Hello, friends! My name is Kate Colwill and I take on many roles here at Arise Africa. I currently hold the dual title of intern and Sponsorship Director; I make a lot of lists, spreadsheets, and charts; I fold and package Kershaw's Challenge t-shirts; I try to be creative; and, most importantly, I keep Alissa in line (just kidding, it's quite the opposite). Today, I am so excited to be kicking off a new blog series about our Christmas Catalog! For the next two weeks, I will be sharing stories, describing all of the different items in our catalog and touching on why they are important, and informing you of just how far your gift can go in Zambia. As you read these posts—some light and funny, others far more serious—please consider giving to Arise Africa this holiday season. We have so many wonderful things that you can invest in, and each and every gift purchased will forever change a child's life.
When I look back on my own childhood, one of my fondest memories is loading up the car with my family during the last week of summer vacation, driving the few short blocks from my house to Hyer Elementary, and running up to the doors on the back side of the school to learn who my teacher was going to be for the following school year. The process wasn’t that thrilling the summer before my first grade year because my parents had enrolled me in Pre-Primary at our church the year before; the summer before my second grade year, however, was especially exciting because I had heard so many wonderful stories about the process and I absolutely could not wait to experience it myself (embarrassing fact: I may or may not have made a paper chain countdown that started before my first grade school year had even concluded).
I remember the late summer day like it was yesterday. I felt butterflies dancing in my stomach as I pulled on a clean outfit, got into the back seat of our station wagon, and rode to school with my family. I jumped out of the vehicle as soon as we parked, leaving my parents and my younger brother in the dust as I sprinted toward the crowds that formed around those four back doors.
I nudged my way past as many people as I could and began scanning the lists for my name. I knew all of the second grade teachers, I had a few favorites (even though I would have given you the correct, “I don’t care, as long as she’s a good teacher and I learn a lot!” answer had you asked who I preferred), and I couldn’t wait to find out who I was going to be spending the whole school year with. Finally, I saw it: Kate Colwill—Ms. McIntosh's Class.
Ms. McIntosh was the teacher I had hoped and prayed for, and my second grade school year was nothing short of phenomenally brilliant and delightful. I spent my days learning how to read quickly but thoroughly, mastering my multiplication tables ahead of schedule (too bad I ended up being downright horrible at math for the rest of my life), and hatching small chicks in the incubator we had the privilege of keeping in our room. I fell in love with reading and writing and being creative, and I spent all of my free time in the beanbag nook hidden in the back of the classroom. It was Ms. McIntosh who first made learning fun for me, and it was Ms. McIntosh who instilled this deep confidence and worth in me as a student: she told me that I had unique strengths, that I offered beautiful gifts, and that I was valuable to her and to the world. She also took me to Dave and Busters for being at the tippity top of our class for Accelerated Reading Points, which was definitely icing on top of the cake (and yes, also serves as one of my nerdier moments in life—I embrace it).
Teachers are heros, and they have such a huge impact on the children they teach. Unfortunately, the community schools we work with in Zambia cannot afford to hire enough qualified teachers because of the costs of their salaries. Some classrooms are even overrun with up to 60 children per teacher! We are working so hard this year to help our schools provide a quality education to each and every child in our sponsorship program and beyond. This starts with a quality teacher—a teacher who, like Ms. McIntosh, is driven, passionate, and dedicated to preparing his or her children for bright and successful futures. Please help us enable the schools we partner with to hire incredible teachers like this by donating towards their salaries this Christmas. Not only are you helping the children of Zambia learn in a positive and stimulating environment, but you are also providing a job for an adult in a country that has a very high unemployment rate.