College des Savior and Kapini Schools Partner Up to Combat Erosion

For many months now, College des Savior has been working with the nearby Kapini school to bring teachers into the GBA curriculum and expand the base of community knowledge and expertise. This has involved one-on-one mentoring and observation, group reflections, and staff trainings.  Now, as erosion threatens the Kapini school’s neighborhood, the two schools are using the skills they have been practicing to tackle a whole new type of challenge.

College des Savior and Kapini staff met with community members, students, and parents in early March to discuss the erosion issue and brainstorm solutions. GBA PM, Dr. Jerry Kindomba, introduced the meeting with a community-building game and called for the group to think of their actions like that of a tree with many branches, able to spread good work throughout the community. The group listened to an expert speak on potential solutions to the erosion issue. Together, they forged a three-step plan of action to 1) promote local and government awareness of the issue, 2) redirect the road in the erosion area, and 3) use sandbags and plant bamboo trees to help control the erosion.

Participants join in the conversation at the first outreach meeting

Participants join in the conversation at the first outreach meeting

Just a week later, College des Savior and Kapini participated in another community meeting to educate additional community members about the campaign. College des Savior and a group of Kapini parents donated erosion prevention sandbags to the Kapini school to kick-off the donation effort. Another community member has also pledged to donate 2500 bags, and the initiative has the backing of several local government officials. A handful of pastors from area churches also agreed to take the messages to their congregations. This meeting also included a walk-through of the affected areas to talk to people in-person about the issue and the efforts to resolve it. A third community meeting took place on April 2nd.

Sandbags, like the one pictured above, will be used to fight the erosion

Sandbags, like the one pictured above, will be used to fight the erosion

Meeting participants toured the affected areas and met with neighbors

Meeting participants toured the affected areas and met with neighbors

College des Savior and Kapini are proving that their relationship and practiced skills extend beyond the classroom and into real life. Giving Back to Africa’s curriculum encourages the solving of real-world problems through collaboration that leverages community resources, emphasizing that all parties have knowledge and tools to bring to the table. This is exemplified through the use of knowledge of the local area and ecosystem, sandbags, bamboo trees, and personal connections to fight the erosion. Willing to work together on this pressing, local issue, the two schools are applying their lessons learned not only about science and nature, but also about engaging the community, employing assets, and unity.

When​ ​Shovels​ ​and​ ​Love​ ​Become​ ​Assets:​ ​The​ ​Deep-Reaching​ ​Roots​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Students’​ ​Learning Garden 

Colorful crops, interactive school lessons, and a community gathering space-- the Students’ Learning Garden is becoming a reality. Students and teachers, with input from staff and community members, have been hard at work for many months planning, researching, and now executing the project. From visits to homesteading operations to performing skits about waste management, students have combined life lessons with academic skills in preparation for the culmination of their three-year Sustainability Curriculum. At the end of February, they sprung into the next step in the process by purchasing gardening tools.

Students and teachers look for the right tools at the market

Students and teachers look for the right tools at the market


But these items are more than just shovels and spades-- they're “assets to organize our garden,” remarked student Noella. Selecting the tools at the market was an exciting experience for all, and students noted that organizing the garden will take wisdom, courage, love, intelligence, leadership, and humility. These intangible qualities serve as assets as well that bind the students together to achieve their common goal. When asked who benefits from the garden, the students’ answer was simple: “Everyone.” And who owns it? “Students, teachers, and the community.”

Another asset the students have been leveraging? Homemade dictionaries. The unique study guides are full of sustainability-related terms to apply to the garden. Below, the students write and practice their definitions. Combining the power of words and actions, the College des Savior students are putting all of their assets towards the end goal of a thriving Learning Garden.

Students work on building their dictionaries

Students work on building their dictionaries


Students Becoming Teachers: Presentations Showcase the Circle of Learning at College des Saviors

The new year brings a time for both reflection and looking forward. Teachers at College des Saviors have been sharing how the school curriculum has influenced their personal lives. Many are applying knowledge to community or personal gardens, composting and managing waste. They are also brainstorming about how to keep students comfortable and engaged in the learning process moving forward. Some suggested verbal encouragement, others motivational activities, and also the teachers have suggested to “promote teamwork between students because very often they apply themselves more by working together.” 

