it! Mark’s video and the support from the rest of the Project Lombok team reached all corners of the world. In the end, it resulted in almost $130,000 in donations! These funds allowed us to build 6 more earthquake-resistant Pop-Up Schools. That’s 1,160 students that were able to go back to school thanks to Mark and Project Lombok.

What made you willing to volunteer as a videographer for Project Lombok and Classroom of Hope? 

“My first impression was that CoH is very transparent and honest with their dealings. I love and trust Nicola and Duncan, which makes me trust in the purity of their vision. That impression never changed throughout the Project Lombok experience.

My perception of the project specifically only slightly altered when I realised just how much need Indonesia was truly in. It was initially hard to accept that we can only help a very small portion of children. However, it was something that I had to become okay with.”

Mark’s Brand as a Videographer  

Mark’s videos are all about telling stories. He first became a videographer at a young age by making skateboarding videos with his friends… 

“Skateboarding was eventually replaced with travel, but the desire to create permanent memories remained. I only started pursuing it professionally 4 years ago when I was a teacher abroad and realised this is something I could do as a career.”

Now, Mark is recognised as a leading travel videographer and travel influencer. His videos capture the highlights that various countries, destinations and experiences offer. He has a talent for communicating the true sense of a place through his imagery. This may have been Mark’s first experience volunteering as a videographer for an NGO, but we hope it won’t be his last!

See More of Mark’s Work

Mark’s Instagram

Mark’s Facebook

Mark’s YouTube

Manuel Gussmann

Manuel “Manu” Gussmann is the most recent photographer to join Classroom of Hope’s family. He may be new, but he has made such a strong impact in a short period of time that it feels like he’s been with us forever! Just like Mark, Manu first got involved with Classroom of Hope through Project Lombok. After a week spent photographing Pop-Up Schools, Manu says, his eyes were opened.

“It was a challenging process for me personally to realise how privileged my upbringing was. And how little I appreciated all the opportunities and resources I had in Germany. Seeing these children and their communities being happy with what they have after such a tragedy really stood out to me.”  

Photo by Manuel Gussmann

Since then, Manu has become a constant part of our CoH creative team. His photos have become the face of our Pop-Up School projects in Lombok. He has now joined us as a field photographer for school openings in Cambodia and Myanmar as well. He even expanded into videography during last year’s Lombok Ultramarathon run by Nicola and our supporter Matt Murray! 

Manu has an eye for capturing incredible and authentic moments. The stories his photos tell have grown even more powerful the longer he’s been with us. 

“I would say I have grown a lot thanks to the communities we’ve visited. I really could feel and see how globally unbalanced resources and access to education are distributed. It’s made a huge difference to me to see this firsthand, compared to the intellectual understanding of these topics I had before.”

Photo by Manuel Gussmann

What made you willing to donate your time as a photographer/videographer to CoH? 

“Since I started traveling, I’ve been interested in working with NGOs. I want to create a body of work around documentary photography, so the opportunity to work with CoH was the perfect “win/win“ situation to get started! The energy of all the people coming together to make something happen, contributing to what they are good at – funds, skills, and/or time – was incredible. 

At the end of the day, my time with Project Lombok and especially the conversations I had with Nicola and Duncan changed everything. They helped me decide to quit my job in Switzerland and take on the challenge to make a living out of photography and videography.”

Photo by Manuel Gussmann

Manuel’s Brand as a Photographer

Manu is an avid traveler and self-described “Nomadic Photographer and Videographer”. His passion is in capturing moments as they are to tell genuine stories. He loves working on purpose-driven projects. We’re lucky to have him helping us capture our impact on film! 

See more of Manuel’s Work

Manuel’s Website

Manuel’s Instagram

These three incredible visual storytellers have been more instrumental than we can express. As humans, we react more strongly to visual stimuli than words. Great photos and videos allow us to show our donors the faces of the students they can help. Through them, they can visualise their impact. Without the efforts of our visual storytellers, we would never have been able to grow into what we are today.

So, to Rakhal, Simon, Geoff, Shayna, Mark, Manu, and the other photographers and videographers that have been a part of Classroom of Hope’s projects over the years… THANK YOU. You have impacted the lives of thousands of students over the past seven years. Your legacy will live on through your photos and the difference you’ve made. We’re so grateful to have you all as part of our CoH family.

