Community Service Action

Defining Sustainability: Taking a Community Approach to the New Sustainability Curriculum

A few months ago, we introduced you to our new curriculum model for 2014-2017,  focused on sustainability and the ultimate creation of a Children's Learning Garden. This model will incorporate lessons learned in previous years about clean water, waste management, and nutrition. Students, teachers, and community members will expand upon knowledge gained and apply their skills to each phase of the garden-building project, drawing from their resources within themselves and the community before reaching out to obtain others. The teachers realize that becoming a more sustainable community will involve flexibility and experimentation, and they are eager to work on the modules. They have faith that the community will embrace sustainability, as the teachers themselves, the student families, and many households have already began to use their sustainability knowledge at home. The teachers and the students will work to encourage and guide community members who become confused, embarrassed, or discouraged in the face of change.

Dena Hawes, Executive Director, with students

However, before the sustainability model can truly begin, the GBA teacher team in DR Congo must create a working definition of what sustainability means to them. Dr. Jerry has been brainstorming the idea with GBA’s Program Committee. Each member of the committee offered insight into some components of sustainability, including the idea of providing for future generations, and the concepts of interconnectedness, re-using, service, and sharing.

“Maybe it's that you CAN create something from what appears at first to be nothing,” Linnea Stifler muses. Something that initially appears to be worn out or too damaged to use can be transformed to have an entirely renewed purpose; a different perspective is often needed in order to frame an issue or item in a new light.

While physical resources are often important, the Program Committee also points out that resources don’t always have to be tangible to create a beautiful end product. Dr. Jerry notes that “…you need resources like imagination, love, faith,...and from nothing, you can create something.”

Along with the Program Committee, the teachers have also been working to define sustainability. In order to facilitate an inclusive definition, each person contributes their thoughts; like patches in a quilt, their definition of sustainability is comprised of many stories and voices. The incorporation of many voices in essential in creating an atmosphere in which all people at the school feel comfortable to participate and have ownership in the final products of the model.

Mr. Pombo describes sustainability as “a strong hand with five fingers that work in unity.”  Some teachers focused on sustainability in natural matters, like examples of water and trees, while others focused on examples of lifestyles and learning. “Sustainability would look like a teacher who improves himself by acquiring new teaching methods,” Denise shared.

New teacher Chancard illustrated the sustainability of a teacher-student relationship. “Sustainability would look like a student who repeats his teacher’s sentence.” Keeping with the “quilt” style of building on the definition, Mado added “…who repeats his Teacher’s sentence with his own words.”

Other teachers agreed and added their own perspectives. Dr. Jerry concluded by saying that the example of a student-teacher relationship demonstrates sustainability because the student eventually becomes not afraid to modify his or her teachers’ thoughts and express his or her own reflections or opinions. The student is comfortable in learning, sharing knowledge, and interacting with teachers and adults. This creates a learning environment that is conducive for the growth and exchange of ideas, which in itself is sustainable, and can also help to foster new solutions for recurrent problems.

The students and teachers alike are learning. They continually encourage each other to make sustainable daily life choices and to keep working on the sustainability model, even when obstacles arise. In one recent exercise, Dr. Jerry had the teachers write letters to themselves picturing what the future will look like in 2019, five years after the start of the sustainability model. This kind of visualization provides inspiration for the teachers as to what they can help accomplish at College des Savior.

Indeed, a forward-thinking approach like this is one that lies at the core of GBA’s programs and philosophy. With an orientation towards long-term success, community assets and leaders, a willingness to share our stories and knowledge with others, and a commitment to sustainability, we are confident that not only will we begin building a garden in 2017, but we will also have built thousands of personal connections, skills, and life experiences along the way.

Please join us in this exciting next chapter of our work. Stay up-to-date with our newsletter and blog, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and consider donating your talents, time, or resources to the program. Your support makes a difference in the education of the students, the teachers, and the entire community.

Community Service Action #2 Welcomes Students into Community Homes

We are excited to share the latest updates from our community service actions, or CSAs. CSAs are student-led projects that help students to share with the community what they've learned in school. CSAs also enable students to lead change to solve real community issues, such as improper waste disposal. In CSA #1, students went out into busy areas and picked up waste. Community members wondered what the students were doing and engaged with them in conversations about waste management. Read more about the CSAs and the philosophy behind them. Centre Salisa students preparing for the fete


Students started CSA #2, home visits, on the 2oth. Eighteen students and their teachers went out and visited twenty-six households in order to share news about how to properly handle waste. The students' work allows for safer community practices, shared information, increased self-confidence for the student leaders, and a chance to show how important an asset education is for everyone.