Four students, who have all studied a combination of the GBA educational modules over the past five years, joined the teachers in reflection. The students range from 6th to 11th grade. In a presentation to the teachers and guests, the students reviewed key points from the clean water, waste management, nutrition, and agriculture/sustainability curriculums and demonstrated the application of those lessons into their lives. Ebimba, the 11th grader, elaborated on the water cycle and drew the connection between unclean water and water-borne diseases. Sixth grader Pombo spoke on the difference between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste, and all students presented on highlights from the curriculums they had participated in, as well as the school garden. 

The students took questions from the group and shared anecdotes from their personal lives. Kongolo, from the 8th grade, helped convince his neighbors to start a garden, and in doing so, provide healthier food options for the family. After the presentation, staff made a visit to Kongolo’s home to see his own garden and animal husbandry work and talk with his family. They also saw the neighbors’ garden that Kongolo influenced-- which used to be just empty land! Ebimba shared about his system at home to separate and biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste. Ntumba Nadege, in 7th grade, discussed nutrition with her family, asking her mother to incorporate a larger variety of foods, and locally available ones, into their diet.

Attendees were impressed by the students’ presentational skills and their demonstrated mastery of the curriculum material. Even though the students had little time to prepare for the presentation, their energy was high and their efforts were well-received by all. The students led the group with the skill and composure of teachers themselves, having come full circle in learning, applying, and now sharing their knowledge with others. Next up for the students and teachers in an Integrated Review of material, covering many topics and using peer groups and innovative strategies for the review. 


Teachers Learning Circle Expands, Student and Teacher Progress Grows

Over the course of the past year, College des Savior (CS) teachers have been working with teachers from another school, Lukunga, in order to share student-centered teaching practices and new ideas, as well as build community relationships. This initiative is known as a Teachers Learning Circle. The Circle complements the students’ efforts to develop a Students’ Learning Garden, based in part on knowledge gained through community sharing. Dr. Jerry expressed the purpose of this Teachers Learning Circles initiative as one based on overall growth:

“This is an approach to help Students to flourish, to participate in the learning process in developing some skills to build up their personalities and develop a good relationship with themselves and their communities. Teachers of these two schools are coming together to test and refine this approach before spreading it.”

In June, the teachers met and shared the changes they had observed in each other since they had begun meeting. Teachers noted the introduction of new teaching techniques, like using games and brainstorming, and they also spoke of changes in their ability to relate to the students and their school. 

The teachers gather to reflect on their past and present engagement with the Teacher Learning Circle

The teachers gather to reflect on their past and present engagement with the Teacher Learning Circle

The teachers participate in an ice breaker activity 

The teachers participate in an ice breaker activity 

Teachers from both CS and Lukunga shared their testimonies for new teachers to learn about how the program has impacted them.

Mr. Kibulu, of CS, said that:

“The new approach to teaching has helped students to know the importance of learning. The techniques used improve the students’ comfort and bring students to work on their own (as demonstrated in their ability to speak on their own at the Fete de Presentation).”

Mr. Chancard, also of CS, added: “This approach is a great asset to teaching that we did not have before. It improves our ability to get students more involved and active.”

Mr. Kasongo, a Lukunga teacher, spoke of the integration of many topics under this approach to teaching, such as hygiene, health, and agriculture. Another Lukunga teacher, Mr. Corneille, said that: “The methodology used helps to get students more active and encourages them to be more productive, rather than to wait for the teacher to do everything. Now, when I teach, it’s like we are playing while the students are also learning.”

Several students also shared their testimonies. Kashila noted that: “The teachers are asking us every time after they teach something, “Do you understand?” They are not tired and help us to understand.” Others commented on how they are becoming leaders in their community and have learned conflict resolution skills.

Many people in attendance commented on how they’re seeing the seeds of schoolwork bear fruits in the community. This was also evident at the Fete de Presentation, where CS students courageously performed lessons from their schoolwork for a public audience of over 300. The Lukunga teachers attended the Fete and will soon meet with the CS teachers and ten teachers from the Kapini school to evaluate the event and further engage in teacher learning.