Extraordinary Photographers: CoH’s Most Powerful Volunteers

It’s impossible to deny the power of photography for an NGO like Classroom of Hope. Our photos and videos highlight our kids, our schools, and our story. They pull at your heartstrings, make you smile, and make you think. The stories they tell describe who we are and epitomise why we do what we do. They are central in our fundraising efforts, our impact reports, and our ability to build new partnerships.

What you may not know is that all of Classroom of Hope’s photos and videos are taken by volunteers! As an NGO, we are incredibly lucky to have professionals who have been willing to donate their time and prodigious skills to our cause. It’s time to give a shout-out to a few of these amazing photographers and videographers!

To give each the attention they deserve, we’ve broken this into two posts. We want to start with the three legends who have been with us since the beginning. These talented cameramen helped to launch CoH and make it possible for us to grow into what we are today! 

Meet Our Valiant Videographer

Rakhal Heijtel

Rakhal Heijtel’s work for Classroom of Hope is perhaps one of the best known creative pieces we have! Rakhal and his business partner Ruurd Vulink are the artists behind the video that tells Classroom of Hope’s origin story: “Anything Can Start From a Thought.” 

“Anything Can Start From a Thought” by Matemade

Rakhal and Duncan first met back in 2010. Rakhal was backpacking through Australia and Indonesia when he met Duncan at Balangan Beach, Bali.

“Although we had an age gap, there was a super strong connection between us. We both stayed at the Ketut Guesthouse for nearly two months and surfed, talked, played chess all day long.”

During his travels, Rakhal had begun to consider a career in filming. That dream became a reality when he returned to Amsterdam. Upon his return, he met Ruurd Vulink, a “true film artist with an incredible talent for creative concepts and post-production.” Just a couple of years later, Rakhal and Ruurd had founded their own creative company, Matemade.

That was around the same time that Classroom of Hope had grown from a thought into reality. Duncan and Rakhal had stayed connected even during their years apart. When Duncan told Rakhal about CoH and wanted to tell our story to donors, Rakhal offered his help. In 2013, he joined Duncan, Nicola, and Racky on a trip to Cambodia.

What made you willing to volunteer as a videographer for Classroom of Hope?

“To be part of a group of very motivated people that truly wanted to make a difference made me feel very enthusiastic. I had made many storytelling ads for commercial brands, but this was a different league. I had never truly experienced the power of ads before the Classroom of Hope project. To me, there is no better feeling than nailing a shot or a story knowing that it can impact others and actually help a community.”

Rakhal’s work during that trip (and Ruurd’s editing back in Amsterdam) came together in CoH’s first campaign video. This powerful telling of our story helped launch us into a whole new level of visibility and impact. 

Since then, Matemade has taken off as a high-end creative film company. Even so, they’ve never stopped focusing on meaningful relationships and their tight-knit community.

Rakhal’s Brand as a Videographer

“Matemade is independent, proudly and deliberately small. Truthfully, the only things we want to be big are your ideas, which we are never willing to compromise upon. That may mean destroying another camera drone on behalf of that perfect shot, or eating bananas exclusively for three days somewhere on an island still undiscovered by Google. Because ultimately, it’s not about how many desks we have here, it’s what goes in front of the camera.”

See More of Rakhal’s work below!

Matemade Website

Matemade Videos 

Matemade Instagram

Matemade Facebook

Meet our Phenomenal Photographers

Simon Elwell

Simon Elwell was the first photographer to come into the field with Classroom of Hope. Our founder, Duncan, grew up with Simon’s wife Anya in South Africa. Serendipitously, Simon and Anya relocated to Thailand around the same time that Duncan founded CoH in Cambodia. While in Bangkok, Simon began exploring his love for photography and asked if Classroom of Hope could use a field photographer. In 2013, he joined Duncan and Nicola on a trip to Battambang, Cambodia to inaugurate three new schools. 

Photo by Simon Elwell

“This was a massive turning point for me. My eyes were opened to the education crisis – and to the amazing kids who seemed to want nothing more in life than to go to school and learn. Through my lens, I could see the hopes and dreams on their faces as they sat in new classrooms and fresh uniforms. I realised that I could use my passion for photography to ‘give a little back.’ The images I captured were being used to drive fundraising and support donor reports.”

Photo by Simon Elwell

Since then, Simon has been on four more trips with Classroom of Hope. He has been back to Battambang twice more, to Rwanda once, and most recently, to Myanmar. 

What made you willing to volunteer as a photographer for Classroom of Hope?

