Education

Inspiring a school of South Sudanese refugees

August 14, 2017

As told to Mark Nonkes

Par is the head teacher of a World Vision-built school in Kakuma refugee camp. A South Sudanese citizen who left his country for a better life in Kenya. He’s guiding 4,800 primary school students through their education.

This is his story, in his own words.

“I was born in 1989, the same year my father was killed. I was in the womb. That’s why I was called Par. Par means crying after a father’s death. I had two older brothers. I grew up as a cow boy. A cow boy is somebody who herds cows, who takes care of the animals. Our family had 15 cows.

“After my father died, my mother had three other children. In 1996, my mother thought we should go to school. She took us to northern Sudan. We sold all our belongings and went for three years. I studied in Khartoum.

“However, more death in the family forced us to return to our homeland in South Sudan. My older brother was bitten by a scorpion and died. Another older brother died from sickness. I was suddenly the oldest boy at home. I returned to the struggle of life as a cow boy.

“By the time I was 14, I realized I needed to take charge and be responsible. I had to make sure my younger brother, sisters and my mother would survive.

“In 2004, our village received food aid. The organization said they were willing to take some children to study. I threw myself into their airplane when I heard that. I didn’t even tell my mother I was going. I left with 12 other boys.

“We were brought here to Kakuma Refugee Camp. We stayed at the camp as unaccompanied minors. We struggled every day – getting food, cooking, fetching water – everything we do, we do by ourselves. There was nobody to take care of us.

“That’s when I started my education. I started in Grade 3 and I continued to Grade 8. I started secondary school in 2011. In 2012, my uncle sent me money, so I was able to join a boarding school. But the money ran out after two years, and I returned to Kakuma for my final year of secondary school.

“In 2014, in my final year of secondary school, three things happened. I was enrolled late and missed the first term. I was given subjects I had no interest in. Then when the exams came, I was forced to write subjects I didn’t study. I failed – I got a D. In the same year, my mother sent me a wife from South Sudan. We were married. Now I have a baby boy.

“That same year, I started volunteering to teach math at this primary school.

“I taught Class 5, 7 and 8 math. A year later, in March of 2015, the head teacher called me. He told me to come and continue. ‘The learners love you, they say you are good’, I was told. And then they started to pay me a little.

“Each day, I would stay in the class until 9pm with students. I would read with them and practice math with them. We would remain as the last ones at the school and lock the gate when we left. At the end of the year, my top student had the highest mark in math from the entire refugee camp – among all the schools.

“I think the students like me because they see themselves. I’m a refugee and from South Sudan, like most of them. I understand what they have experienced. My younger brother was shot in the conflict earlier this year and is still injured. My family is affected by a lack of food – sometimes they go two or three days without eating. I try to help them by sending them a bit of my salary each month.

“My goal is to help these students. Many South Sudanese enroll in school here, but they’re scarred by the past. Children arrive and they’ve lost a parent or sibling. They’ve witnessed gun fighting and other horrors. It takes a long time for them to let go of that hostility and be able to focus on their education. My main fight is to unite them, to create a culture of peace among them within the school. I urge them to commit to their education because it will help them in their future.

“In 2017, I was appointed deputy head teacher. I continued to teach Class 7 and 8 mathematics. At that time, I was supposed to go and work at another school. But the students and my colleagues refused to let me go. They complained and complained and I got to stay here. Two months ago, I was appointed the head teacher.

“You know, I never dreamed of becoming a teacher but this path called me. I love teaching. You become a psychologist in part. You study people and get to understand their lives. You help them problem solve. You get them focused on their education.

“We have had a very big improvement in student’s performance. For example, most students are now able to speak in English and Kiswahili. As well, the number of students who are performing well on their exams is improving. In 2015, the best mark was 325 and in 2016, the best mark was 374. In mathematics, our learners are getting the highest marks in the whole camp. These are true indicators that learning is taking place.

“When you get to see students succeed, their minds and thoughts open up, that’s an great thing to be part of.”

Support children like Par, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

I know how to read, write and become a chef!!!

Hoang Thuy Chung, Communications Officer, World Vision Vietnam | 16 March  2017

That is the greatest joy of Mai Van Son – an orphan boy born in 1998, living with his grandmother at Lac Vien Ward, Ngo Quyen District, Hai Phong city.

Just a few years ago, Son was a thin boy with eyes always looking down and his smile was never seen blooming on the lips. He did not know how to read accented letters, did not know how to write his name, no parents since he was 8 years old, no more than two sets of clothing, whether in summer or in cold winter, and he has never known what a full stomach is like…

For Son, he had nothing except one thing – dream. He dreamed of becoming a chef and had a job to support his grandmother. But how to make dreams come true, he did not know.

