So most of the GSF Board (Harmony, Vanessa, Eric and I) just met and wanted to send out an update of where things are with our second school, our plans for next year (including building our last classroom!) as well as ask for your support, if you are so inspired. (Your money goes a long way: for ex. $60 pays a teacher’s salary for a month, see below for more)
The Goma Student Fund (GSF):
For those of you who I haven’t shared this with before, GSF is an organization I started in 2002, after a trip to Goma as it was beginning to recover from a volcanic eruption. Add in 12 year civil war, aftermath of Rwandan refugee camps, and incredible poverty and you have thousands of kids orphaned or impoverished and needing education. NE Congo is still designated as a relief area, so very little development work is, or can, happen here. GSF is a small nonprofit, born primarily out of the interest and support of our friends and loved ones, that works with communities to start schools, both K-12 and vocational.
Read more about Goma and our work at: http://www.gomastudentfund.org/
GSF efforts this year:
With the first school running self-sufficiently at this point, our attention is on our second school in the refugee area of Mugunga. In its second year, this school gives educational opportunities and hope to a population that has been displaced for over a decade and whose needs are rarely addressed by aid organizations in Goma.
The next step for GSF is to improve the quality of education in this area to bring it up to the standards of schools in Goma. To date, the investments of friends and family have allowed us to build five classrooms and enroll 250 students. Each class is full beyond capacity, with children sharing notebooks and pens and sitting four to a desk. Even then, more students the school cannot accommodate line up at the windows to watch lessons.
Providing quality education in this refugee area demands greater financial support. Families are not able to pay enough in school fees to cover even the basic operational costs. Teachers must be paid to travel from Goma daily. There are greater infrastructural needs of the location, including the need for a water collection system and more-secure cement buildings, rather than wooden.
As a result, the GSF is shifting its approach from developing its first, self-sustaining school in Goma proper to committing to yearly financial support for the operations of this second school in Mugunga. We recognize that we have a unique role to play in helping this refugee community meet its needs, beyond those of immediate survival, by giving their children opportunities through education that will support the entire community in moving towards a new future.
How you can help:
Many other organizations and programs will not support development in a refugee area, so the vast majority of our funding comes from individual donors. GSF is a labor of love by the entirely volunteer staff and each of you is in some way personally connected to one of us. All funds donated will be directed 100% to the program. We are fortunate in that money goes very far in Goma.
To give you an idea:
$30 – Pairs of uniforms for five students
$60 – Teacher’s Salary for a month
$100 – One year’s tuition and supplies for two students
$300 – Furniture for an entire classroom
If you can help, please donate today; the needs of the Mugunga children are immediate, and it is such an easy thing to forget to do.
Many of you have donated in the past and I’m always reminded, when I sit down to do this yearly fundraising drive, of how much your words of encouragement, willingness to help or discuss, and overall vote of confidence through your donations keep me going when I’m far away from the kids and families over there that we are all working to help.
It was a conversation with a friend, this morning, that reminded me what a special opportunity this organization offers to me. For me, it is always easier to want to work with people and issues that are right in front of me. And, for now at least, I’m not willing to move longterm to Congo, or a similar place, because I miss the amazing community of friends and loved ones I have here. But I also can’t go through my days thinking I am only contributing to folks here in the US, which is why I’m grateful to have an easy pathway to reach out to folks a world away, and especially a part of the world where many cannot or choose not to work, to help them move themselves forward, by creating a new generation of literate, critical thinking, and empowered young people. Without a basic primary school education, they are unable to take advantage of so many other opportunities, from being able to read when to take their medication, to show up for a vaccination, or replace their water filter to voting in an election, reading a piece of news, managing their money, or reading a land deed.
Both parents and kids know it, and it’s what motivates parents to eat a meal only every other day to save the $1/month to send their kid to our school or kids to steal backpacks to try and get into the classroom. I wish you guys could meet them. No one I know who has gone to Goma, doesn’t plan to go back. But it does feel very far away from here, and I am so grateful for all of you who have made this organization something you care about. It started because of that care and wouldn’t exist any other way.