Monday, October 1, 2012

The Bridge

A few months ago we decided that we really must build a bridge across the stream that borders the Mashiah Foundation property. During the past school year, many of our students fell in while trying to get to school. Adults have had to pluck children out of the water before they are swept further downstream. There are even some small waterfalls further down. At times some parents kept their small children home because of the raging waters.
Sadly, every year children die in this stream. Bayo has heard of 4 or 5 children from the community who have died this year alone. In one case, a younger brother fell in and the older one entered to pull him out, but tragically both died.
The stream is most dangerous during July and August when the rains are the heaviest; in August, it's common for it to rain nearly every day. This year the heavy rains extended throughout most of September. Just a few days ago the weather became drier. We may still experience a couple more rains before the full dry season will be upon us. During the driest part of the year, this stream will dry up completely.

On Saturday the builders cast the pillars on both sides of the stream. This was the second time they did the same work. The first time, a heavy rain came just after they had finished and washed everything away. This time they found a better way to 'tie' the rebar into the rock, and they will be casting it twice in order to strengthen it.

The builders will still be doing more casting on both sides before the final step of laying the trailer bed across the stream.

This past week a man enrolled his three children in our school. I asked where they are living--it's on the other side of the river. I mentioned to him that we are in the process of building a bridge so the children will be safe. He looked me full in the eye and with a bit of surprise said, "So it's you people who are building that bridge? Thank you. Thank you. May God bless you."
As we were leaving, a group of children across the river waved and shouted "Thank you!" That
 thank-you goes out to all who have supported this project. The community is very, very grateful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

School Days

Getting ready for Foundations Academy to start up has consumed all of my time and energy. Our new school year started on Monday, September 17. We have been busy hiring new teachers, training teachers, testing and registering new students, buying tables, chairs and books, etc.

Our little school has grown tremendously this year. We still have a focus on educating orphans, but community children also attend the school.

For the first two weeks, our teachers are only teaching Math and English. We have a strong focus on mastering the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Some of our students from the past years have mastered these skills, but our new students need to learn these foundational skills so they can proceed with their math lessons.

In English class we are working on writing complete sentences with correct punctuation. A lot of students tend to write run-on sentences. We are also working on correct pronunciation, for example, making the -th sound. Students also practice reading aloud because many of them drop or add an 's' in various places.

We use a lot of games to teach math and logic skills. Prior to this year, I had not consciously realized how foundational games can be in building up math skills. The other day I taught a group of 10th graders (SS1) how to play Mexican Train dominoes. As we played, I literally saw one girl come to life in math class. Math has been such a struggle for her that she usually just 'turns off' during math class. I could see that it was a struggle for her to understand the patterns of the dominoes (because she has never been trained to see patterns) but with a little effort, she gradually began to understand.

Here's a little flashcard competition. Christy and Felicia really get into it!
The 3rd grade did skip counting as they jumped rope. 2-4-6-8-10-12-etc, 3-6-9-12-15-18-21-24, etc.
And here are our faithful math drill books. I really love these books which were developed locally by a missionary. I will have to devote another blog to writing about these wonderful tools for teaching math.

 And more math drill workouts...

Drills and games. That's how we're learning math. In my home culture, we take playing games for granted, but here most children have never been exposed to board games. Every day after school, the students stampede into the library to play games and read books. It's a nice problem to have.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Touch of Home

I love to take a good look at t-shirts in Nigeria. You never know what you might find.

Here's one of my favorites so far: Minnesota 4-H!

