youth empowerment

Loyola University Field Trip Yields Composting Inspiration for Students

At the end of May, College des Savior students and staff visited Loyola University of Congo to learn more about composting, which is a central component of the sustainability curriculum and the Students’ Learning Garden. The group started off with a presentation from Giving Back to Africa (GBA) Project Manager Dr. Jerry Kindomba about the model of student-centered leadership and service learning used at College des Savior. The attendees were impressed with the students’ strong performance with their curricula, which they then saw in action at a hands-on composting demonstration.

Observing the composting presentation

Observing the composting presentation

At the composting site visit, the workshop facilitators, two teachers and an engineer, asked the students about agriculture and general knowledge topics and were amazed by how much the students already knew. The students felt right at home with the subject matter and tone of the lessons. Dr. Jerry remarked that: “The students were not disoriented by the language of these two professors. The richness of the vocabulary lessons taught in the various modules helped them to be comfortable communicating with the professors. They asked their own questions as well and the teachers appreciated this .”

Students taking notes, garnering the nickname "little scientists," for the day

Students taking notes, garnering the nickname "little scientists," for the day

However, they also added to their rich knowledge base by learning more about the scientific process behind composting, like how larvae and worms assist in the composting process, and what plants make up a good batch of compost. The facilitators led a hands-on composting demonstration for the students.They enjoyed seeing students take notes and referred to them as “little scientists.” Professor Pululu, of Loyola, remarked that: “The students have impressed me positively because they have carried out an extraordinary scientific approach by first asking questions and seeing how they can bring about solutions by making a composter.” This reflects the asset-based, community-driven learning model that the students guide at College des Savior.

Planting the cacao tree together

Planting the cacao tree together

Student Ntumba Nadege watering the cacao tree

Student Ntumba Nadege watering the cacao tree

The group ended their visit by planting and tending to a cacao tree together. Both the Loyola staff and the College des Savior staff and students acknowledged that only through community support had this trip been made possible and that it was a great opportunity for future resources as the students progress with their sustainability projects. One of the Loyola facilitators even encouraged the students to try out their own composting experiments back home in small groups and offered to help set up a composter at the school after students do initial research about what makes good compost in their area.

The students were eager to get home and apply their new skills. Beya Beya said: “I enjoyed their composter, their way of working as a team. They are really well organized. When I come to study here in Technique after Secondary School, I will see again this tree that we planted.” Teachers and parents agreed, praising Loyola’s hospitality and the progress in making community connections. Teacher Mr. Chancard also noted his appreciation of “...the humility of the teachers and the love of the professors who have abundantly occupied themselves to give their precious time to the students…”

Upon their return to school, students led a presentation for fellow students who had been unable to attend the field trip and began to master their newly-learned information by teaching it to others. Teachers and staff also met with a Loyola representative the following week, beginning plans for a bright partnership between the two institutions committed to community and student-focused education.

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


Summer Fete de Presentation Showcases Students' Public Speaking Skills

          On July 3rd, over 350 participants and observers gathered for the latest Fete de Presentation at College des Savior (CS). The Fete de Presentation is a tradition at CS, where students prepare skits, poems, songs, and other creative efforts to educate the community about what they’re learning and to celebrate the students’ academic and service-based progress. Present at this Fete were CS teachers and staff, teachers from other community schools, including a group from Lukunga, who GBA has been partnering with in its Teacher Learning Circles, community representatives, such as a representative from the IRC and a local head of education, and non-student children from the area. In addition, there were about 60 parents and 130 students at the fete as well.

Dr. Jerry addresses the audience

Dr. Jerry addresses the audience

The audience eagerly watches the presentation

The audience eagerly watches the presentation


          The Fete included student presentations, a speech from Dr. Jerry, and a community fundraising effort. Students showed the audience examples of the square foot box gardening method they will be using for their Student Learning Gardens and demonstrated what waste materials to use for composting and how to use compost in the most productive types of gardening techniques.

Students share their hard work during the Fete

Students share their hard work during the Fete

Students teach about their gardening boxes

Students teach about their gardening boxes

        Reactions from the Fete were enthusiastic, focusing on the students’ valuable and unique ability to speak in front of large crowds and to convey to the public the important lessons they’re learning. The Director of Lukunga was surprised by the students’ performance.

“I’m very flattered by the running of the ceremony and especially the skills students demonstrated. Frankly we didn’t expect most students to have such great skills like these students do. We thought that in this kind of area, we couldn’t find students able to speak in public, but they showed the opposite, and really, their behaviors surprised us, and this is very encouraging.”