Everyday, he held his grandmother’s hand to wander around the market to beg for small changes. At night, he made little money by playing games online. Son’s life and dream would have elapsed day by day in his boarding house if one day, Ms. Nhung – the chairwoman of women’s union in Lac Vien ward hadn’t come to see him.

She wore a blue shirt with lots of strange letters on her back that he could not read.

She guided Son to the children house of culture in Ngo Quyen district to participate a life skills training class held by the district women’s union and World Vision Vietnam. There, the first time he realized that he also had a strong point of honesty. The first time he cried when talking about his life. The first time he belonged to a place called Khat vong thanh cong (Desire to Success) Club.

And when he knew his dream would be supported by the Youth Livelihood project, he also realized that the ability of reading and writing would make his dream less difficult.

Since then, in the ragged hive sandals, he walked through the long distance to participate all the extracurricular exercises and became a core member, a striker for the Khat vong thanh cong football club.

He was in the habit of life skills classes, volunteering in the kitchen of a restaurant to become familiar with the work of a chef. He no longer came to the internet shop but concentrating on the evening classes supported by Ms. Thuong and Ms. Ngoc. He began to be able to read cooking textbooks.

Son studied with the help of Ms. Thuong

These efforts have been recorded and approved to support training by People’s Committee of Ngo Quyen district and World Vision Vietnam.

Sparkling eyes and bright smile when looking forward, he excitedly said: “Since I came to school, I did not quit even one day. The dish I cook best is butter fried squid, I will make this delicious dish in the final exam”.

One more month of intense training, Son graduated with that butter fried squid and became a chef. Starting with low positions in the kitchens, Son has advanced through 3 or 4 places, higher salary one after the other. Now Son is working as a chef in a duck restaurant.

All monthly salary is handed to his grandmother to keep. She doesn’t have to go out on the street anymore. They still stay in his uncle’s small house but with new beds. Son also purchased an electric bike to get to work. His next goal is a new house for him and grandmother.

Son’s kitchen job is super busy, not a free lunch or dinner time, especially in weekends. But he takes any available time to attend contests, social events and major activities of the club and the project. He remains reading and writing well.

“Now I know what the words on her back were, dare to think – dare to do – dare to succeed”, said Son with a big smile on his lips.

Support people like Son, where World Vision focuses in long term sustainability of the community which elevates them from poverty. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

Perseverance Is Her Story

By Michael Czobit | Photography by Michelle Siu

Yui near her home in Jatujak.

A soon-to-be formerly sponsored child in Thailand earns a degree despite family illnesses

Yui’s university classes started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon. Work started at 6. Sometimes, her shift would be just a few hours. Other times, Yui would be at the 7-Eleven until 2 a.m. Then in the morning, back to class. Depending on the day, she’d also make the time to take her grandmother to the hospital for hemodialysis, which was needed three times a week. “I was very tired,” Yui says. “I felt discouraged, depressed, stressed. But I didn’t lose hope.”

It’s February 2015, and I’m sitting at her home in the Jatujak community in Bangkok. Yui, 21, is actually a nickname. Her first name is Pairin. She tells me how she had found ways to cope. She’d read manga (Japanese comics), talk to friends and listen to rock music. “I am happy that you are here today,” she says. “I am glad that I can tell you my story, because telling you my story also encourages me. Telling you about my hardships, my pain, is relieving.”

She no longer works at the convenience store, and a few months earlier she finished her degree in finance and banking studies. Her reaction to earning her degree is understated. “Life as usual,” she says. But don’t be mistaken: Yui was happy. I could understand her anticlimactic reaction—she had worked so hard and still, there was more to do—but I disagreed with her assessment.

Yui had recently passed on a job at a bank and was now waiting to hear back about another in the finance department at a Thai brewery. She was hopeful about her prospects. Why she wanted one job over the other came down to two factors: location and hours, both favourable at the brewery, which would allow her to continue to care for her 70-year-old grandmother, Ampai.

Yui’s parents separated when she was born and she has lived with her grandmother ever since. Yui’s uncle, his partner and his daughter also live at the home. But caring for Ampai, who has struggled with several illnesses, including diabetes and failing kidneys, has mostly been Yui’s responsibility. Thankfully, her uncle has a job that covers the majority of Ampai’s medical expenses.

My own grandma had hemodialysis when I was young. My family took care of her; although it was a group effort, my mom did the majority of the care. The countless appointments and worries can be overwhelming. I always admired my mom at how she carried on during those years, and I knew that what Yui had managed, caring for her grandmother while attending university and keeping a job, required extraordinary effort. But I had no doubt about her strong feelings for Ampai. “I love my grandmother very much,” she says. “I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

While Yui grew up, Ampai was the family’s breadwinner. Yui’s grandfather died soon after she was born, and to support her, Ampai worked as a street sweeper. So yes, hard work runs in the family.

