People ask me all the time if my work in Uganda is part of my job. The answer to that question is complex and hard to explain. I work at AIM (Adventures in Missions) in Parent Ministry, which entails helping and supplying resources for parents, as their adult children travel around the world doing mission work with the World Race. I go on Parent Vision Trips, where the parents meet up with their Racers for a week on the field to do mission work. When I go on those trips, they are part of my job and paid for by AIM.
However, the South Sudanese Refugee Project in Uganda is a different. It is a ministry that partners with AIM and other organizations to minister to the South Sudanese refugees. The project is the vision of one man who has been a missionary from Nigeria to South Sudan for years. His name is Uche. He moved his ministry to Uganda when the war broke out and it became too dangerous to continue to work in South Sudan. He is the one who coordinates all things on the ground here in Uganda when I come. He knows the local customs and the culture, as well as contacts here that can help the project go forward in the refugee camps. He is in the process of building a base here in Arua for teams to stay at when they come to help in the camps.
AIM has put together a team of people to partner with Uche in his vision for the South Sudanese people. There are several people on the team who have different specialties. Mine is education. While the overall vision includes many initiatives, the first one moving forward is the Greater Hope Schools Initiative. GHS partners with refugee schools who are interested in becoming a Greater Hope School. The teachers’ training conference I am at now is with our first partner, Hope Primary School, who asked to become a Greater Hope School.
All of that explanation is to say…no, the work I am doing in Uganda is not part of my job. But anyone who knows me at all can tell you that I am pretty passionate about education, especially for kids who are at risk. I collaboratively develop programs and systems to meet the needs of students, so this project got my heart pumping and my brain stirring, because it combines all the things I have done in my 20-year educational career into one. I do not get paid to take these trips. I raise funds for them. I do not get paid while I am here. I do not get paid for the supplies I bring to the schools. I donate my time and expertise. No one on the South Sudanese Project team gets paid. We want any money donated to go to meet the needs of the people of South Sudan.
There is a fifteen-page document about the Greater Hope Schools Initiative. The first day of our teacher conference we asked the teachers of the four schools represented (Only one school is a GHS, the others are considering it.) to do some cooperative learning, a new concept for them. They divided into groups and looked over sections of the Greater Hope Document, discussed them and gave us their feedback. A key of this initiative is for the refugees to take the lead in determining what is needed and what is not, so it is a working document. I will spare you all fifteen pages. (If you are interested in a copy, I can send you one. 🙂 ) Here is an excerpt from the document which explains the Initiative.
What is the Greater Hope Schools Initiative?
The Greater Hope Schools Initiative is an educational model for delivering instruction, designed specifically for schools within a refugee camp environment. Greater Hope Schools (GHS) is a nonprofit which equips teachers in a holistic approach to meeting the refugee children’s needs through education and discipleship. In a refugee camp, we realize the needs are different than in a regular school setting. Most children are coming to school out of traumatic situations, sometimes hungry, sometimes without their most basic needs met learning academically will not be effective until safety and some of these core needs are addressed. Therefore, we use Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs as a model and recognize the more basic physical needs must be addressed before addressing the higher-level needs of belonging and personal development.
What is the Greater Hope School Approach?
Our pedagogy takes a child-centered approach rather than a teacher based lecture model. We look at the needs of refugee children in some of the poorest areas of the globe. They may not have parents, access to education, or even enough food. They make lack access to water or basic nutrition, and safety is a daily concern. Yet, they are valuable and deserve the chance to get an education which will open opportunities for the in the future. How to offer such an education in the challenging setting of a refugee camp is the design the Greater Hope School Initiative addresses. Using a collaborative approach, the teachers, parents and community work together to make the school the best possible within the circumstances.
GHS works to develop partner schools which do not ignore the reality of their students’ lives. Recognizing their reality, be it poverty, trauma, or displacement is key in building a school which can meet the varying needs of its students. These schools embody cooperative, active and participatory learning. They seek to ensure student growth not only in academic areas but I social, emotional, physical, and spiritual areas as well. GHS does an overall assessment of the student population and an appreciative inquiry with the teachers and school leaders within the community. The results help the team to better understand the issues specific to this community and to design a plan along with them to serve their people. They use the resources available to meet the needs in creative ways, beginning in the community and also using partners around the world to help fund and carry out initiatives set by the school.
One of the aspects of the GHS Initiative is ongoing teacher training. This conference has put a spotlight on the need to regularly engage with teachers to help develop them. They want more. It is their desire to continue learning how to best meet the needs of their very specialized learners. I will share more on this in blogs to come, but for now please partner with us in prayer for our way forward on how we can fund trainings like the one we just did, twice a year.