“The first trip was all about new opportunities for photography and the chance for an adventure. After watching Duncan, Nicola and the rest of the team operating in the field, things changed. When I came home and shared the images with my 2 yr old daughter and answered her questions about why the kids all had muddy feet, or why their classrooms had no windows… Corny as it seems, I ‘saw the light’. I realised that as long as I could afford to help, I would always make myself available to support this amazing effort whenever possible.”

Photo by Simon Elwell

Simon’s Brand as a Field Photographer

Simon’s photography represents people’s genuine nature. His main focus professionally is on portrait photography. However, he also has a talent for travel photography and spends a lot of time traveling to interesting places! 

See more of Simon’s Work Below! 

Simon’s Website

Simon’s Instagram

Simon’s Facebook

Geoff Bartlett

IT Director… Amazewall Fundraiser… and Field Photographer! Is there anything Geoff Bartlett can’t do? We found this multi-talented supporter (and lifelong friend) when Geoff and Duncan met in the corporate world back in 2013.

Geoff remembers Duncan as “this oddball business analyst. He stood out… generally making it a better place to be.” Geoff was working as an IT director at the time but was looking for something different.

“I was reaching the end of my endurance with my work and my tolerance for the distance between the companies I worked for and what I saw as my values. I wanted to do something that I could be proud of, but didn’t know what it was.”

When Duncan mentioned Classroom of Hope, it got Geoff’s attention. Geoff jumped at the chance to get involved and became CoH’s back-end IT person. That’s when he told Duncan about his interest in photography. 

“In December 2014, Duncan was booked to go to Rwanda to meet a local NGO and tour sites for potential school building projects. I don’t remember quite how I got myself on board, but he needed photographers and I had a camera. I was on my first trip with CoH! This was a life-changing moment. After spending a hectic week in Rwanda with Duncan, Nic, and Simon (Elwell), I extended my stay for an extra week to photograph projects for the Rwandan NGO we were working with. I knew I had found my calling, what I wanted to do.”

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

Soon after, Geoff left his IT career and returned to Rwanda with his wife. He spent 6 months there, fulfilling his dream of becoming a documentary photographer. During this time, he visited and photographed Classroom of Hope’s Nyamatete and Gitumba projects. Since then, Geoff has also joined CoH as a field photographer for school openings on three separate trips to Cambodia. 

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

What made you willing to volunteer as a photographer for Classroom of Hope?

“In the years since starting with Classroom of Hope, I have worked with NGOs to tell the stories of the people they serve. So often I have met people who, with just a little help, have leapt ahead. It’s inspiring to see again and again how people overcome adversity. If I have one hope in telling stories through photography, it is to show that we are all in this together. If my luck holds, I might one day see that hope realised.”

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

Geoff’s Brand as a Field Photographer

Geoff is a humanitarian and a true photojournalist. He is a story-teller, approaching his work with sensitivity and passion.

See more of Geoff’s Work Below! 

Geoff’s Website

Geoff’s Instagram

It’s hard to know where Classroom of Hope would be today without the generosity of these three extraordinary artists. Simon, Geoff, and Rakhal took a chance on Duncan and Nicola’s dream. By doing so, they allowed us to tell our story and grow from just “a thought” into what we are today. They are truly the backbone of this organisation, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Check back soon to meet Shayna, Manu, and Mark – three incredible photographers and videographers who joined us more recently and helped to take Classroom of Hope to the next level!

Classrooms are Paused but Hope is Stronger than Ever

In a short time, novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have spread from a seemingly distant issue to a global pandemic. Now, just a few months after we first heard of it, COVID-19 has affected people and organisations all over the planet… and Classroom of Hope (CoH) is no exception.

How is Classroom of Hope Responding to COVID-19?

As the real impact of COVID-19 is becoming apparent, nonprofits have had to respond and prioritise. CoH’s first priority has been the safety of our team around the world. We’re lucky to have a big family of staff, partners, and donors… but that also means we have a lot of people to check on.

Our Team:

Duncan and Nicola, expecting their second child soon, have moved back to Australia for now. The rest of our team is scattered but safe and secure. Everyone is working remotely from Australia, Europe, the Philippines and the United States.

Our Local Partners:

Bit by bit, our schools and projects around the world have shut down to avoid the spread of the virus. Until recently,  close to 95% of Classroom of Hope’s ongoing projects were paused. New school builds were frozen, fundraisers put on hold, big ideas moved to the backburner. This has only just changed in the last week and some of our local partners have been able to recommence the construction of new schools because these construction projects are recognised as essential services.  Our local partners are all sheltering in place, helping their communities and keeping us updated.