Yui and her grandmother at their home.

Also while growing up, Yui became sponsored by a Canadian through World Vision’s sponsorship project in Jatujak. Before her granddaughter’s sponsorship began in March 2006, when Yui was in Grade 7, Ampai wasn’t earning enough to buy Yui’s school supplies, uniforms and books. That changed, and in more ways than just materially speaking: Yui learned. She participated in educational field trips and day camps. She took part in leadership and health workshops, including one about HIV and AIDS that, too, changed her life.

It is never easy to speak with someone about health issues, and when I share personal information about someone or her family, I always ask for permission, which Yui gave me. In 2009, Yui’s father, Ampai’s son, learned he was HIV-positive. This news scared Yui. Her knowledge about the disease was limited and her father’s status strained their relationship. Two years later, in her first year of university, Yui attended an HIV and AIDS workshop held by World Vision. It was a revelation. “When I received the training, I learned how to live normally with my father, how to spend time together,” she says. Her fear went away and their relationship improved. She says she is now close with her father and that their bond has been renewed. (World Vision has also supported Yui’s father with medical assistance.)

In all her time as a sponsored child, Yui stayed committed to her education. She desires a job so she can support her grandmother, and she dreams of paying off a school loan and buying a home that sits on non-government-owned land. Through her sponsorship, which lasted into her first year of university, Yui, participated in a bachelor’s degree project that paid for her books, uniforms and some home expenses. “I want to thank the sponsor for giving me an education,” she tells me. But I know that as much as she has received, Yui has already matched, and in many ways surpassed, it in her own efforts.

In her last years of schooling before university, Yui had taken a vocational course in accounting where she learned about the stock market, which sparked her desire to earn a banking degree. Just as she has never invested in the stock market looking for a quick buck, she earned her success with perseverance. Not easy to accomplish, and impossible not to admire.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of Childview Chinese-English edition.

Support children like Yui, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

Jhumri Biswal is a beauty with a vision for the disabled

By Impuri Ngayawon Shimray and the Media team, World Vision India

She is a finalist of the Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired, 2017

Out of 46 contestants from all over India, Jhumri Biswal, age 20 from Bhubaneswar, is one the 12 shortlisted finalists for the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired to be held at Mumbai in January 2017 by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

At the tender age of eight Jhumri was hit by a truck and sustained a head injury. The blow to the head lead to a breakage of an optical nerve and after a few days, Jhumri lost all sight. Once home, Jhumri was taken out of school, because she was “blind.” Jhumri was happy in the beginning because she could miss the drudgery of school, but soon realised that her class mates were moving on and were learning and experiencing new things. Blindness restricted her mobility and that affected her playtime, going out, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Sadness and depression started setting in and the feeling of being left out and always being dependent on others ate into her. Jhumri’s parents understood this and felt helpless.

She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

A local health worker suggested Jhumri join the local school that taught blind children through Braille. This was a life-changing experience for Jhumri, because it gave her a channel to learn new things and grow. She continued to learn through the tactile writing system for two years, after which she returned to regular school to continue her education. Braille books were available for students till grade seven. But after that, she had to depend on an audio recorder and a Braille typewriter that she received from World Vision’s outreach program. Her sister would read the chapters from the book and Jhumri would make notes on the Braille typewriter. Her speed at typing also grew in these years.

With her interest in knowledge and the zest to learn more, Jhumri was motivated to participate in community activities, especially on the issues of rights of special children. She participated in World Vision India’s “Our Voice Assembly,” a platform for children with disabilities to come together to talk about the issues they face, learn their rights and entitlements, identify challenges; and advocate for themselves. Jhumri was part of many consultations of children with disability at the state as well as national level, where they came up with recommendation, which were then sent to various political leaders. Jhumri is one of 2300 children with disabilities that are part of “Our Voice Assemblies” across 18 states in India.

Jhumri was later chosen to represent the voices of children with disability at the World Vision Triennial Council in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she highlighted the apathy of the current educational system towards disability—about 99% of children with disability don’t go to school because of lack of study material, disabled-friendly spaces and trained teachers.

But these barriers did not stop Jhumri from continuing her education. She is pursuing her graduation (3rd year) at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. In early 2016, she heard of the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired organised by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and wanted to participate. She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

Jhumri is looking forward to the finals in January 2017 and while she may win or not win, she is already a winner with a vision!

This article by World Vision India originally appeared in the Huffington Post under the following:

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/world-vision-india/jhumri-biswal-is-a-beauty-with-a-vision-for-the-disabled/?utm_hp_ref=in-

Support children like Jhumri, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!