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Monday, January 20, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Heading back to school isn’t a given for everyone

Elmira-based iTeams Canada works with groups overseas to help kids get an education we take for granted

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It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of going back to school – that applies to students and teachers alike.

But while some of us may resist those early mornings and increased workload, education is a privilege that is all too easy to take for granted for those of us living in wealthier countries.

Elmira-based International Teams Canada focuses on those children without access to education across the world year-round in places such as Bolivia, Haiti, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. Currently, the charitable organization is ramping things up for its back-to-school campaign.

“The key is being able to relate to people … your child is dreading school, [yet] there are so many kids who would give anything to be able to go to school,” said Sheila Brewster, impact teams coordinator at iTeams Canada.

“As you’re thinking about the importance of education in your own life, there are some barriers that you might not even imagine that exist for women and children all over the world at this time of year as well. So that’s why we do our back-to-school campaign at this time.”

The cost of textbooks, lunches, school supplies and tuition fees may exceed what these international students are able to afford, a situation that can create barriers to completing or enrolling in school, added Brewster. The back-to-school campaign aims to raise money for students in need overseas.

iTeams Canada has a global reach, creating long-term partnerships with churches, community leaders, and supporters to work together on projects aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty, as well as bettering education on both the students’ and teachers’ side.

That’s a fair bit of ground to cover for a Christian-oriented charity based in rural Waterloo Region.

The organization works with local leaders and allows those experts to decide what is best for their geographic location. Rather than go in and take the lead, the group’s goal is to add “velocity” to the local initiatives instead of instructing them on exactly what to do.

“It’s an ambitious goal, so the goal wants to see that everyone – 10 of 10 young people – completing secondary school by 2030,” explained Adam Faber, programs specialist at iTeams Canada.

“We’re on pace right now that only 6/10 young people will achieve that goal. We have a lot of ground to make up; there needs to be a lot of effort from a lot of organizations, local governments and people to get behind to achieve this.”

Both staff members were quick to point out the countless benefits of education, from increased life expectancy to career opportunities.

An example of the difference it makes can be seen in the case of Joshua, who took part in their organizational leadership program in Haiti.

“He was the seventh child in his family and the only one to complete elementary school. He completed high school, and got a bachelor’s degree, and now he’s pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership,” said Faber.

“Joshua will be the first of his family to achieve all of those levels of education. With this, he’ll be able to provide for his own family. He’s working with different church leaders to build programs into their churches – that’s all about responsible leadership for effective service.”

Faber added that this was the ideal result of the organization, empowering others to become leaders in their own country, as well as improving the country’s wellbeing by inspiring students to pursue education.

For more information about the organization and its current campaign, visit iteams.ca.

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