~from Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub
Kaitlyn Phillips is an English major with a concentration in Education, and was one of our communications interns in Spring 2016. “I hope to one day be the kind of teacher that creates the same sense of community in her classroom that I’ve found here in the university’s English department.”
Even though she hasn’t even graduated yet, Kaitlyn fully embodies her commitment to education. In 2015, she joined Far Away Friends, an organization in northern Uganda, as a Development Intern, and has been working with them ever since. “Our mission is to extend quality education into Northern Uganda, and it has been amazing to take my passion for education across the globe.” Kaitlyn believes that education is every child’s best opportunity to better both their communities and themselves.
Kaitlyn was such a great intern, we wanted her to stay, come back and work with us for another semester, but at the same time she got promoted to Director for Development with Far Away Friends, (involved in one of their newest initiatives, OperationTeach), and needed to focus her efforts on that instead. This past summer, Kaitlyn shared some of her experiences working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda.
Recently I caught up with Kaitlyn. I asked her how things were going, and she told me that she was busy with school and still loving her work with Far Away Friends. She also told me that things were tough because they needed to hire two new teachers, and were working hard to find the funding. I asked her to send something for the blog, because we love to brag on the good work of our students and are so happy to share Kaitlyn’s enthusiasm for education. These are the kind of students we have in English, and we feel so lucky that sometimes we pinch ourselves just to make sure it’s real.
I believe in people. I believe in their ability to be kind and helpful. I believe in their willingness to cooperate and give. I believe that we all believe in something greater — bigger — than ourselves, and I believe we’re willing to put in serious work to be closer to that greater something.
It is this push toward that greater something that landed me with Far Away Friends, a nonprofit that partners with the international community to promote sustainable educational, economic, and social development. We work in Namasale, Uganda, a small sub-county in Eastern Africa full of people worth believing in, where we’ve spent the last two years investing in primary education by building Global Leaders Day and Boarding Primary School (GLP). Throughout my friendships with the organization’s founders, Jayme, Chris, and Collines, I have been able to observe their unwavering belief in people, in total strangers across the world that, over the last two years, has built a school, renewed a community, and imbued an ineffably bright spirit into fifteen full time staff members and almost one hundred students.
This belief in and love of people — all people, everywhere — that I learned by watching my amazing teammates work is also what pushed me to study English Education. Anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows that one teacher’s belief in one student can change both lives permanently and for the better, and the impact of that sustained belief in classrooms full of students year after year is something I couldn’t resist. There’s an incredible hope in the opportunity of education, one that fuels the work I do both as an educator and with Far Away Friends.
As an English major, this belief in people is fed by literature; to read about someone else’s experience is to learn to empathize with them, and it is this sustained empathic practice that allows me to do the work that I do in Namasale, Uganda. You cannot partner with a community if you do not understand them, and reading and writing has taught me to actively and empathically listen and learn.
As an English teacher, my belief in people is fed by engaging with passionate educators who include “believing in my students” in their job description. I have never met teachers who do just that better than those at Global Leaders Primary. They see themselves in their students, what they are, are not, and have always wanted to be, and with their spirit and actions consistently prove to their students that they believe they are capable of anything.
At Far Away Friends, we hire these teachers intentionally; we know that by hiring people who believe in people, we’re hiring teachers who believe in their students. We also hire teachers who are members of the community; only those who live and work alongside their students could know what it takes to both thrive within their community, and work hard to make it better. Finally, we know that believing in people inherently involves an immense amount of respect for them, and we show that respect to our teachers by guaranteeing them their right to a fair wage.
This does not come without its challenges. We rely on about forty five people who donate monthly to make sure we can make that happen. Forty five people who don’t know our teachers, have never met our students, but believe fiercely in them — and us — anyway. Without these people all over the U.S. — without that core belief in people, connection, and something greater — we could not do the work that we do.
This year at GLP, we’re adding two brand new teachers to our full time staff; all of our P5 students have moved on to P6, and as they grow, so do we. While this growth is exciting, it also means we must, once again, get vulnerable, and lean on our core beliefs — that people are kind, willing to help, and always reaching for something greater.
My hope is that you’ll join me in these beliefs and sign up to support our teachers through our program OperationTeach, in which we ask people in our community (read: you) to be a part of the community in Namasale, and the extraordinary things that happen when we combine our tendency to reach for something greater with kindness and global connectivity.
To ensure a fair wage for our entire staff, we need to increase our monthly income by about $400 — that’s twenty people at twenty dollars per month — by the first week of February. As Director of Development, it is in part my responsibility to make that happen. In other words, it’s my job to believe in people — to believe that they will listen empathically, and invest in strangers across the world, simply because they believe in people, too.
I believe in people like you, and your willingness and ability to believe in people like me, and our teachers — teachers like Joshua, who lived in refugee camps as a young boy; Sebastian, who organizes dances, speeches, and debates for our students; and Judith, our head teacher, who works tirelessly to provide her staff with trainings and support.
I’m asking you to prove me right. Join OperationTeach, and invest in a community of people worth believing in. To become a sponsor with OperationTeach, go to: http://www.farawayfriendsglobal.com/operationteach/ To learn more about Far Away Friends, visit: farawayfriendsglobal.com
We wish Kaitlyn all the best in her work and studies, and look forward to more updates from her. If we can’t keep her here with us, we are at least comforted by the fact that she’ll go away (far away, friends — see what I did there?) and continue to do good work.