After 30 years, serving in five local OPP detachments, Sgt. Mark Radke is already looking forward to his next big project.
He will be helping to build a new school for impoverished children in Nicaragua through the Canadian charity SchoolBOX.
SchoolBOX's goal with the project that Radke is participating in is to ensure that children in a rural community called Las Nubes in Matagalpa, Nicaragua have a new and structurally sound classroom to replace the wooden shack with a dirt floor that they are currently taking classes in.
"As I've gotten older, I have become more involved in volunteer work," said Radke.
The retired sergeant, who is also a cancer survivor, has volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society's Wheels of Hope program since 2015 -- driving cancer patients to and from their treatments. He is also a team organizer in Relay for Life.
Radke said these initial forays into volunteerism are what led him to look for other opportunities to make a difference in the world during his retirement.
"I have always been drawn toward helping underprivileged children in some way," he explained. "I wanted to build a school or hospital -- something permanent that would be valuable to a community even beyond my lifetime. As time went on I began leaning towards building a school and needed to find an organization I could partner with. I came across SchoolBOX's website, and was captivated by the story of their humble beginnings, their lean operation costs, their local Nicaraguan team, and the massive impact they've had empowering kids to go to school."
Radke was first hired by the OPP when he was 22-years-old and posted to the Hawksbury detachment in May of 1988. He would spend his career serving at OPP detachments in Hawksbury, Kanata, Goulbourn, Kemptville, and Ottawa. Retiring as a sergeant, Radke officially handed in his uniform on May 31.
Jon Tam, SchoolBOX’s Acting Executive Director, commented that the members of the community in Las Nubes are extremely excited to meet Radke and others who have pledged to volunteer their time to help with the construction of the new school.
"People in this community have very little, but they realize that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty," he said. "The parents want their kids to dream of becoming more than subsistence farmers, and more importantly to achieve their dreams through education. Mark's gift of education will have a ripple effect throughout the whole community of Las Nubes."
Since launching in 2006, SchoolBOX has constructed 99 classrooms, 75 libraries, and 59 washrooms in Nicaragua. In addition to its infrastructure programs, SchoolBOX equips over 20,000 children in 108 communities in Nicaragua with the school supplies they need to get a basic education on an annual basis.
Now officially in retirement, Radke plans to spend more time with his family and friends, and will continue his volunteer work with the Cancer Society. He hopes that his family will be able to travel to Nicaragua in early 2019 to see his classroom constructed and take part in the inauguration celebrations with the children, teachers, and entire community of Las Nubes.
"I want to be there to see the finished classroom and witness the smiles on the kid's faces when they see their new school for the first time."