Monday is one of our drivers in the ministry. His baseball cap has a green shape of Plateau State (where we live), a red ribbon representing HIV/AIDS, and PLACA stands for Plateau Action Committee on AIDS.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

To Cross the River

Our rainy season starts with a few rains in April, and then gathers momentum through May and June. July is even wetter and then it rains nearly every day in August. Even if the sun is shining on an August day, you still need to carry an umbrella. By September the rains will start to slow down and then we can expect just a couple of rains in October. Then dryness will rule the land from November through March.
During the rainy season, the river near our school becomes very swollen. There are a few places with strategically placed stones where people try to cross. When the water is really raging, people have to go far out of their way to cross a bridge and then backtrack.
In recent months we have heard many stories of parents who want their children to come to our school, but they live on the other side of the river. Last Friday two mothers came to find out about the school, and in the process of trying to cross the river, they fell in.
This morning a father came to see the school for the first time. He said, "I wish there was an access road to this place from the other side of the river. A lot of people over there would bring their kids to this school if they could get them safely across the river."
I said, "Well, next week we're planning to start building a bridge."
"Praise God!"
"You let the people know that now they can bring their kids to school here."
"I will! I will! You can trust me to do that!" I could see that he had a very exuberant personality and would definitely follow through.
An hour later he was back with his teenage daughter. He enrolled her in the Math Drill which is presently going on, and he is planning to enroll her in school in school by mid-September.
 This is the view of the back of the clinic/school from the river's edge.

Monday, August 27, 2012

T-shirt Dresses

On the last Saturday of every month, the OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Department of Mashiah Foundation holds a special program for the children we work with. Approximately 180-220 children attend every month. The OVC Department works with about 800 children, offering varying levels of assistance.

Today I took special note of this little girl because of her dress. I immediately recognized it as one of the t-shirt dresses my mom and the church ladies made in 2007. This pink one was probably handed down to her by her older sisters.

I just happened to have my camera in my pocket, so I said, "Let me 'snap' you." The little girl immediately struck a pose much to the delight of the adults standing nearby. She continued to give me a new pose every time I 'snapped' her. Gotta love that confidence.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Educate a Child

About two weeks ago a father came to see me with his 8-year-old daughter. He had heard that I might be able to help him figure out why she was having problems with learning. I was busy at that time with one of our Math Drills so we set an appointment for later.

He came last Friday. We had another Math Drill going on, but everything was under control, so I took some time to evaluate his daughter. She and I sat on the couch in the library while the father sat on a chair nearby and watched everything we did. First I used some of Lily's kindergarten readers to evaluate her reading ability. Although she tried, it was obvious that she could not read. Then I grabbed some Scrabble tiles and randomly pulled some out. She could identify all of the letters and knew some of the sounds. As I made 3-letter words and taught her how to sound them out, she quickly caught on. By the end of that exercise she was reading nearly all of the 3-letter words I made.

At one point the father interrupted me and said, "Do you train teachers?"

I said, "Well, we're just starting to do some teacher training."

Then I moved on to using dice for addition and then a puzzle that dealt with numbers and sequencing. She quickly caught on to everything I was doing.

I had her write so I could check her pencil grip and how she was forming her letters. Even before she picked up the pencil, I had observed that she was a lefty. Her pencip grip was correct and she formed her letters correctly. I asked her to spell some 3-letter words which she did. I told the father that it is not a problem that she is a lefty and that he should not try to make her change her hand. He said he used to make her change her hand, but then someone told him that being a lefty is not a problem so he stopped.

We ended by playing a game of concentration with the three of us. She really enjoyed that and handily won.

While the little girl stayed in the library and looked at books, her father and I went to a nearby classroom to discuss the evaluation. I said, "Do you know what's wrong with your daughter? Nothing. Her mind is fine. It's just that she has not really been taught."

He said that he pulled her out of her school during the past year because he felt that she wasn't learning anything there. There were at least 40 students in her 2nd grade class.  He himself is a high school Physics teacher. When he gets home, if he's not too tired, then he tries to teach her.

They live about an hour away from Jos so it's not possible for her to come to our school. The father was clearly grieved about what his next step should be. As he is teaching other children, his own child is not receiving a decent education.

In reality, this little girl is blessed to have a living mother and father who are so concerned about her education. Because of their concern, I believe they will figure out a solution.

