On our final evening in the DR, we came together as a team of Ontario educators, DR educators, the Director, the Superintendent of their district and our host family ~ Pastor Lopez and his family (his daughter and son- in-law were two of our interpreters for the conference) to debrief about the conference and begin planning for next year. And although my trip was intertwined with many heart-breaking moments, it wasn’t until Louisa (their Superintendent) and Pastor Lopez shared their gratitude for our work that I actually felt the tears roll down my cheeks.
Pastor Lopez is a man who was asked to come to Hainamosa to build a church within this poverty stricken village and his response was to build a school first and then the church would follow. This is a man of action, a man who demonstrates his conviction in all that he does. It’s difficult for me to articulate how blessed I felt to be in his presence as he interacted with the people of his village, with the heads of government, with his family and with us ~ his Canadian family! He was the guy who, when the speaker system wasn’t working for the closing ceremony, drove to his church disassembled his speaker system and brought it to the location of the conference. He would bring snacks and water to us as we presented and he stayed awake all night, to ensure our safety and the safety of his family while we stayed in his home ~ A man of action, not only words! As we walked through the village one evening, droves of people came out of their shacks to embrace him. He delved into deep conversation about education with the Director and had the political finesse to carry on a conversation with Government representatives. When we presented our hosts with a thank you gift, he was thrilled with his Blue Jays cap and wore it that evening and into the next day. He was still wearing as he waved to us as we crossed the security gates at the airport
Louisa, the Superintendent of District 10 spoke from the heart as she recognized and thanked her DR educators for their contribution. Louisa had her own daughters take part in the conference (registration table, break time etc) because she wanted them to be a part of her world and see the hard work that is involved. She too knows that education is the answer to poverty in her country. As she thanked us, she cried with gratitude for the partnership that has been developed and for our work in helping to build capacity within an education system that is so poorly represented with ongoing educator learning ~ something that we take for granted and something that some of our educators complain about having to attend.
Following our meal together, theDR teaching partners showered us with handmade gifts of flowers, jewellery and beautifully written cards. By this point, mine were not the only tears flowing!
The last words came from Pastor Lopez and it wasn’t until that very moment that I truly realized the power in our trip and the work of TMA. He shared that we are now part of a revolution. Our work is indeed a revolution; a revolution without bloodshed. But it does come at a cost. It came at a financial cost for us to travel, at a cost to our families who needed to survive without us, at a cost to us in terms of giving up personal comfort for a week and at a cost to us in that we placed ourselves in a community with the potential for violence. He thanked us for our passion ~ a passion for not only education in our own country, but for a passion that recognizes the need to reach out to other countries.
He spoke about education as the tree of life and that our work is like the seeds from that tree. We have shared our knowledge and planted seeds which will now grow in the hearts and minds of our DR educators, who will pass it on to others educators and their students. We may not know the effects of those seeds, but we know that we have planted them!
And I can attest to the fact that we have planted those seeds in fertile ground. From the participation, to the discussion to the thought-provoking questions, our DR counterparts are more than willing, ready and able to lead the charge in their education revolution!
One doesn’t have to travel to another country to experience the need to revolutionize education. What are you prepared to do, in your own backyard, in your own school community?
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