Everyone remembers their favourite teacher.
Aside from our parents, teachers are the adults we spend the most time with from a very young age. We may only have a teacher for one school year, but we remember the ones who invest in us, who help us to learn, dream and prepare for the future. Teachers can have a powerful impact on the direction of our lives.
Compassion tutors play a similar role. Every centre has a group of tutors who spend hours caring for the children, teaching them, evaluating their learning and helping them develop in every area of life. Tutors are role models, sounding boards, teachers and mentors, and today we want to honour them. Here are just three stories of how Compassion tutors around the world are having an enormous impact on the children they care for.
No more violence
Children in Honduras face violence and aggression every day—especially teens, who are targeted by or lured into gangs in a country with the highest murder rate in the world. But external aggression is just one factor teens here struggle with. Sonia, a Compassion tutor at HO-242 noticed that many teens in the program struggled with self-worth and acceptance, often from living with abuse, neglect or fear. After receiving training on how to deal with these issues, Sonia organized a program called No Mas Violencia, or No More Violence, for teens. It has three facets: tackling low self-esteem and identity, addressing external violence and bullying, and engaging teens to become advocates against violence in their community.
“We witnessed how some registered youths had been labelled, neglected and faced rejection,” she says. “Every time they attended classes at the centre we took the chance to let Jesus heal their hearts, and He did. We targeted those teenagers and invited them to become change agents. Teenagers who thought they had no skills or felt reluctant have become change agents who are now impacting other youths’ lives in our community.”
Twice a week, Sonia and 40 teens in the program visit high schools in the area and engage their peers to take a stand against violence. “There is no better way to reach teenagers and teach them about violence and moral and Christian values than through the voices of other youth,” says Justo Enriquez, the principal of a school impacted by the program. “Teenagers need to be heard and understood, and No More Violence is a great program to do it.”
Struggling in school is a problem that affects millions of children around the globe. When Jean Carlos from Colombia failed to pass the third grade—twice—he felt isolated and worthless. He was so despondent that his mother, Margarita, let him stay home for a year. When he returned, he was much older than his classmates and felt so out of place that he stopped going altogether. Margarita thought he simply lacked the ability to learn properly and, like his older brothers, would have to make his way through life illiterate. With all his friends still in school, Jean felt like an outcast.
But his Compassion tutor, Gladys, refused to let failure determine Jean’s life. Over time, she convinced him to take classes at his Compassion centre. The centre began offering tutoring from Monday to Friday and provided Jean with notebooks, pencils and books. Jean was hesitant at first, fearing ridicule from his brothers and, above all else, failure. But through Gladys’ patient teaching and continual encouragement, Jean began to recognize his own self-worth.
Gladys had to start from scratch, as Jean didn’t even know his vowels. But after one year of tutoring, Jean can read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide. He practices reading anything he can lay his hands on, and the centre is arranging for him to enroll in a nearby school that reintegrates children into the school system who have fallen behind. Jean dreams of graduating with his peers, and if Gladys has her say, he will.
“I am so happy to be able to release Jean from cognitive poverty,” she says. “I know he will reach big goals, and I am happy to be part of his learning process.”
Trusting his tutor
Daniel appears to be a model student at his Compassion centre in Mexico. He attends regularly, takes part in the music program and has participated in camps, events and Bible classes with enthusiasm. But he’d be the first to tell you that this wasn’t always the case. If it weren’t for his tutor, Angélica, he may have taken a very different path.
“There was a particular time when I was getting very rebellious,” he says. “I could not find a way to do things simply, and instead I argued with my parents all the time. There were many problems at home, I was doing very badly at school, we had no money and our life was difficult. I felt confused. I even wanted to leave the program and drop out of school, but my tutor, Angélica, talked to me.”
Angélica often stayed after class to sit and listen to Daniel, give him advice and pray with him. “She dedicated much of her time to me, and she taught me to trust God and to seek His help,” he says. Despite her reputation of being strict in class, the teens loved Angélica, who showed a genuine interest in the everyday lives of her students and continually challenged them to choose a godly path. Although Angélica is no longer a tutor for health reasons, her students can’t say enough about the impact she’s had on their lives.
“I am still here because of my tutors,” says Daniel. “I am interested in staying close to God, and I will continue to grow and learn. I am convinced of living my life with God, although there could be temptations or doubts. I know at the end the narrow way is the one which will lead me to God.”
Field reporting by Juana Ordonez, Compassion Honduras, Lina Marcela Alarcón, Compassion Colombia, and Cesiah Magana, Compassion Mexico