Back to School Means Different Things to All of Us

I forgot to avoid the school zone again today. Waiting for a line of five buses to turn into the school’s drop-off zone reminded me of a train ride I took while visiting a small town in Switzerland. The train car served as the Alpine village’s school bus. That memory brought on a flashback of an overcrowded van in Ethiopia, bursting with men, women, children and a bunch chickens.

Back to school means different things to different people around the world. To me, the first day of school was a welcomed return to showing off my new clothes to friends, joining competitive sports and learning interesting stuff. To my son—who disliked school as much on the last day of high school as he did on the first day of kindergarten—it was pure agony. To Alice Nyinawumuntu in Rwanda, back to school means hope for a path out of poverty.

Thanks to generous donors and sponsors, these kids no longer have to crowd under a tree to try to learn.

Thanks to generous donors and sponsors, these kids no longer have to crowd under a tree to try to learn.

In Alice’s community, 40 or more children used to study under a tree. Some of the kids walked more than six miles, only to squeeze together to share everything, including chairs, light and text books (if they had any at all).

Thanks to a caring sponsor, girls like Alice can realize their dreams. She plans to become a doctor

Thanks to a caring sponsor, Alice can realize her dream of becoming a doctor.

It’s no wonder that only half of the community’s parents bothered to send their children to school. Mom and dad thought their kids could be put to more practical tasks, such as carrying water and helping to raise food. Especially the girls.

The community wanted something better for their children and called in Food for the Hungry (FH).

Staff met with churches, leaders and families on multiple occasions. They listened as the community explained why children didn’t attend school, and helped the community come up with a plan. Then everyone worked together to make that plan a reality.

Alice’s family, for example, couldn’t afford the uniform, fees or school supplies. The family of eight relied on their small plot of land for all of their food. Overused soil, changing weather and a growing family made it nearly impossible to send Alice to school. That would lock her in a generational cycle of poverty.

Imagine her excitement when a generous person from America sponsored Alice! The child sponsorship program made it possible for Alice to go to school. And, because funds from sponsors are pooled to help make the community a great place for growing up, FH also helped the community build and equip enough classrooms.

With the addition of a new classroom, almost all of the community's school children attend school.

With the addition of a new classroom, almost all of the community’s school children now attend school.

Staff helped moms and dads dream of a future for their children. Almost all of the community’s children now attend school.

As for Alice, she recently received honors for her excellence in school. She’s confident that she’ll be able to realize her goal of becoming a doctor—then return home to help other vulnerable kids to reach their full potential.

“I especially liked that I and my friends did not have to go to school too early to find a nice seating position, as there is enough space for all of us now,” Alice said. “What I think my mother appreciated the most is that the shorter distance I had to walk meant I could sweep and feed my siblings before I left for school. Because of God’s amazing grace, I will be able to serve others for the purpose of the glory of the Lord.”

You can help make more stories like this happen—not only in Rwanda, but in multiple countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Sponsor a child today, or give a one-time donation to help fund more projects like the one that gave Alice her dreams.