         The Director of the Kapini Primary School, Mr. Bena, described the students as active, well-adapted, and not scared.

         One father, who had engaged in a student-run interview in the community previously, said he was: “… very happy and very surprised by these students. I did not think they could do such great things; I wish for this to continue.”

Parents enjoy watching the students

Parents enjoy watching the students

A parent congratulates a student

A parent congratulates a student

            Many attendees thanked CS for the opportunity to attend and noted that they wish to directly support the school and the students in the future. Daniel, a Lukunga teacher, said that:

“What really impressed me a lot is the compost set-up. Really, we must support those students so that all this does not stop. Personally, I will start to come visit them.”

Mr. Gaston, President national de CISDC (Comité intersectoriel de développement du Congo) said he will ask for support for the school.

“I am determined to assist the CS and GBA because they are there for sustainable development for our country, for our community, our society, our children.”

Attendees come forward to fundraise

Attendees come forward to fundraise

A community member gives her testimony about the students

A community member gives her testimony about the students

The community-centered work of the students shines through in the community’s reciprocity in their eagerness to support the school. The students will now be on summer vacation, but they will continue caring for garden square foot boxes over the break and are moving closer and closer towards realizing their dream of developing a Students’ Learning Garden.

Spring Has Sprung!: Updates from Giving Back to Africa on Two Ongoing Projects

Students’ Learning Garden

The students are hard at work preparing to break ground on the Students’ Learning Garden. They will compile research on soil, insects, and other essential topics from reading and will be guided by the help of community members. One such group of community members is the staff from the local monastery, which the students visited a few months ago on a field trip. Teachers will also gather information online to share with the students.

On the U.S. side,  we are raising money for supplies needed to start the garden. To find out more about the learning garden and to make a donation , click here.

Teachers Learning Circles: Working with the Lukunga Teachers

At the beginning of April, the College des Savior teachers and Dr. Jerry met with the Lukunga teachers, the group of teachers that they have been working with over the past several months. The teachers shared what they had worked on since the last meeting and what they wanted to practice during the students’ upcoming school vacation. The Lukunga teachers talked about techniques from College des Savior that they want to implement. Virginia said, “I want to act like Mr. Pombo in getting students outside to observe.” Célestin added: “I want to use stories like Mr. Chancard.” Dr. Jerry encouraged the teachers to interact openly. Caro commented that, “CS students are very brave. I will help our students to become like them by sharing this with them.” Photos from the meeting are below.

At the end of April, Dr. Jerry, Mr. Pombo, and Mr. Emmanuel went to visit the Lukunga teachers in their classrooms. They noted the overall safe learning environment among the Lukunga teachers. Ms. Sarah, a 9th grade teacher, was smiling and teaching with patience and encouragement, and the students were active and engaged. In Célestin’s 6th grade class, students enjoyed a game of 20 questions, and in another 6th grade class, Corneille used a technique that the College des Savior teachers employ—outdoor observation. The visit was part of the ongoing relationship between the two groups and the evaluation of their knowledge-sharing. In May, the teachers from both schools will meet at Lukunga for another Teacher Learning Circle.

Students participating in the 20 questions game.

Students participating in the 20 questions game.

A sixth grade class practices their outdoor observation skills.

A sixth grade class practices their outdoor observation skills.

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.

"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.



"Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story" Event Brings Together Friends Both New and Old to Support GBA

  By all measures of the word, “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story” was a success. Not only did the event display thoughtful artwork, but it also highlighted a universal drive—the drive and passion to share perspectives.

A sampling of the photos displayed at the event, submitted by students in Monroe County and DRC

When we express ourselves, whether it be through art, sport, everyday life routines, or any other medium, we project part of our story out into the world—where it then collides with millions of others. The “Beta Histoire” event and gallery seek to remind us that, in spite of our long days, embarrassing moments, and miles ahead to go, every story is beautiful, and every story is part of the larger picture of humanity. For though it is critical to acknowledge and work with our differences, it is equally imperative to celebrate our commonalities.

This event connected students from GBASA, the GBA Board, staff, and volunteers, supporters, students and families in Monroe County and DR Congo, educators, advocates, and friends for the purpose of honoring the talents and views of young people. Patrick O’Meara gave a moving speech about the “ripple effects” of even the smallest positive actions. GBA Co-founder Ann Marie Thomson and Executive Director Dena Hawes also spoke. Attendees were invited to share their “story” on a fabric square. These will be turned into a quilt. Over $2oo was raised to support GBA!

