June 6, 2011

Teaching from the Heart - Reaching “the Least of These”

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A country of nearly 10 million people, the Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean. However, this nation has a marked income inequality. Unemployment and government corruption are major issues and, due to financial restrictions and limited availability of schools, most children drop out of school by age 12.

Fortunately, a group of Christian schools have been working with children for nearly 30 years, bringing about change child by child. A Dominican-led association of over 20 Christian schools, COCREF (Colegios Cristianos Refomados) has a vision to bring quality education rooted in a biblical worldview to the most neglected communities in the Dominican Republic.

In partnership with Worldwide Christian Schools, COCREF has implemented an effective teacher training program that focuses on providing education from a Biblical worldview. Teachers have come to a deeper understanding of their calling, realizing that teaching is not just a job, but a vocation and an outreach to their communities.

A key part of COCREF’s mission is serving the Dominican’s poor and marginalized, which means enrolling children whose families can only afford to pay a few pesos a month and children of Haitian descent whose families are not recognized as citizens of this country. Subsequently, there are often not enough funds to pay teachers’ salaries.  This mission also means that COCREF schools are open to students who have been expelled from public schools because of behavioural, social and learning issues.

In spite of these difficult conditions and challenges, the teachers remain dedicated to their task. In one school, when a student only a few years from graduation was going to be forced to leave school because her father became sick and unable to work, COCREF gave her a scholarship that cut her tuition by 50%. The school’s teachers then agreed to all chip in out of their small salaries and cover the remaining costs so she could complete her high school education in the school that made such an impact in her life.

COCREF teachers care and their efforts are making a difference. Following Jesus’ command to reach out to those in need, they willingly sacrifice time, energy and finances to help transform the lives of children in the troubled communities they serve. They are educational missionaries, who, through their words and actions, bring the light of the Gospel to “the least of these.”

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