Children’s Action for Development (CAD):

CAD has confirmed that all their schools in Cambodia are currently shut. Racky and the rest of the team are all working from home. They have enough money reserved to continue paying their staff for a while longer. During this downtime, they’re working to lay the groundwork for a second school funded by Navitas Education Trust.

Child’s Dream:

Child’s Dream has shut most offices and encouraged employees to work from home. All CoH funded schools and new builds were closed but in recent developments, Child’s Dream is now able to continue with school construction projects in rural communities across Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Their project staff is still working to support programs and minimise the impact of COVID-19.

Duncan, Nicola (with daughter Aura) and Lotte from Classroom of Hope outside the Child’s Dream Head Office in Chiang Mai with Child’s Dream Founders Daniel and Marc.

Pelita Foundation Lombok:

Classroom of Hope and Pelita Foundation had five new pop-up schools in progress this year. Luckily, all five schools were completed just before the virus hit! With all future building paused, Pelita Foundation is now focused on protecting their local community in Gerupuk, Lombok. Their new Coronavirus Task Force aims to minimise the impact of the virus by spreading information, setting up sanitation facilities and providing basic medical materials.

We are so grateful for these incredible partners. They are our eyes and ears on the ground, allowing CoH to stay updated on our communities. We will continue to do what we can to support them as they work tirelessly throughout this crisis.

How to Survive as a Nonprofit during Coronavirus?

Our Situation – Adapting to a New Reality

Once we were confident that our team was safe, we moved to our second priority – our nonprofit’s survival during COVID-19. The first step has been to adjust to our new reality. We’ve had to be flexible: observing, adapting, and making changes. We’ve had to adjust to continue to engage donors during the pandemic and be effective. By staying agile, we’re ensuring that Classroom of Hope can make it through.

We’ve been feeling the effects of the crisis for more than just the past few weeks. With the initial spread of the virus in late January, our donations started dropping off. As people started worrying about personal finances, small website donations stopped. Some large donors were forced to pull out when companies had to re-examine their budgets. When the stock markets crashed in March, the taps turned off almost completely.

This has left us feeling immensely grateful for our two groups of absolute legends: our Wise Owls and our Principals.

Our Heroes – Engaging Donors during a Pandemic

Our Wise Owls have been with us for a few years now. They are a group of passionate donors who understand the importance of covering overhead costs for growth. They invest monthly towards Classroom of Hope’s operations. This helps to build our capacity and further our impact. We are so appreciative that this support has remained consistent throughout the COVID-19 crisis!

The Principals are a new concept launched earlier this year. They are a community of philanthropists: business leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionary investors. Our Principals commit multi-year support to our operations.  Our Principals are more than investors; they are part of our Classroom of Hope family.  Their commitments allow us to plan for our future and create a stable and sustainable nonprofit. This is more important now than ever as we navigate through COVID-19.

Our Approach – Staying Agile

Fortified by the investments from our Principals, we’re taking steps to ensure CoH’s sustainability. We’re staying agile, using this time to streamline our nonprofit and put new systems in place. We’re determined that after this pandemic, CoH will be ready to emerge stronger than ever.

With most of our projects frozen, CoH has been able to focus on our core operating costs and cut our budget by 40%. We set a new goal; raising enough funds to have twelve months of reserves. Through the generosity of our Wise Owls and Principals, we are well on our way to reaching that goal!

So What Can We Do Now?

With these adjustments, we’ve addressed our second priority – our nonprofit’s survival. So now what? Anyone who knows us is aware that we can’t just sit on our hands and wait in the face of a crisis. But how can a school-building nonprofit respond when schools are shut down? How can we continue to engage donors during the pandemic?

The answer is simple: observe, stay flexible, and adapt. While CoH’s constitution focuses on education, we are and have always been a community development nonprofit. Our primary goal is to listen to what underserved communities need and be effective in our service. After discussions at a board and executive level, a decision was made to try and raise funds through major donors, foundations and philanthropists for critical food relief in Indonesia. If you are interested in this initiative, please contact Duncan directly at [email protected]

Where Do We Go From Here?

How will we know when it’s time to get back to “normal”? That’s the question on everyone’s mind, and no one has a clear answer. Like all of you, we’re taking it week by week. We’ll continue to observe the global situation and stay in contact with our local partners.

Until then, we’ll be focusing on our priorities.