GBA co-founder Ann Marie Thomson speaks at the event

The message of the night is clear: when we come to understand our common ground, we understand the enormous reach and potential we have—not just as a nonprofit organization in Bloomington, Indiana, but as a community-shaping partner both here and abroad. With our combined passions, resources, and action, we continue to ripple the positive impacts of education and service leadership into all harbors.

Sometimes all we need to remind us of the simple joy of being part of the human family is a great story told by a willing imagination.

Thank you for your stories.


Giving Back to Africa would like to thank the Giving Back to Africa Student Association for its efforts, as well as the IU Art Museum, Patrick O’Meara, Fogarty and Friends Trio, and everyone who participated in the event.

If you’d like to learn more about GBA and our events, please follow us on Twitter @GBAfrica or connect with us on Facebook.

Also, keep an eye out for information regarding our upcoming annual gala. Details will be announced soon.


Photos courtesy of David Crosman 

You're Invited to the "Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story" Kickoff

You are invited to come and celebrate the threads that tie us all together! GBA and the GBA Student Association has partnered with the IU Art Museum to showcase student photography from both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Monroe County students. The exhibit, “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story,” brings together art from home and abroad in order to share the stories of all kinds of young lives and to help young artists to foster their talents and explore international perspectives. The exhibit kickoff is on Thursday April 3rd from 6-8 p.m. at the IU Art Museum. The evening will include guest speaker VP Emeritus Patrick O’Meara and musical guests jazz group Fogarty and Friends Trio. We will also have DRC-inspired items and prints of the students’ photos available for a suggested donation.

Please join us!


For more information, see the Giving Back to Africa Student Association Facebook page--


 WHO: Giving Back to Africa and you!

WHAT: Exhibit opening for “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story”

WHEN: Thursday, April 3rd, 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: IU Art Museum

WHY: To celebrate the artistic expression of youth in DRC and Monroe County and to lift up their shared experiences 

The Noyau Field Trip and Angel’s Garden

The teachers at Centre Salisa who are learning the value of project-based learning through Giving Back to Africa’s process curriculum model call themselves the Noyau ('kernel' in French).  This phrase evokes the image of a seed that, when planted, will yield fruit. This is what Giving Back to Africa is doing – planting – and this year, the Noyau teachers (5th – 9th grades) and their students are benefiting from the fruit of knowledge they have gained about nutrition.  They have just completed 4 of the 5 lessons on nutrition and the Noyau are preparing to teach Lesson 5 soon, which is all about  helping their students apply their new found knowledge on nutrition to make a difference in their community of Mpasa. The teachers must start small and right where they are

In preparation for teaching lesson 5, the Noyau took a field trip this Saturday with Dr. Jerry, Giving Back to Africa’s Program Director.  They visited a large farm with gardens, a fishery, and animal husbandry all started by a man who has had polio since infancy.  Rather than let this terrible disease affect him, this remarkable young man applied himself and has a thriving business. Dr. Jerry also brought the teachers to his own home where they were able to see how Angel, Dr. Jerry’s wife, transformed their small compound with very little means.  These teachers must start small and right where they are, as Angel did.

With her own hands, Angel cleared a mess of weeds and rudiments of a poorly planted garden left by previous tenants. She prepared the soil for the planting of nutritional foods to foster healthy eating in her family (Dr. Jerry and Angel have five strong boys!).  Thanks to Angel’s perseverance, despite having little to work with, a wide range of local crops are beginning to yield food the family is eating. Not only did Angel cultivate the garden with care but she also saved a local tree, called a maracuja tree, that  has long been known to have medicinal qualities.


The Noyau took this trip to foster their awareness that with very little one can start with a vision and from there, with critical thinking and reflection, the vision can become a reality no matter where one starts.  THIS is assets-based servant leadership, the foundation of all of Giving Back to Africa’s work with the children at Centre Salisa.

The teachers completed guided field notes before, during, and after the field trip, notes that helped them apply the content of the nutrition modules they had just taught to what they were seeing in the real world. The guided field notes also challenged them to find linkages between the three curricula they have taught over the last 3 years on clean water, waste management, and now nutrition.  They reflected on how their teaching could offer the same opportunities around good nutrition that they had seen on the field trip to their own students and the community of Mpasa.  “What did we DO, SEE, and HEAR today,” the field note questions asked, “that we can also put into our lessons with students and what action steps can we take now?  How is this evidence of assets-based servant leadership?”

The Noyau will begin teaching Lesson 5 of the Nutrition Module next week.  This lesson will yield even more fruit as the children will benefit from the applied knowledge their teachers gained as a result of this field trip.  Angel’s garden will be a guiding vision for them!

farm2        farm3

Story supported by program committee skype meetings with Dr. Jerry Kindomba; Feb 6,2014.