Changing children’s lives

Nicole James | Near East

Wide smiles, energetic singing and a boisterous game of Duck, Duck, Goose! are not the automatic pictures that comes to mind when thinking about refugees and displaced children. However, for the 65 kids attending an English-speaking kindergarten in the Near East, such activities happen every day.

Both Christian and Muslim children attend the school, which is sponsored by a local church. Most of these students had to flee with their families because of ongoing conflicts in the Near East (Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon). Although the school charges a nominal fee to cover its costs, many parents cannot pay part or all of the tuition. OM committed to covering the kindergarten’s rent for one year, allowing the children to continue their education and receive biblical input.

Management

Karen* began managing the school three years ago after 11 years teaching in another kindergarten. “In the beginning, it was too much work,” she admitted. “It was so difficult for me because I was a teacher. I didn’t know anything about managing.”

The pastor of the local church sponsoring the kindergarten encouraged her to pray. “When I was praying, I would always say, ‘God, please, let me work for you, what you want me to do,’” Karen recalled. “I was listening and God told me, ‘I want you to work [here]. This is my work. I want you to do it.’”

Karen’s workload did not decrease—in fact, she took on accounting in addition to her other responsibilities to cut costs—but she recognised her work as worship. “It’s still a lot of work, but I’m happy because I know with Whom I’m working,” she stated.

One morning, after receiving a steady stream of parents paying what tuition they could for the upcoming period, Karen paused for a short coffee break. “This morning, I was so tired,” she said, “but I am so happy because when the parents come to pay the fees, all of them say the same thing. All of them say that our child is changed. Our child is happy and wants to come [to school]. … God is really working.”

Since the children come from mixed religious backgrounds, “we teach them what is in the Bible, but they don’t know it’s from the Bible,” Karen explained. “We teach them Christian songs, we talk about God, and it makes a difference in their families.”

Parents tell Karen that the lessons learnt at school extend into their homes. “This is good for the parents because some of them don’t know how to act, how to behave with their children,” Karen said. Profanity and physical abuse are widespread in homes, she shared. “In this country, most of the families don’t use ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry,’” she added.

At the kindergarten, students learn manners, polite speech and how not to retaliate physically when they are upset. Parents have told Karen, “Our child is changed at home. We see that they listen now.”

Murals

Last year a short-term team from New Zealand visited the school for two days, introducing new crafts, stories, songs and games.

“We wanted to teach them about God and support the church in what they’re doing,” stated team leader Mark.

On the first day, he shared the biblical story of seven-day creation, complete with colourful pictures and bright numbers. The children reviewed the vocabulary they knew in English and practiced numbers corresponding to the days of creation.

Susannah, another member of the team, teaches two- to five-year-olds at home. “There are quite a few similarities across education,” she noticed. However, improvising in the school’s small classrooms and shopping for craft supplies at local stores made her “a lot more grateful for what we have back home. You take it for granted: space, resources.”

Still, “it’s amazing to be here,” she said. “It’s so easy to build relationships. … At this age, you just give them a smile, and they’re really open to it.”

After the first day with the New Zealand team at school, “the kids were flying, they were so happy, and the parents were happy, too,” Karen described. The children told their parents, “We had guests today. We love them.”

During the week, the short-term team also painted two vibrant, original murals on the outside walls separating the school property from the street, replacing the former, faded artwork. Their service saved Karen not only money but also stress.

“I was about to go to a conference, and my mind was busy with who will paint, how much will I pay, who will give me the design, everything!” she exclaimed. But when the OM worker coordinating the team’s visit told Karen that they could also paint the walls, she trusted them implicitly.

Hiring outside painters can be tricky, Karen explained. Some charge high prices for simple designs and add costs for tiny changes. “When the team came, I went to the conference, and I was so happy. God bless them.”

Pray for the kindergarten to receive sufficient funding to continue its ministry. Pray for the staff, the building, the children and the parents. Visit http://www.om.org/en/give to donate to OM’s Syrian and Iraqi relief fund.

*Name changed

Nicole James is an international writer for OM, passionate about publishing stories of God’s works among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.

Published: Friday, 22 September 2017
Credit: Nicole James
© 2017 OM International This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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