Girls in the classroom
Tom assembling shelves
Rasho talking to the kids about what they want to be.
Terry working with children
Children with their Christmas gifts
A dentist, a truck driver, a police officer were some of the answers the children in Sofia Baptist Church’s literacy program gave when asked this question by a young man who was visiting the program recently. The young man shared with them his testimony, and that, although he was finally able to finish school and have a good profession and income in spite of many challenges, his very first “profession” is that of being a Christian and living out Godly principles every day, in both his workplace and in his family.
Children have dreams for their future. The Roma children in the literacy program have dreams, but it is often hard for them to see beyond today, beyond the poverty they have grown up in and the unfulfilled dreams their parents must once have had. Parents who now sweep streets, are trash collectors or do other manual labor for very low pay, and dig in dumpsters for food. It’s hard for them to see that in order to become any of the professions they listed above, they will need to have at least high school diploma. But school is hard when you are 10 or 12 years old and can barely read or write, and don’t have the proper clothes to attend school anyway. The others in the class make fun of you and the teachers may pick on you, and with no encouragement from home, you will probably drop out of school. What happens to the dreams of what you want to become as an adult then?
The literacy program at Sofia Baptist Church was begun 12 years ago to help Roma children try to gain the skills they need to stay in school until graduation, and to believe in themselves and their dreams. They need to be guided, step by step, to know what they need to do in order to realize their dreams—learn to read, write and do math, stay in school (even when it’s hard), persevere in the face of discrimination. For the girls, it’s even harder as their culture expects them to get married and start having children as young as 12 years old.
Over the years of its existence, the literacy program has had dozens of children come in and out. And after meeting for so many years at the old building of Sofia Baptist Church, the literacy program moved in November to the church’s new ministry center. What an exciting time for the children! It was decided that the program would move into the building that sits behind the church, intended to be a soup kitchen for the homeless, but a program that has not yet started (it will in the future, however!). The church staff was great to help get everything set up and running. It looks like a real classroom! The kids were super excited to have a brand new learning center, big rooms--a place to call their own. New furniture and supplies have been purchased. Each child has their own plastic “basket” in which to put their books and other supplies. They like having something to call their own, and are taking great care to get all their things put away after each lesson. Hot, rather than only cold, water comes out of the sink faucets where they can wash their hands and faces till the water runs clean. A beautiful new enclosed shower has been installed in the bathroom where the children can bathe and shampoo their hair. There’s still more to get, such as large whiteboards, some bookshelves and perhaps in the not-so-distant future, a couple of computer stations where the kids can play learning games. But it’s a good start, and we are blessed to have our very own place to learn and have fun together!
One day in November, as Terry was telling the children about American Thanksgiving, they were asked what they were thankful for. Some of the answers included:
Their families—mom, dad and siblings.
That they have a home, and do not have to live on the streets as do some of their friends and families.
That a sibling, parent or grandparent who was sick is now well.
That they were protected from an accident that could have been much worse.
That they have clothes to wear.
For the new church and their new place to come to learn.
We are thankful for each of YOU! Many of you give to the White Cross or STEP programs which give us grants each year that fund the literacy program. It is humbling to know so many of you care about these children and their futures. THANK YOU for helping us help them into the bright future God has planned for them!
--For the children coming to the literacy program, that they will go to school, remain in school and be able to realize their dreams.
--For the coffee shop, as there continue to be other issues that must be dealt with before we can even start the process. This has taken much longer than expected and it is frustrating not being able to get started.
--For our health as the cold bug seems to keep hanging around.
--For the girls working on the road, that they will desire for something better and make the decision to leave their current life.