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Entries in education (25)

Sponsorship Impact: Redefining "Smart"

 The question was simple, yet the young boy’s answer shocked us.

“I’m not smart,” he said.

The Medical Mercy volunteer had asked Melvin if he felt okay, if he had anything wrong with him – a common question for older children to help the teams identify potential issues during checkups. Most kids reveal stomach aches or coughs. Not Melvin.

We wondered if we heard him correctly but when asked again, Melvin repeated his answer.

“I’m not smart.”

Melvin is 10 years old and lives with his mother and two younger sisters in a simple home near the project. His father had abandoned the family years ago.

Dee and I had sponsored Melvin for several months before I went down to the Dominican Republic. Our staff brought him from his project to the Mission Valiente Child Development Center (also known as The Baseball Project) so we could meet him. The baseball field was a flurry of activity, and Melvin and I were both hanging back, so I gestured toward the basketball court.

We connected that day as I taught him to dribble and pass, and sports became our language. First basketball, then soccer. His face lit up as he picked up new skills.

I kept hearing his response in my head. “I’m not smart.” We had consulted with the school counselor, and she relayed that one of his sisters is two years younger, but she and Melvin are in the same grade. “Melvin struggles in his studies,” she said, “but everything seems to come easily for his sister.”

Knowing more of Melvin's story helped me realize that I had a unique opportunity to speak into his life that day, as a sponsor and a father figure. I knew God was prompting me to reframe Melvin’s idea of himself.

Dee and I sat with the project director and Melvin’s mother as I revealed all I had learned from him that day. You ARE smart, I said again and again, reminding him how quickly he picked up new skills on the court and on the field. That's not easy to do. It takes real intelligence, and he had it.

I tried to encourage him to ask for help in school, and reiterated how important he was to God and to Dee and me. The project director and I discussed the tutoring options available for Melvin, and we made sure he could get the help he needed to grow in confidence.

It would take practice and determination for Melvin to succeed, but we needed him to know that we believed in him and would pray for him.

Sometimes all it takes is encouragement from somebody on the outside to let a child know that they are okay, that they are greatly loved, and that they can do it. By the end of that day, we had a special bond.

Soon it was time to say goodbye. Melvin and his mother were walking away when suddenly Melvin turned back and ran to me, throwing his arms around me in a long hug.

Once again I was shocked – in the best way – and so glad. I can only pray Melvin is learning as much as I have learned from him.

The Power Of Education: More To Come!

School Snapshot: Jordan

Yesterday we shared a wonderful recipe from Jordan, and today we’ll examine one of the schools we serve there. In many ways, this school provides a glimpse of the greater picture in Jordan.

Jordan may be considered more developed than many of those we serve, yet the children of Jordan face numerous challenges. The influx of refugees into Jordan has only increased (from Iraqi and Palestinian refugees earlier in the decade, to nearly a third of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s civil war in the last two years).

Jordan has a long history of sheltering asylum-seekers and refugees, but Jordan’s infrastructure, including its schools, is increasingly strained. Schooling is compulsory until age fifteen, but with increasing class sizes, it is difficult to meet the needs of Jordan’s children, let alone the ever-growing refugee population.     

Several of the schools we partner with provide opportunities for students in unique ways. The Theodor Schneller School has a long and storied history (the late King of Jordan, His Majesty Hussein Bin Talal laid the cornerstone in 1959) and was opened next to the Hitteen refugee camp to meet the needs of poor, orphaned and neglected children from all walks of life. It was named after a missionary who opened schools and orphanages in the Middle East.

In addition to standard academics, the school has a gymnasium, a computer lab, sports clubs, a garden, and sporting teams. Students learn important skills in metal and wood working or automobile mechanics. These are opportunities not normally available to refugee families who struggle to meet basic needs, let alone pay for school fees and activities.

Children like Mahmood, Aadil, and Abdas, found hope for their future at the school. Mahmood, as the oldest, had been caring for his siblings even though he was only 6 years old. His parents, recently divorced, were mostly absent from the boys’ lives, but Mahmood found a place at the Theodor Schneller School and began to flourish.

Soon Aadil and Abdas were also enrolled. Nearly 10 years later, the boys have strong characters and are near the top of their classes. The love and acceptance they found at the school shaped their lives.

