It has been a while since I have updated the Blog. It’s been a busy time for us at RHO Appleseed School. In December, we had a fun Christmas Party! We sang songs, read stories and passed out paper Christmas Stockings with treats in them to each student. Fun was had by all. The next day, Ken and I flew to New York, met our daughters there and spent the Christmas week in NYC. We all had a great time! We then flew home to California together and had another 2 weeks to visit with friends and family.
The Appleseed teachers and director, Mary, reopened the school the week before we returned and did an excellent job of keeping things running. We have had a new teacher, Rebecca, join us recently. She began with the littlest children, but has now moved to working with the older kids because Newlyn has ‘shifted’ (moved.) She is still there occasionally, but not everyday.
Ken and I recently visited a government school called Prince Takamoto Basic which serves students in grades 1-9. We wanted to see what is being taught and how the public schools are run. We visited three classes in session and they had between 55-85 students in each class. These were a 5th, 8th and 9th grade class and there were three students to a desk. The desks were small benches with a table connected on a metal frame. We also noticed that the academic levels are much lower than what we expect and plan for our RHO students. Part of our motivation to visit other schools was that we began assessing our students and we were a bit alarmed to discover that what our teachers called “5th” grade was not even close to our expectations. The students could barely read at what we consider a 1st grade level. We began working with the students after school and began more closely instructing our teachers on our expectations. After visiting the public school it was understandable why our teachers classified our students as 5th grade. Even the 8th graders at Takamoto could barely read according to their teacher. We understand the problem ... neither of us would want to teach that many children at once with nothing but a chalk board and chalk. These children also receive no food while at school, unless they bring some from home. We expect to do much better by our students, and we will continue to train our teachers in the ‘best practices’ that we know to be effective.
Ken’s Global Issues group from AISL continue to visit the school once every 6 weeks. This coming Friday, they will be bringing games that they have made from recycled materials (mainly cereal boxes) and teaching the students how to play them. I’m sure our Appleseed kids will love it. Classics like “Snakes and Ladders” and “Bingo” along with some sets of flashcards. In addition, the 4th graders at AISL had the opportunity to visit Appleseed. As 3rd graders, they participated in a Pen-Pal project through an organization called Project Knapsack (www.projectknapsack.org) They recently received knapsacks full of school supplies for their efforts. Last year, they decided that they would donate their knapsacks to a needy school and RHO Appleseed students were the lucky recipients. It was truly a great day. My 4th graders were initially very nervous, most of them had never seen such poverty. Even though the compounds are close and easily accessible many foreigners never venture into those areas. But, by the end of the day, they were sad to leave. Many of them said that they made a new friend and that they hope they get to see them again. It was emphasized that they should not feel sorry for the students but rather they should look at them as peers who just have not had the same opportunities as they have had. It was an eye-opening experience for them all!
Upon returning from the field trip, one of my Grade 4 parents, who went on the field-trip to Bauleni, told me that she was going to help get some support for the school. She has spoken to the management of a local grocery store chain, Pick and Pay, about possible donations of food! We are waiting to hear the results of her efforts, but it is so nice to have some folks here who want to be involved!
We have also been very fortunate to have met a new friend, Andre. He is a teacher from Seattle who is here for a year. His wife is a public health worker working for a non-profit dealing with infectious diseases. Andre has begun teaching art to our students on Thursdays! It is so exciting to be able to offer the kids more than the basics of Reading and Math. Andre has been wonderful and the kids love it when he is there.
More exciting news.... We have begun the process, thanks to our good friend Jim Anderson, of bringing St. John Ambulance (a volunteer organization) to Bauleni! They will have an office in our school. St. John trains local volunteers to be Home Health Care providers in the community. This is a service that is very much needed in Bauleni. They held an information night, and we have about 6 people from Bauleni who are willing to be trained as Home Care Providers. The training will take place at the beginning of March. We are currently having t-shirts made for them that will read “Saint John- Bauleni Branch” and “RHO Appleseed School.” We are very excited to join with St. John in providing their services to Bauleni.
And the last bit of news.... We will be moving to a new building in March!! When we found the building that we are currently in, we were very excited, but it has not been without a few difficulties. We will be moving right down the road to a better building. It will be a much more finished property and the landlord is willing to do all of the work necessary for us to move in. In addition, the prospect of water and electricity, sooner rather than later, look much more promising. We are excited about the move and we will keep you updated on the progress.
Ken and Joy Hoffman. See the'Who We Are' page.