EduNations Benefit Concert and Conference with Michael Card
Join beloved musician and author, Michael Card, for a Benefit Concert and Biblical Imagination Conference on December 6-7, 2019 at Memorial Park Church. The concert on Friday, December 6 is free admission with a goodwill offering benefiting EduNations. Get your free tickets for early access at 6:00 p.m. Doors will open for general admission at 6:45 p.m.
In the conference on Saturday, December 7 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Michael will be teaching on the subject of “Hesed”, the untranslatable Hebrew word found numerous times in the scriptures, describing the inexpressible lovingkindness of God. Tickets for the conference cost $35. Discounts available. More details can be found at EduNations.org/Benefit-Concert.
Traveling from out of town? We’ve got you covered! Book a room under the Michael Card Concert Group at Fairfield Inn and Suites Pittsburgh North/McCandless Crossing and receive a discounted rate. To receive the group rate, click here to make an online reservation or call (412) 227-9600 and book under “Michael Card Concert Group”.
Leadership Development Retreat Encourages Success
As part of EduNations’ mission to provide quality education to the deprived children of Sierra Leone, a Leadership Development Retreat for EduNations Heads of Schools and Admin Staff was recently held in Rokassa.
Since EduNations currently has 15 schools spread throughout six different villages in the Northern provinces of Sierra Leone, our leaders do not always have opportunities to come together and discuss successes, challenges, and practices. The Leadership Development Retreat was a chance for the 20 EduNations leaders and administrative staff to do just that.
During the retreat, relationships between principals, teachers, and admin staff were evaluated, as well as the relationship between EduNations and the communities it serves. The head teachers and admin staff also discussed ways to bridge communication gaps and encourage long-term financial wellbeing of staff. Finally, the leaders had the opportunity to brainstorm best practices in running the new Senior Secondary School beginning in 2020.
The retreat began with prayers led by EduNations President, Samuel Sesay. The communication and relationship evaluations that followed the prayer were helpful in finding areas of strengths, but also finding areas that could be improved upon. These issues were discussed at length to ensure that the leaders would leave on the same page. The retreat continued with a lesson given by Samuel about EduNations’ values, including but not limited to integrity, intellectual development, respect, and teamwork. Leaders appreciated this time to refocus and reflect on the essentials.
The retreat continued with discussions centered around EduNations’ academic practices, which included identifying working parameters and benchmarks to measure success. After identifying different aims and objectives, the heads of schools were asked how they intended to achieve these goals. They also discussed how to ensure quality teaching from all their staff to further benefit the students.
Not only did the leaders debrief current practices, but they also had the opportunity to discuss future strategies and objectives for the new Senior Secondary School. They discussed initiatives such as the feeding program and dormitory structure, as well as best practices in encouraging healthy development of the students. Since this high school is a new endeavor for EduNations, the opinions and inputs from all of the leaders were greatly valued.
The retreat ended with hope and a shared commitment to continue working hard for the betterment of the students.
Assessing the Impact of the EduNations Microfinance
At EduNations, we believe that poverty alleviation comes through empowerment and partnership. That’s why, in 2018, we established EduNations Microfinance. This branch of EduNations provides an opportunity beyond education within our schools for us to truly come alongside residents in these underserved communities. EduNations Microfinance provides loans and business training to empower residents in building their businesses while supporting themselves and their families.
During the first year of operation, EduNations Microfinance served 496 clients, 70 percent of which were women who were struggling to run their businesses in the large town of Makeni. Kadiatu Kamara is one such client. When Kadiatu came to EduNations Microfinance, she was struggling to keep her small business stand running. After receiving a loan through the program, she was able to turn her roadside stand into a legitimate building materials shop, effectively expanding and growing her inventory. Kadiatu is so grateful for this opportunity and has enthusiastically encouraged other women to look into the program. And this is just one of the unique stories of the people who have been served by the microfinance program over the last year and a half.
The loans have not only assisted business owners, but have gone on to empower EduNations teachers, as well. 30 percent of the EduNations Microfinance loans went to teachers who were trying to acquire their higher teachers’ certificate. Many teachers were unable to obtain this certificate because of the high costs, but with the help of EduNations Microfinance, these teachers have enrolled in higher teaching courses to advance their careers. With a greater number of quality teachers in Sierra Leone, more students will be able to receive an excellent education.
Without support and training, many of the businesses supported by EduNations Microfinance would most likely have failed; however, we were blessed with an opportunity to help. Our three wonderful staff members facilitated the distribution of loans, and, over the last few months, we have been able to add a fourth staff member to assist with a growing number of clients. Some funds were also used to support the purchase of school supplies for our EduNations students. EduNations Microfinance is one of the ways in which we are working towards sustainability. The more we empower the communities now, the more we can rely on them to work towards a better future tomorrow.
2019 has been an exciting year for EduNations. This year marked our 15-year anniversary! As we look back over the past 15 years, we realize how blessed we have been by all of our generous, faithful supporters. Because of your generosity, this year also marked another milestone for us as we began the construction of our first high school! When completed, this two-story school will serve 300-600 students who will now have the ability to further their education. We are so encouraged by the success of this year and we believe that the Lord has many good things planned for EduNations in 2020.
As we continue to expand our reach in providing education to the children of Sierra Leone, we have found that our budget continues to increase as well. It is our hope that you might give your year-end donations towards helping to cover the cost of teacher salaries. Each teacher is paid an average salary of $150 per month and given benefits, which is a competitive package in Sierra Leone. With the addition of new teachers, we now have a little over 100 teachers working for EduNations. We thank you in advance for contributing in this way and enabling us to finish the year strong and faithfully serve “the least of these”!
Pa Santigie Garden Making Progress Towards Sustainability
Blessed with natural resources such as diamonds, gold, iron ore, and bauxite, Sierra Leone contains rich soil and is internationally respected for producing cocoa, coffee, palm trees, cashews, and more. Though many of these products are found or grown in Sierra Leone, the country has struggled to capture its full agricultural potential because of economic and social challenges. Agriculture farming accounts for over 50 percent of employment in Sierra Leone, but still the country depends on the importation of food to feed its people.
Because of these challenges, EduNations was determined to take steps towards a sustainable agricultural future. We decided to begin a community development initiative in the agricultural sector, and through partnership with some of the leaders in the village of Rokassa, the Pa Santigie Community Garden was established in 2017. EduNations’ hope is that this garden will not only increase agricultural output but will also provide jobs and funding for other community development projects.
The 100+ acre garden’s primary output is pineapples and palm oil derived from palm trees, but it also produces cashews, oranges, and tola—another fruit grown in Sierra Leone. Though we had high hopes of expanding the production of the garden, we were met with our fair share of challenges. Last year alone, a grasshopper infestation on the orange trees prevented them from producing, and the low quantities of palm oil we produced led to a lower than expected profit margin.
Yet despite these challenges, EduNations was determined to succeed. After making a few adjustments, we were able to overcome these roadblocks. The grasshopper infestation was successfully eliminated, allowing the orange trees to produce this year, and through a new investment, we increased our production of palm oil. This past March, the staff purchased a machine for palm oil extraction and hired a specialist who is responsible for the collection of palm kernels. In addition to overcoming these challenges, EduNations is also expecting the pineapple trees that were planted on the expanded land to begin producing next year.
Each year brings its share of challenges, but we have high hopes of continuing to find innovative ways to improve. We are hoping to continue to increase output in the garden over the next few years. After the first year of operation, the profit brought in from the garden was able to contribute to installing a latrine at the Orfonthy Community Health Center in Rokassa. We are hopeful that in future years, the garden will continue to add to community development as it has already done.