Beginning each day with an hour-long trip to the school over bumpy, dusty roads, I was astonished by the number of children walking alongside the road, hurrying on their way to school. Older children holding the hands of the younger. No mind for the cars, and even huge trucks, passing them so closely it would have been possible to reach out the window and touch them. Children on a daily mission of walking to school, happy to have the opportunity to receive an education. Occasionally, children were carrying pieces of wood which would be used for a fire to cook their meals on.
Upon arrival at school I was greeted by such a feeling of warmth. Out-stretched hands and the greeting, “You’re welcome” was offered by teachers and students alike. Instantly, I knew at once this was going to be an encounter like no other I have previously experienced.
While getting materials unpacked and ready for use, I was able to watch the teachers within the classrooms and I was truly impressed! Unlike teachers in the United State who have unlimited, readily- available materials, these teachers knew how to keep the students engaged with minimal resources. They were creative in their teaching methods and used songs, rhymes and very limited visual aids. Through repetition, students were learning how to speak English and were receiving their daily lessons. However, their teaching resources were tremendously increased by the materials brought from donations and supporters state side. Seeing teachers use materials never available to them before, I could tell how richly blessed they felt.
No doubt my most humbling observations came from watching the children’s faces as they touched and explored items never seen before. From books, which sometimes were even being viewed upside-down, to materials which taught numbers and letters, the students were totally engaged in the moment, so eager to explore whatever they were holding. Their quest for knowledge was as instinctual as any child. Although language was a definite barrier, by using hand gestures and a reassuring smile, I did my best to present lessons to these precious children.
As days passed we became more familiar with each other and a true bond was formed. I will never forget the girl who read a book to me that she had practiced for a few days; she was smiling from ear to ear with pride. It had not been often these children got to hold books, however, thankfully all that had now changed!
Unfortunately, three weeks passed too quickly. Leaving was difficult. There was so much more to do, so much more to help the teachers with, so much more to teach the children
As I prepared to depart, the staff and students expressed their heartfelt gratefulness for all that had been provided to them. No casual “thank-you” rather repeated handshakes and kind expressions; “Don’t forget about us when you get home.” “Tell everyone in the states, thank you!” Words spoken with sincere gratitude.
The 28-hour trip home provided plenty of time to reflect; seeing people living with few modern conveniences yet completely satisfied, experiencing genuine gratitude from those who have so little, and the feeling that I should never take anything for granted. This small village will never be the same due to the outpouring of compassionate people.
“Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles He performs for people!” Psalm 66:5