We have many orphans in our school, and we serve as both the teachers and the parents of these children. But there are still many other orphans who have no advocate.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Celebrant

Today I chatted with the housefather of Bezer Home and learned more about the birthday party yesterday. The Celebrant wanted to mark her birthday with the Bezer Home kids because she herself grew up as an orphan. Out of the abundance that she now has, she wanted to remember those who are growing up as she did. Although I can't say this is extremely common, I have witnessed it on numerous occasions. Out of thankfulness for what God has done in their lives, some people choose to celebrate with those who are in need. I think that's a good challenge.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shared Birthday Blessings

Today a young woman came to Bezer Home to celebrate her birthday with the Bezer Home family. She just wanted to share her special day with others. I didn't even get her name so I'll just call her the "Celebrant" as we do here in Nigeria. She brought a beautiful cake which is being shared at the back of the room. She also brought the bottled drinks as well as the 5 kg bag of washing detergent for the Bezer Home residents. I just love those practical gifts!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stress Relief

Now that my office is clean and organized, I feel like I can think once again, and consequently start blogging again. Life got pretty chaotic for awhile.

I see that my last post was about the February bombing in Jos. Well, since then, we have also had a March bombing and a June bombing, as well as numerous other security issues.

Today I attended a women's gathering and one of the things we talked about was how to manage our stress levels. Here are a few I jotted down:

--Take a weekly Sabbath rest (24 hours of no work and nothing stressful).
--Exercise (walking, zumba).
--Practice self-care.
--Get a pedicure in your home. One woman suggested a pedicure party. Bring your own bucket for soaking your feet and then give each other pedicures.
--Get a massage.
--Find a Bible verse as a reminder of God's promises. Post it everywhere.
--Ask God to help you see beauty in your surroundings today.
--Introduce play into your life and work. This will make you more productive in your work.
--Play non-competitive games.
--Have your personal devotion time.
--Read a good book
--Watch some slapstick comedy.
--Spend time talking to your spouse.
--Spend time talking to a friend.

Well, I'm off to make supper for my family, and then later tonight I'll read aloud from Cheaper by the Dozen. It's been raining/drizzling all day long so it will be nice to have a cozy evening together--all we need now is a fireplace!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bombing in Jos

On Sunday morning, Feb 26, I was awoken from a deep slumber by a loud noise and a clattering on the roof. I thought a tree branch had fallen on our tin roof. Bayo went outside and started searching for what had caused the noise. Soon I heard him talking to our neighbor and realized it was much larger than an isolated incident on our compound. Bayo started making phone calls all over town and within minutes learned that a bomb had gone off at COCIN Headquarters Church, about one mile from our home.
I quickly texted one of my friends who often attends that church: "Any news about the blast?"

When I didn't get an immediate response from her, I had a feeling that she was probably there. Sure enough, I later got a text from her: "We were there, but we are home now and ok."

They were actually eye-witnesses on the scene. Her husband saw a car forcing its way through the church compound gate and pushing a motorcyclist to one side in the process. Being alert to danger, he instictively knew it was a suicide bomber. He immediately started shouting for people to RUN. His quick eye and voice no doubt saved many lives in the 5-10 second interval.

There are many news accounts on the internet so I won't go into further details here. Amazingly only a few people were killed from the huge blast. The sound appears to have travelled to at least a 2 mile radius.

On Monday morning, it was business as usual--at least on the outside. People are taking time to talk through their emotions as the trials of Jos once again weigh heavy upon us.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Foundations Academy

In December we received a gift of t-shirts for all of our school children. Here they are, proudly displaying their colors.

Art class, taught by missionary Alycia Abts, is the highlight of the week for many of our students. They love to work with colors. I'm always a bit surprised at how quiet the art class is. I think the children just truly love having materials before them and expressing themselves creatively.

We encourage our lefties!

 Thinking about color and design.