Thursday, August 20, 2015

“The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. It is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, it makes me cry.” — Pope Francis

The middle of August is that time of year when school fees are due.  The United Methodist missionaries that were here when we first came (they retired in 2003 and sadly Bill has passed away) told us to expect to pay school fees because it was just too hard to say no to educating children, especially those whose parents were such good people.  We nodded fully thinking that we would not fall into that trap.  We are paying and have paid school fees for dozens and dozens of children over the past ten years.  Just yesterday, paid for both of Bishop Festo’s sons, Shaban’s son (Hemedi), and of course, Charlini, whose fees we’ve been paying since she started school six years ago.  We have seen some go from high school through university and into graduate school.  We have seen kids in our English classes ace their English tests and move into secondary school and university.  We are helping women become nurses and teachers.  We are paying for and feeding about two hundred preschoolers (most of them orphans) and have administered the scholarship funds provided by Cornerstone UMC in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to graduate almost seventy secondary school teachers who could never have afforded the fees and who have been so very grateful.  The last four of those will finish this year as they have converted the Bunda Teachers College to a University and moved the teachers to a college in Tireme, but we are still helping thanks to American Methodists with big hearts.  There is probably no greater investment in a developing country than education and especially for girls.  We are rather proud of the number of young ladies and young women we have helped (“we” includes all those who have contributed to and prayed for our mission) over the years.  It hasn’t all been a success.  We have paid for private boarding school for a promising young woman only to see her expelled for stealing and cheating on her exams.  We also helped a young man get into a vocational school only to see him arrested just one month into the school year for selling drugs on school grounds.  Still, those are the only two we know about, and we will continue to help as long as we are able.  If you want to change a country, you educate its women.  We have also taught sewing, how to dry meat, and sanitation and hygiene practices to women in over thirty villages.  The people here know that education is the only road leading out of the slums and poverty and the parents are big supporters of all our efforts and so very grateful that we just can’t stop helping.  It’s a big blow to our budget every August and January but we plan for it, so it’s not too bad and what’s a few extra dinners of just rice and beans, eh?

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