The day began with preparation and briefing in the classroom. Students practiced what they wanted to say, and the teachers led them in a simulation of a home visit.

Next, the groups went to the homes. Adults were amazed to see the children speaking with such self-confidence. Respect and hospitality abounded during the visits. Students reported that people were interested, kind, encouraging, and asked questions. Many had not know much information about waste management before the students' visit. Student Tshibola said the positive reaction was, "because we approached people with respect, greeting them, and explaining clearly the reason of the visit."

Additionally, Beya Beya explained the reason of the visit so well that one father listened diligently and then decided to separate biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable waste in his garden.

After the visits, students went back to school to reflect on their experiences. They are anxious to be able to continue the home visits! They will finish the home visits, then revisit families on August 3rd to follow up and invite them to the mini fete, CSA #3. At the mini fete, which will be on August 10th, the students will perform more skits, dances, and poems about waste management with hopes to reach even more community members. The students are also working on creating a map with clean water and waste management details that they can share with friends.

The mini fete will present lessons similar to those that were presented during April's fete. It will further emphasize the effects of an education and of proper waste treatment.  The students continue to work tirelessly to make these CSAs a success for all!




Students Spring into Action for Community Service Action #1

On June 15th, our students stepped away from exams and desk work and applied their knowledge directly to solving a community problem. Over 30 students from several grades completed the first of three community service actions with their teachers. The kids were briefed by teachers, identified key talking points, and then went out into busy areas of the neighborhood in order to pick up trash and engage in conversations with curious community members. Students listen to teachers and prepare informational signs before leaving to pick up waste

The students demonstrated mastery of the waste management material and confidence in talking with adults around town. A chance meeting with a local sanitation workers led to learning more about how waste is handled. Many observers wanted to know more or know what they could do to change how they handled waste. They also asked about Centre Salisa and how they could learn there as well.

A mother was influenced by the example of the students' actions in the community and wanted to learn more

Reactions from students and community members alike were positive. A young man said, "Congo ezali ko change (Congo is changing)." The students hope that their work can help community members to know about the dangers of waste an the importance of school. Student Marcelline said, "There was a lot of waste. Many have seen our work and said they will no longer throw."

Student Kipulu had a similar reaction from observers. "A Mother asked me why you pick up the waste, I told her that this is to protect our area if not there will be diseases. She promised to tell her friends too." The kids' work is contributing to not only a healthier Mpasa, but a more informed one, too. Moreover, students reported that they wish to continue picking up waste on a weekly basis.

In addition to collecting waste, students will also prepare for CSA #2 in the coming weeks. CSA #2 consists of home visits that will allow students and teachers to continue to spread the message of waste management and to reach children outside of the school system.

We can't wait to see what happens next in this series of CSAs. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!

Community Service Actions Take Child Leaders from Classroom to the Streets

The next step in the waste management curriculum sends Centre Salisa students into the streets. Our highest priority is enabling students to lead change in their communities. When a student becomes a child leader, there are increased benefits to the community and increased self-esteem and learning reinforcement for the children. There is also an awareness built around Giving Back to Africa’s presence in the community and the importance of schooling and topics such as clean water and waste management.

The Noyau, the team of teachers developing the curriculum with Giving Back to Africa, meet regularly to plan and evaluate programming

Community service actions, or CSAs, encourage child leadership by giving kids space to apply classroom learning to the real world. The students identified three CSAs for the summer months that will seek to solve problems related to waste in their neighborhood.

First, students revisited the market area to gather waste. By publicly picking up litter, the children raised questions and conversation with community members.  The oddity of the clean up gave kids a chance to talk directly about waste.

Community members were eager to learn more about Centre Salisa and about waste management. The kids' actions inspired community members to make changes in their own lives about how they handle waste. Many students said that they wished to return to pick up waste often. Student Kipulu said, "Several people congratulated us and asked us to return again to pick up the waste and advise people."

Students prepared to answer questions and start up conversation after reflecting on the most important points they learned during the waste management curriculum. Students and the Noyau, our teacher team, met to determine these important talking points together. Talking points gave students more confidence when speaking with community members and allowed them to pull out points of waste management lessons that were most meaningful to them. Look out for a blog post later this week with more details about CSA #1.