For many children, the Theodor Schneller School is a refuge of safety and security, providing opportunities they would have never received on their own. These are the life-changing opportunities you provide when you choose to sponsor a child. Thank you!


Journey With Them

Yesterday provided a brief sketch of an influential time in Cambodia’s history. Today we get a glimpse of a very special area One Child Matters serves in Cambodia – the Mechrey Floating School on the Tonle Sap Lake.

The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the flow of the Tonle Sap changes directions twice a year, and expands to six times its size during the rainy season, creating great breeding grounds for fish. Families live in floating homes on the Tonle Sap – simple, single-roomed dwellings that follow the flow and the fish.

To ensure the children of these fishing villages receive an education, we helped build a floating school. Hundreds of students have learned and grown in this floating schoolhouse, and now some have the opportunity for secondary education at our Dream Center in Siem Reap.

We’ve written about the Floating School before, and perhaps, like us, you’ve wondered what it’s like to live in a home and attend a school that’s never in the same place twice.

Well, here’s your chance – Kaliyan welcomed us into her boat to follow her on her journey home.

Journey Home - Cambodia from One Child Matters on Vimeo.



Brandon's Story: "God will help me with my studies"

How do One Child Matters’ programs meet the needs of children in the developing world? How can sponsorship make a difference in a child’s life? Let’s ask Brandon, an 11-year-old boy who lives with his aunt in the dusty suburb of QueensPark in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

Brandon’s mother passed away when he was still very young, and he barely remembers her. After his mother died, Brandon’s father left him in the rural area with his grandmother, who toiled very hard each day just to eke out a living. Brandon never knew his father. One of the things that he regrets is growing up without knowing the love of his father or mother.

Life in the village was very hard and difficult for Brandon. “Looking back,” he said, "I realize that I had started to see myself as someone who would never amount to anything.” This was especially true when his grandmother fell sick; it was now proving very difficult for him to concentrate on his studies. He always had to rush home to do the chores and help his grandmother. “I was slowly resigning myself to a fate of a life of herding cows.”

Two years ago his granny became too sick to take care of him. She brought him to town to live with his aunt, a widow with children of her own and no job. The aunt has two grown up children who are living in neighboring South Africa who occasionally send her a few groceries to feed the children. Most of the time, however, she has to sell vegetables to support the kids.

Just over a year ago, Brandon was registered in the new child development center that opened in his community. He gets to have a hot meal served by loving volunteers that tell him about the love of God and remind him that he has a Father in Heaven who loves him. He has started attending church with his aunty.

Brandon is now one of the young leaders at the Child Development Center who help the facilitators and volunteers when they serve porridge and do other activities. Serving at the Child Development Center is important to him. Brandon shares, “God loves people that serve others. This is just the beginning!”

The center’s director is very proud of the progress that Brandon has made. “Brandon can’t wait to serve others during break time,” she says. “He is always the first to volunteer. In fact, he is the only leader that is not a prefect [an older student leader]. We asked him to be one of the leaders after recognizing his servant heart.”

With the help of the center, Brandon now enjoys going to school again. “I am learning so hard” he says, “because I know I am an orphan. But I know God will help me with my studies especially if I work hard.” He now believes that one day he will achieve something and make his aunty and grandmother proud.

Thank you for providing new opportunities for children like Brandon. We praise God for the staff He has raised up to love on children and encourage them to become strong young adults and role models for younger children. We can’t wait to see how Brandon continues to serve at his center and in his community, and we pray that he and other children in the program become the leaders Zimbabwe and other countries need to break the cycle of poverty forever!


Sharpening Their Skills

On yesterday’s blog post, G.A. asked what sort of employment opportunities are available for older children in our programs. It’s an excellent question, and our programs in the Dominican Republic provide some great examples of the skills children in our programs learn before they graduate from our programs.

All of our programs are designed to enrich the whole child – we address physical needs like nutrition and health while also encouraging their educational and spiritual development. As children mature, we can add life skills or vocational skills training, such as tailoring or sewing classes, cooking, and barbering.

One of our programs in the Dominican Republic has been highly successful in training new barbers among the older students. Several have graduated from the barbering program and now volunteer their time at other projects, giving children haircuts to encourage good self-esteem as the young barbers sharpen their skills.

