Education: Opening Up the World
Thomas Awiapo was just a small boy in Ghana when his father, and then his mother, died. He and his brothers were taken in by an aunt and uncle. But, as orphaned children, they ate last. And often that meant they did not eat at all. Two of his brothers died. One ran away.
One day, Thomas saw a boy carrying sorghum—a grain that in the United States is mainly used to feed cattle and in Africa is often used to make beer. To Thomas, it looked like a good meal. He learned that the boys ate it at school. So, Thomas started attending school.
Catholic Relief Services supports education in many ways. We build schools in Afghanistan so girls who are not allowed far from home can attend. We create community reading spaces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, support peer tutoring programs in Honduras and use visual report cards in Mali so parents with low literacy skills can track their children’s progress.
We work to improve the education systems for adolescent girls in Ethiopia, help child laborers stay in school in Ecuador and Guatemala, and ensure schooling for vulnerable children, including those with disabilities, in Kenya and Vietnam.
And we help refugee children from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq—kids who have fled to tented camps or crowded apartments—get an education so they are equipped to help rebuild their countries when they return home.
We’ve been involved in school feeding programs since 1958. We know that kids show up more regularly when they get a meal, and that well-fed students are better students. Thomas Awiapo went to school for a meal, and stayed for the education. His teachers sent him on to a Catholic high school, where he excelled and qualified for university in Accra, Ghana’s capital. After graduation, Thomas came to the United States and earned a master’s degree from California State University, East Bay. All because of a boy carring sorghum.
There are other things that help educate kids that might surprise you, like drilling a well. Fetching enough water for a family to get through a day is an arduous task when you have to walk miles to get it. Often this burden falls on young girls who spend their days going back and forth to the nearest river. Drill a well, and girls can go to school instead.
Or, help a farmer grow more and better crops so he has enough to sell in the market, and his children don’t have to work in the fields because there’s enough money to pay school fees and buy uniforms. So, the kids get an education, growing the most important crop—a better future—for themselves, their families, their communities, their countries and their world.
A Force of Positive Change
“Young people are the hope of mission … how beautiful it is to see that young people are ‘street preachers,’ joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!” —Pope Francis
Around the world, young people are standing in solidarity for what they believe in—justice, peace, unity, safety and opportunity. Pope Francis invites us to recognize the joyful power of young people and to support our youth to become the force for positive change in our world.
Catholic Relief Services sees young people as global citizens and missionary disciples, and key to our mission of upholding the dignity of human life. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s decision makers, leaders and catalysts for change.
In the United States, the CRS program CRS Education uses age-appropriate resources and programs to educate children and youth about current global issues, raise awareness about CRS’ mission and work overseas, and encourage young people to take action to improve the lives of all members of our human family.
CRS Education gives young people the opportunity to understand poverty through the hopeful stories of the men, women and children we serve overseas. One student, who participated in the CRS Global High School program at Merion Mercy Academy, learned about the CRS YouthBuild program and told us, “The event … allowed me to understand the individuals affected instead of just hearing about ‘poor people’ as some distant, detached group … now, my challenge is to keep in mind all that we discussed and apply it to my everyday life, so that peace can truly begin with me.”
By experiencing our mission through CRS Education, this student was able to gain a clear understanding of the connections existing between all people and the similarities that define us, instead of the differences that so often attempt to divide us.
Young people have an inherent way of looking at our world as beautiful and worth fighting for, and have a desire to make connections and improve systems and societies. So often, the situations that are projected through the media are dire, but our youth have the wonderful gift of seeing light through the darkness. CRS Education strives to provide fuel for the fires of justice that are already burning within young people across the United States, and gives them the tools they need to grow as leaders within our shared Catholic faith.
For more information on CRS Education, visit education.crs.org.
To get involved with our upcoming International Youth Day social media event and help us form connections between youth all over the world, visit facebook.com/EducationCRS.