Next up: home visits. After this first CSA in the market, students and teachers will reflect on the outcomes and prepare for step two, the home visits. They will decide what they find most important to talk about and then visit homes in the community to share the information they’ve learned about waste. This will also allow for staff to be able to reach children in the community who are pre-school aged or out of school. The home visits will be able to provide concrete proof of the value of an education, and again, it will strengthen the self-confidence of the students in being able to take a stake in their community and in talking with adults and community leaders.

Students Make Community Walks

In addition, the home visits will provide students with an opportunity to invite parents and children outside of the school system to a mini fete de presentation in late July/early August. The mini fete is CSA #3 and will further emphasize the effects of an education and of proper waste treatment.  Students will be able to take their learning leadership to new heights!

Supporting child leaders is our goal. The students work tirelessly and are truly shining, in classroom and out. Through the CSAs, the students hope to continue making positive impacts in own their lives and the lives of others. They also hope to open up conversation, in all parts of the globe, about education, child leaders, DR Congo, and more.

The students at Centre Salisa prove what a difference communication can make as they step into the neighborhood and into their roles as community leaders.


Student Leaders Amaze Themselves at Spring Fete de Presentation

Community Learning is Key for Giving Back to Africa's Programs On May 18th, a fete de presentation (literally translated as "Feast of Presentation"!) gave students a chance to celebrate and show off the waste management skills learned in the second youth leadership education module.  Students prepared dances, poems, songs, and skits to teach community members about waste management. Their goal was to educate community members about the risks of handling waste improperly.

After the fete, the teachers and students alike reflected on their performances and overall feelings about the fete. The consensus was that it was a fun and informative program for all.

Before the fete, some students had reported being nervous or worried about speaking in public, but their fears were met with strength at the performance. After the fete,  students felt that their hard work had reached a vast audience, and teachers and students alike reported an astounding sense of pride in their achievement.

Evaluating and refining the program means that more students, like Beni, will be able to be a part of stronger educational systems.

Students went on to identify the next steps in carrying out waste management projects in the community. These next projects aim to continue learning, reinforce waste management lessons, further connect students and the community, and increase awareness about both waste and the students' work at Centre Salisa. We call these projects community service actions, or CSAs.

Students and teachers will lead the CSAs over the course of the next few months. The kids are very eager to continue working and educating in their neighborhoods. Beya-Beya, a 7th gradeer, said, “As we show people how to manage the waste, we must now go show them how to prepare food properly. We have to go in the fields and tell people to pick up the waste.”

There's a buzz around the originality of the students' efforts at Centre Salisa. The hands-on curriculum there is seen as one-of-a-kind.  Student Ndjali remarked that, “If all the schools in the DRC act like this, the situation will change positively. It was very good and very touching.”

With the brilliant leadership from these students, we are sure to see continued positive change in communities in DR Congo. We will bring you more news on the students' CSAs as the summer progresses. Thank you for your continued partnership in making accomplishments like this possible!

Theatre of Waste, Performing a Clean Future

Student perform a skit teaching collection and sorting of waste For Saturday, May 18 the school grounds of Centre Salisa school became a stage.  Surrounded by their families, teachers, peers and special guests, theatre in the round-style, students performed lessons to educate about the managing waste.

Students drew creative energy for their performances by talking with waste management professionals, viewing bodily waste samples under a medical clinic microscope and from neighborhood walks where they evaluated the impact of waste firsthand.  These inspirations prompted the students to clean their classrooms on a daily basis, arriving at school before even their teachers to clean.

Mr Pierre and M. Fifi, Rotary Club-Gombe, applaud student performances on waste

Songs, skits and poems teach in fun, accessible ways the need to keep the environment clean to prevent diseases and erosion by collecting waste and disposing of it properly, reusing or composting.  Students entreated attendees, and parents in particular, to work together and support each other to minimize the dangers of waste by good management.

Special guests watched with pleasure and support as the students demonstrated their learning.  Representatives from UNICEF, World Vision,  and Rotary joined the Assistant Mayor of Mpasa II, Nsele City, the  Police chief of the National Intelligence Agency, President of the National Association of DRC Parents and Water and Sanitation Coordinator and Manager of  Institut Supérieur des Techniques Médicales Kasangulu.

"What the children said here only means that we parents have not made an effort to manage a healthy environment, which causes high rates of mortality and morbidity. We must not limit ourselves here but must bring these lessons to the community." 

--Mr Dueme, Water and Sanitation Coordinator and Manager of  Institut Supérieur des Techniques Médicales, Kasangulu

Students are looking ahead to turning their performances them into action.  All the learning about waste leads to student driven Community Service Actions, community service projects targeting public education of the disposal, re-use, and long term health aspects of waste management practices.