One of those young barbers is Jose. In addition to being pictured above, Jose answered a few questions for us about this program:  

Do you think you have a better chance of getting a good job when you grow up because you were sponsored?
Yes, because I learn technical courses. I graduated of Barber and I am the barber in the afternoon because I study in the morning. Besides I participate in the English, sewing, and computer courses that are taught.

Are you happy being in the sponsorship program?
Yes, because I learn about God and to have a better development in the life, and because I acquire knowledge through the technical courses.

What do you hope to be when you grow up?
I want to be an architect, because my dream is to build my own house.

We will share more about Jose and the barber program at a later date, but we wanted all of our sponsors to know that this is an important consideration for all of the children we shepherd into adulthood. Our hope and prayer is that they graduate as well-rounded young adults with a strong foundation in faith and education, ready to reach their God-given potential and dream big, just like Jose!

Thankful For Your Effect

In addition to Thanksgiving, this week was International Girl Effect Week. We've written about this before -- about how powerful even an extra year of education can be for a girl, and the challenges girls face in the developing world.

But it's not just girls -- simply encouraging a child to stay in school, to work hard, to emphasize that you believe in them has tremendous power. For young boys with few positive male role models in their community, your words may have more weight than you know.

Which is why we are so thankful for you. Your support and commitment to changing the life of a child creates a new dynamic for their growth and development. Your prayers give hope and encouragement, and your words proclaiming their worth in your eyes are treasured.

Your sponsored child may not have developed the eloquence to fully express their thanks, so we want to do it for them. THANK YOU. Thank you for the effect you have on the children of the world.

A Sponsor's Journal: Pray For The Teachers

How many teachers had an impact on your life? Do you pray for those who have a direct influence on your sponsored child? Here are some suggestions from someone who's been in the trenches.

How Do You Prepare For School?

Can you believe it's back-to-school time already?

As you prepare your own children for the start of school (or as you begin to see the little ones with their giant backpacks waiting for their bus) say a prayer for your sponsored child.

Their school schedule may be a bit different -- while they do have longer holiday breaks, they may not start their school year in August and September like we do in the U.S. -- but a new school year brings the same anxieties. Will my friends be in my class? Will I have the right supplies? Will I fit in?

This week we'll explore what school can look like in several countries, as well as how a Mission of Mercy project can come alongside a child to help them with their classes and schoolwork.

In the meantime, you tell us: how are you praying for the new school year?

National Girl Child Day

Today is National Girl Child Day in India, the country where Mission of Mercy first started working to meet the needs of impoverished children. Why is a day set aside for the girl child, and what does that mean?

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They're Told "You Don't Belong Here"

Even if a government provides the opportunity to attend school, the child might not ever feel welcome there. Here's why and what we do to help.

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A Right Delayed Is A Right Denied

There are many things that keep an impoverished child from gaining an education. Yet is it possible that some of the proposed solutions are actually making it worse?

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Our Schools Are Different

The goal of any Mission of Mercy program is to equip children in developing nations to reach their God-given potential. So how does that work in our schools?

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The Support Of A Child Development Center

This week we’ve been talking about the importance of education and how we can help. So how is your sponsored child's education supported at the project level?

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Tip Tuesday: Be Cool In School

We keep talking about how crucial education is for your sponsored child. So how can you encourage them in school when they’re so far away? Here are four tips!

Dispatch: Allowing Children To Dream

Yesterday, Jack Eans (our Vice President of International Child Ministries) wrote about the Mechrey Floating School and the impact it has had on the community. The school goes up to 6th grade – so what happens if a child wants to continue his or her education? Jack wrote if they graduate from the Floating School, there is hope…

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Dispatch: The Floating School

Jack Eans continues his dispatches from Cambodia, where his travels took him to an amazing school that's never in the same place twice.

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The Life Of Girls: Opportunities Lost?


How does education change a girl's life? Jennifer could tell you. Statistics could, too...

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Before And After

Jose is a typical boy from the Dominican Republic. Has his life changed since attending a Mission of Mercy center?

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Lookin' Good?

Sometimes we hear from sponsors who, after seeing their sponsored child’s picture, are concerned that their sponsored child isn’t really poor...  

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