GBA Launches CrowdRise Campaign to Develop Students’ Learning Garden

This year is a huge one for Giving Back to Africa! After three years of learning about topics ranging from to waste management to clean water, as well as applying these topics to work with the community, the students will mark the end of the Sustainability Curriculum with the creation of a students’ learning garden. This garden will not only help students to further integrate the lessons they’ve learned into a tangible, community-based project, but it will also facilitate the further exploration of passions related to agriculture and the environment. The students recently had the opportunity to visit a monastery and observe the various aspects of homesteading there. Participating in the planning and construction of the garden will continue to nurture the seeds of knowledge that the students have planted.

Additionally, the garden will serve as a community catalyst, bringing together community members to learn from demonstration gardens and to continue to build ties with the school and personal connections with the students. The development and maintenance of the garden will foster leadership and management skills, health education, and food security through the encouragement of home growing practices. This garden will have impacts that reach root-deep.

We need your help to make this garden a reality. Please join our CrowdRise campaign and make a donation towards supplies for the garden.  You can access the campaign by clicking here

We are currently looking to purchase the following:

·         Seedlings: $2,000

·         Hand trowels (48 at $5 each): $240

·         Shovels (10 at $20 each): $200

·         Wheelbarrows (5 at $80 each): $400

·         Compost (20 bags at $8 each): $160

·         Fence: $5,000


·         Total: $8,000

Just think, donating $20 could provide a shovel to help break ground on this exciting project! Please visit our CrowdRise page for more information and share the campaign link with friends and family. Thank you for your continued support!

Students observing and participating on a recent field trip to a local monestary

Students observing and participating on a recent field trip to a local monestary

Fieldtrip to Monastery Yields Rewards for All Involved

In mid-January, 74 students, seven teachers, three staff members, and three parents took a field trip to a monastery to see a real-world example of sustainability and leadership, the topics they have been learning about in module two of the sustainability curriculum. The fieldtrip began with an introduction from Brother Fidele, the Principal of the Monastery Hostel. The students toured various components of the monastery, including the carpenter’s workshop, the chicken coop and barn, the garden, the store, and the water tower.

On the way to the monastery

On the way to the monastery

Brother Fidele answering questions from students

Brother Fidele answering questions from students

The agronomist explaining

The agronomist explaining

Throughout the visit, the students applied their observational skills, asking Brother Fidele and the agronomist insightful questions. Brother Fidele was amazed by the flood of questions from the students. “I understood that this is a very active youth from questions that these child asked,” he remarked. “This proves they have received proper training and that the visit was not a tourism.” One student asked about the conflict resolution process at the monastery and others asked about the technical aspects of running a homestead, such as threats to plants.

The students’ overarching assignment was to gather information individually and then come together in small groups to share their observations to write a journal article and think about a larger, post-field trip presentation. The teachers and parents assisted the students in the observational process, helping them to note aspects of the visit that they could incorporate into the post-field trip presentation. The engagement of teachers and parents in the learning process strengthens both the experience and understanding of the students and the larger community. One of the parents commented on their satisfaction after moving their child from another school to College des Savior: “Really, I have no words to say.  I do not know what to say. I’m impressed with the quality of the CS education.”

The students displayed their creativity by ending the field trip with poems. They wrote and presented haikus as a gesture of thanks to the monastery for hosting the fieldtrip.

From Beya Beya's group:

We visited the deli.
We visited the initiation house.
We say thank you.

From Kanonange's group:

The Monastery is pretty.
An example for our lives.
Thank you for the initiative.


From Kashila's group:

The beautiful green garden.
It is always well watered .
I want to know everything.


From Malula's group:

1.  Oh ! My God !
What a joy to see good things
I have never seen in my life.
2. Oh ! My God !
What a joy to have a good school like the College des Savoirs.
because it teaches us good things.
I saw the Monastery with the College des Savoirs’ help.
Working on the haikus in small groups

Working on the haikus in small groups

Presenting a haiku

Presenting a haiku

The integration of the students into community lives and initiatives exemplifies the importance of the sustainability curriculum. Not only are students learning about and living out sustainability in the sense of environmental awareness, but they are also engaging with sustainability in terms of building a long-lasting, deep-reaching legacy of service learning.

Teacher Learning Circles Aim to Strengthen Cross-Cultural Bridges, Scale Up Successes

Some say you learn by listening, others by teaching. The Noyau teachers are doing both!

