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Wellspring Offers Real Hope for Rwanda Through Education That Transforms Lives

Most people associate Rwanda with the horrific genocide that decimated that East African country in 1994. The magnitude of this catastrophe where nearly one million people were brutally killed, is almost unfathomable, having been compared to three 9/11’s everyday for 100 days. But Rwanda’s story is also about forgiveness, healing, hope, and transformation.

A child survivor of the Rwanda genocide

The Wellspring Foundation for Education (Wellspring), based in Langley, BC, Canada, was founded in 2004 by Richard Taylor and Jeff Komant to partner with Rwandans in the rebuilding process. Wellspring is having a significant impact through its Christians values based approach to education.

Komant and Taylor believe there is a unique window of opportunity to help Rwanda rebuild so this kind of devastation never happens again. Over the past few years, Wellspring has worked with its Rwandan partners to establish a model Christian school called the Wellspring Academy. It has 350 students in K-6, including children from orphaned and impoverished homes, is locally sustainable, and is considered one of Rwanda’s best schools. Wellspring is seeking to complete the Secondary School by 2012.

Wellspring is also focused on empowering Rwandans teachers and has become a leader in the transformation of the education system through partnership with the Association of Committed Teachers (ACT) Rwanda and the Rwandan government. It has helped the 800 member ACT Rwanda strengthen its leadership team and establish teacher fellowships in every district of the country, helping Christian teachers make an impact through their profession and their faith.

This is the current Wellspring Academy Campus. The Wellspring Secondary Campus is scheduled to open Jan. 2011. Funds are still being raised for the secondary campus

Wellspring is also seeking to be salt and light in the public square. Its teacher trainers have worked closely with needy public schools to significantly improve the quality of education for thousands of children through the Whole School Development Program.

Consider the story of Nduba Primary School, a community formerly fraught with tension between parents and teachers, now working together to pool resources and build badly needed classrooms. Nduba Primary is typical of the situation in Rwanda’s overwhelmed public schools. Overcrowded classrooms, a legacy of mistrust, poor facilities, low morale, under trained teachers, lack of visionary leadership, and strained relationships between parents and staff have all contributed to a poor quality of education for its 1700 students.

Pauline (in blue), when asked what she’d like to be when she gets older replied, “I’d like to be President.”

One young student, Pauline, was forced to quit school for a number of years because both her parents were killed in the genocide and she spent years in servitude to impoverished relatives. Her grandmother intervened and Pauline is back at school, eager to learn. When asked what she would like to be one day, she smiles and says, “I would like to be president.”

Schools like Nduba are brimming with Pauline’s — students created with distinct purpose and deeply loved by God. They are the future of Rwanda. Whole School Development has enabled teachers and the parent community at Nduba to make great strides. They have seen improvements in school quality and teacher motivation through training in servant leadership, peace and reconciliation, quality education, biblical worldview, parenting, and the integration of values into the curriculum.

Students at Nduba Primary School, in rural Rwanda, have experienced fewer students skipping school, parents getting involved in their kids’ education, and teachers feeling more motivated since Teacher Trainers from Wellspring have come alongside their teachers

Wellspring has seen each of their seven school communities make significant progress, including improved parent-teacher collaboration, decreased absenteeism, increased active participation, greater car for students, and higher motivation among teachers and students.

And not only is Wellspring meeting the educational needs but tangible physical needs as well. This past spring, when flooding took out an entire toilet block at the Nduba Primary School, leaving only one toilet for 1700 students, Wellspring found partners in Canada to build an entirely new toilet block for these students.

By early 2011, Wellspring is seeking to have its Teacher Trainers in every school in Gasabo District – which includes 50 public schools and close to 100,000 children. Some of their biggest needs include an experienced high school administrator to volunteer for the next two years, local Christian schools willing to partner with a Rwandan school, monthly donors to support Rwandan teacher trainers, and people willing to champion remaining infrastructure projects at the Wellspring Academy.

Janice Nikkel

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