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The philosophy of missions is changing at an incredible rate. It is becoming obvious that money and aid poured into Africa clearly create a culture of corruption and dependency. Africans are deeply spiritual and open to Christianity. But Africans today live in this mix of global economy and poverty at the same time. Many Africans cannot afford a car and may live in a 300 square foot home yet at the same time have a cell phone, face book page, and know more about world politics than most Americans. There is such a wide range of poverty in Africa, but just because people live in poverty does not mean they are not intelligent and shouldn’t be treated with dignity and respect. The problem with most short-term mission trips is that the trip has a huge impact on the Americans who went on the trip but very little impact on the Africans themselves. Some Africans will report that Americans will fly in and immediately tell the Africans what they are doing wrong and then fly out. A typical complaint is that Americans don’t ask questions and take time to get to know the Africans as people. Sometimes it doesn’t even enter an American’s mind that he could learn something from an African.

TEACHERS HELPING TEACHERS comes under the umbrella of HOPE FOR ABBA'S CHILDREN, and Jim Moore is a public School teacher from Byron Center, Michigan who took his family to Zambia in 2009 thru 2010 and worked with the community schools that HOPE FOR ABBA'S CHILDREN support. One thing Jim learned in Africa is that Zambian teachers are sponges. While American teachers complain about in-service training, Zambian teachers beg for training. They can’t seem to get enough. There seems to be a bond between all teachers around the world; a bond of love for children. Teachers share a kindred spirit when they meet. There is a huge need for teacher training in Zambia because the country is in a transition between the “old” way of teaching and the “new”. The old way is based on repetition and rote memorization. The new is based on problem solving, critical thinking, and collaborative learning. Not much different than the American system except America has been focusing on the new way of teaching a lot longer than Zambia. 

The best way to partner with people in Africa is to help them meet a need, and teacher training is a clear need that Zambian teachers are asking for. So in 2012, Jim started asking some teachers, most from Grace churches, if they would be interested in going to Zambia for two weeks to help do workshops for Zambian teachers. It was very interesting that every teacher said the same thing when asked if they would be interested; they would only be interested in going if they could personally help impact lives. The group formed and decided to meet once a month to plan for the trip and to study the Zambian culture. They included Sheryl Idema from Rockford Public Schools, Betty Barber from Forest Hills Public Schools, Sue Thomasma from Kentwood Public Schools, Sherry Leyendecker from Potter’s House Christain School, Linda Siler from Grace Bible College, and Leon Slagter, Melanie Sabin and Jim Moore, all from Byron Center Public Schools.

The teachers decided to lay some ground rules for the trip. The purpose of the trip was to be a cultural exchange where the first week the American teachers visited the Zambian schools to observe the teachers and students. The Americans asked many questions on how students learn in Zambia and they actually ate a meal in a Zambian teacher’s house. This was a valuable experience because over the weekend the Americans reworked their lessons to better fit the Zambian culture. The second week was the teacher workshop where 50 community school teachers attended. The goal was for the Americans to learn from the Africans the first week by immersing ourselves in the culture and for the Zambian to learn from the Americans the second week, and the trip was a huge success from both perspectives as it exceeded the expectations of everyone involved.

This type of partnership is what is needed in Africa. Pouring money into Africa is not solving their problems. ( Money never seems to solve problems long term. ) Rather, teachers from America are investing in teachers from Zambia to help Zambians solve their own problems. At the same time, Americans learn tons from the Zambian teachers. And “Teachers Helping Teachers" was born.

When our teachers returned to their schools in America, many of their fellow teachers were fascinated to hear about their trip. And so began the model from our first trip for another TEACHERS HELPING TEACHERS group to go to Africa. Currently, Jim has 8 to 10 teachers from Byron Center Public Schools committed for another teacher workshop in Zambia in 2014. A consideralble commitment as every teacher has agreed to pay their own way of $3,000 each.

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