A few months ago, I sat in our social workers’ office listening to stories about the children we serve. Stories about what these children go through at home. I remembered our teachers also sharing their struggles to involve parents in the school. Together, we started questioning – how might we bridge the gap between school and home for our children, families and teachers? How might we get to know the children and families better? How might we help parents support their children’s learning? We knew that visiting homes would be a great start to deepen this partnership.
A week later, a group of staff led by the social workers, started visiting the families we serve. This activity has become a weekly priority ever since.
We break out into two smaller groups to cover more ground and to be able to fit into the one-roomed homes.
The families welcome us with so much warmth and respect. In some cases, we meet parents and guardians who don’t have jobs or are housebound by illness. We also meet our student’s siblings, some are out of school.
We spend time together and the parents open up, telling us their stories. Stories of love, joy and gratefulness; stories of pain; stories of fears and frustrations. We laugh and cry together. We encourage each other and pray together.
It is amazing how much we have learned so far. Lessons that have helped us improve our programmes. The task of teaching and supporting our children has come alive. We are now able to attach each story to each respective child. Parents feel more connected to us and our work.
I have seen great teamwork and compassion towards these families from our staff, going out of their way to find solutions to some of the families’ problems. Prayer groups have formed; follow up mechanisms have been developed to ensure we support our children and their families in the best way possible.
Our staff have worked together to help the children through counselling and mentoring. They have raised funds for food, school uniform, hospital visits, and travel expenses to reunite children with their families. They have also connected parents with job openings and government services.
Our hearts overflow with emotions every time we walk away from these homes. It is draining, but we believe that we are engaged in an important component of our work. We are seeing hope and faith restored in these families. This keeps us going every Thursday and we will never look back.