The Noyau, the core group of teachers at College des Savior, have become involved in two different Teacher Learning Circles on two continents.

In one, the Noyau are getting to know a group of teachers from nearby Lukunga school in hopes of working with them to implement the learning model from College des Savior at Lukunga.

"Bridge" Over the River: Teaching Teamwork in the Classroom

GBA has the opportunity to work with some of the best teachers, whose consistent and faithful dedication to their students is reflected in their unique classroom techniques. Mr. Chancard recently used creative exercises to teach students about team work as part of the fourth lesson of the sustainability curriculum.

In the first exercise, he used benches to make a “bridge” over a river. He instructed the students to cross the bridge and to help each other along the way, making sure that everyone crossed. Not only did the students have to cross the “bridge,” without falling off, but they also had to do so in a way to end up in the same order in which they started. The students worked hard to support each other and eventually got all of the students across in the correct order.     

First order                                          

At the end

Reconciliation Game

The students also played a conflict resolution game to learn more about cooperation. Mr. Emmanual and Mr. Chanchard explained the game to two students and had the students work though the reconciliation process. Through this type on hands-on, innovative learning, students at College des Savior are receiving enriching educations.



GBA’s Program Committee Talks About the Importance the Details Make in Development

The GBA Program Committee has been talking a lot about dictionaries. At first glance, one might wonder why there’s so much chatter about the little books. But when we dive deeper, it’s easy to see how the discussion over dictionaries is an important reflection of GBA’s deliberate model of development. ***

One goal of GBA’s new curriculum module is for the students to start making vocabulary lists with words that pertain to sustainability. As Board Member Maria Brown explains, “They [the students] will essentially be making their own personal dictionaries.” Then the question of obtaining words for the dictionaries came up. Here in the US, we are able to look up words on our computers, phones, or tablets. However, in Kinshasa, these options are not readily available, and students would need physical dictionaries in order to look up words. Maria reports that the first thought was to just send dictionaries to DR Congo or buy them in Kinshasa. But alas, GBA’s intentional way of thinking and acting redirected the Program Committee to some potential pitfalls of this approach.

A concern emerged that the introduction of the dictionaries could be a bit disruptive within the community, as dictionaries are not a typical household item in Kinshasa. Thus, the Program Committee has been discussing how to best introduce the dictionaries to the students and teachers. Ann Marie Thomson, co-founder of GBA, commented on the dictionary discussion: "It's so easy for us to get dictionaries, but in DRC it is rare and people can make money off of them. How can we make this a learning opportunity AND how can we help the children also value WORDS?'s one thing to bring dictionaries and hand them out, it's another thing to prepare students and teachers for creative ways to use dictionaries for the benefit of their own learning and understanding.” Anne Marie went on the explain that if she were living in the Mpasa community right now and didn’t understand the value of and uses for a dictionary, she would consider selling her dictionary in order to buy essential items. In the US, most of us face no dilemma between having a dictionary or having food, but in Mpasa, this is a real concern. That is why the dictionaries must be introduced with care and their value must be demonstrated.

It is these thoughts and questions that GBA constantly asks itself that makes it so unique. The asset-based approach to education is what creates real, lasting success—and sustainable solutions. “What I got from this is that EVERYTHING GBA does is done slowly and purposefully with care and intention, not just ‘plugging in’ an answer for a need, but looking at the long term implications,” Maria says. “I just don't think very many NGO's operate this way.”

The differences are in the details, and GBA vows to always examine even the most seemingly minute ones, like dictionaries. Stay tuned for updates on the dictionary discussion and other aspects of the new sustainability curriculum.

GBA Receives Grant for Infrastructure Project

The Bloomington Rotary Club has a long-term relationship with Rotary Club Gombe, one of seven Rotary Clubs in Kinshasa, DR Congo. GBA/PAID have recently been awarded a grant for the following infrastructure project at PAID: (1) build a cistern and water storage system at College des Savoirs, (2) build 6 cabinets to go into 6 classrooms for library books, and (3) build a wall to enclose a section of the property for the children's learning garden that we hope to bring to fruition. This will all happen in 2015. Stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter (@GBAfrica) for updates on this project. You can also explore the website under "Ways to Donate" for additional ways to get involved.