  • Keeping our team safe.
  • Keeping Classroom of Hope alive and relevant.
  • Listening to the needs of our communities and doing what we can to help.

Thank you all for your continued support. We’re all in this together, even when we’re far apart. Stay safe, stay healthy, STAY HOPEFUL.

By Kristina Buckingham
CoH Social Media

Updates from Lombok after the recent earthquakes

Last week, Duncan went to Lombok to visit our partner, Pelita Foundation. He saw the incredible work the Pelita team have been doing building Pop Up schools. Over 400 schools were destroyed by the recent earthquakes, leaving thousands of children without education or a safe place to be. Pelita Foundation is providing steel structures, school materials, and child-centered activities to create Pop Up schools as a one-to-two-year solution to get children back into school.

Students and teachers gather together for the opening of the first Pop Up School in the Pemenang district of Lombok.

“I was shocked and saddened to see how much devastation the earthquakes left in Northern Lombok. The experience allowed me to see first hand the incredible work that Pelita Foundation is doing in building temporary Pop Up schools. The Pop Up schools are a beacon of hope for the children of Lombok. I could see it in their faces and in their smiles. These Pop Up schools are their safe place right now. Classroom of Hope have a big job to do in supporting Pelita in their mission. Currently, we are working in the Pemenang district and after seeing the success of the Pop Up schools there, we now intend to scale the program to the other districts once we have completed our work in Pemenang.”   – Duncan Ward

Duncan visiting a local school destroyed by the earthquakes.

A school building destroyed by the earthquakes on Lombok.

The destruction caused by the earthquakes on Lombok.

Duncan was joined on the trip by Tudor Morrow, the General Manager of Old Man’s and long-term supporter of Classroom of Hope. Tudor was there to open the first official earthquake protected Pop Up school supported by Old Man’s.

Tudor stands in front of the first Pop Up School, donated by Old Man’s.

“My trip to Lombok was an eye-opening and humbling experience. No one could prepare for an earthquake of this magnitude and the devastation that occurred across such a vast area. Having the ceremony in the Pemenang district really drove home the impact of the earthquake and the effect on the villagers, especially the kids. I was brought to tears with the poems and honest truth told by the children of the school. I am proud to be a part of such a positive group doing an amazing job at keeping kids in school while all the time focusing on education, positivity, and health.” – Tudor Morrow

Tudor and Duncan were hosted by Claire and Denok. Claire is the Foundations Manager at Pelita and Denok is head of the board of directors for Pelita and also the Lombok Manager of Gugah Narani Indonesia(GNI), an NGO working closely with Pelita Foundation.

From left to right: Claire, Denok, Duncan, and Satria (Pelita volunteer) stand in front of the new Pop Up school in the Pemenang district.

We asked Claire to share what she would want those who have supported Pop Up schools in Lombok to know. She told us these three things:

1.  Education is truly valued on Lombok.

“Even after everything they have been through, the losses and the absolute devastation that these families and communities have faced, they are still making makeshift schools out of tarps and tents and finding whiteboards and any supplies that they can to deliver educational programs. That’s a testament to the value of education.” On a recent trip to visit one of these makeshift schools, Claire recalls seeing a whiteboard. “There was obviously a lesson being taught around emotions. The teachers had written different emotions on the board such as happy, sad, angry and scared. The emotions that had been circled were ‘happy’ and ‘hope’. For me, this was a symbolic moment. Under this hot, dirty tarp the teachers were not only teaching the children but also making sure to keep the spirit of their teachings positive and happy.”

2. Every penny counts.

“Every penny that is donated really, really makes a true difference. There is truly so much to do with the 16 schools we have in our district and we are now looking to move into new districts to build Pop Up Schools. The next district has 105 government schools, so every penny counts with so, so much to do.

3. The donors are making a real difference.

“The donors from Classroom of Hope and the donors of Pop Up schools are making a true on the ground impact and a difference to the lives of so many children and teachers. At the opening ceremony, one of the students read a beautiful poem about how the earthquakes came and she woke up to the dark. Her days were dark and everything had changed. And then Pelita had come and brought the light. Those were her direct words.  It brings me to tears even now. Just how these Pop Up schools are bringing the light to a dark situation and that everything that the donors are doing is making a true, true difference.”

Claire gathered with the students of the new Pop Up school.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

If you would like to support Pop Up schools on Lombok please visit where 100% of all one-time online donations go directly to Pelita Foundation.

If you are interested in sponsoring your own Pop Up school, please contact us at [email protected]