All posts by Sarah Harrington

2016: Year in Review

Looking back on the story of Wellspring in 2016, God’s presence is clear in every chapter. Our work in Rwanda is now impacting over 92,000 children and 1,700 teachers in 71 schools. This past year also saw the full launch of Rwanda’s Competence Based Curriculum, which Wellspring aided the government in designing. The new curriculum marks a shift in the Rwandan education system towards a learner-centric ideology. Furthermore, Gasabo district, where Wellspring’s School Development Program operates, has experienced great success in the implementation of this new curriculum. This success can be traced to the roots of our training, which prepares teachers with skills for promoting quality education.

In the summer of 2016, we experienced immense joy while celebrating Wellspring Academy’s first graduating class. These students walked with the Academy for their entire school career and grew up with a Christian-values-based quality education. As they enter the post-secondary and working world, we are inspired by their dedication, hard-working spirits, and passion for change.

Our Abundant Leadership Institute, which equips educational leaders with the tools to be catalysts for change in their school communities, experienced a tremendous year of growth. The second cohort of students, a group of leaders with high potential, began the program in September. ALI also signed a partnership agreement with Trinity Western University. This partnership will see all ALI graduates receive a “Certificate of Participation” from TWU.

As we move into 2017, Wellspring is excited to build on our innovative work through new opportunities and partnerships. Our work in the western province of Rwanda is expanding as we move the principles of our School Development Program into the Rubavu district. Our vision is to see the remarkable success in the Gasabo district spread to Rubavu and beyond, and to see thousands more children in this particularly vulnerable region empowered with hope and opportunity for their futures.

In North America, we are excited to welcome Laura Church Ferguson, our new Western Development Director. This year will also see opportunities for new and existing partners to engage with our work through events such as the Wellspring Vancouver Gala (May 11), our 4Stages event in Ontario (June 8), Rachel’s Ride for Rwanda (June 24), the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda (September 16-17), and our Toronto Gala (October 13). Sign up for our newsletter, The Source, to stay up to date with the latest Wellspring news. 

Partner with Wellspring in 2017

From a Village of Scarcity to a City of Abundance

Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute (ALI) focuses on providing high-quality leadership training for passionate leaders with a vision for sparking change in their school communities. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, but all have a heart for Christ and a passion for transformation. Florence is one such individual.

Florence is a lecturer at the University of Rwanda in the College of Nursing. In 2015, she joined the flagship student cohort at Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute as she sought to develop her leadership skills. After participating in the ALI Foundations module, which teaches the guiding principles for abundant leadership, Florence felt called to apply and adapt this module for use in a village church. Using the principles of the Foundations module, she taught congregations of two Anglican churches about the importance of abundant (servant) leadership. She trained them in how to move from a mentality of scarcity, which focuses on what they are lacking, to one of abundance, which recognizes what they have to give. Florence used the principles she had learned in the foundations module in an innovative way that could be understood by villagers in all walks of life. She used the concept of the “Village of Scarcity” and compared it to a village of poverty, hatred, jealousy, division, and misery—a situation which resonated in the lives of many of the villagers. She then spoke of the “City of Abundance” and likened it to a place of peace, love, solidarity, and reconciliation—something that many of these villagers wish to achieve.

After this lesson, Florence gave an altar call. Fifty-eight people from the congregations came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ, as He can lead us on the bridge that takes us from the Village of Scarcity to the City of Abundance. Through Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute, Florence was equipped with the leadership skills to coordinate this event and the resources to convey this message in a way that was applicable to the villagers. Fifty-eight people have now given their lives to Christ with the help of Florence, her heart for people, and the Abundant Leadership Institute. We are so thankful for Florence and her innovation, as she used Wellspring’s techniques in a new and exciting manner, and we are grateful to have played a role in the salvation of these lives!

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New Mindset Impacts Entire School

As the 2016 academic year began, Ndera School faced a period of transition as they welcomed a new Head Teacher, Pascal. Previously, Pascal taught at Rugando School, which is also involved with our School Development Program. Despite our best efforts, our training team struggled to get through to him. He held the opinion that Wellspring’s work was a waste of time and introduced unnecessary stress into his life.

When Pascal began his leadership role at Ndera, he continued with this attitude. Our training team was blocked at every turn. Appointments were made and cancelled at the last minute and a negative environment developed in the school. Much of Wellspring’s hard work at Ndera was being undone by an uncooperative leader.

But all this changed when the Pascal was invited to attend a Wellspring training day to learn more about Rwanda’s new Competence-Based-Curriculum (CBC). The workshop focused on the role of peer learning in schools to strengthen the implementation of CBC. Pascal participated eagerly in lesson observations and engaged in discussions. He left the workshop with a transformed mindset about Wellspring’s techniques and a brand new vision for the future of Ndera School.

This new mindset was so transformative that Pascal even took it upon himself to organize a school-wide training day. After the event, Pascal gave a testimony about his transformation in the presence of 48 teachers and Wellspring trainers. He spoke of the change in his heart and mind about Wellspring’s techniques. Before attending the workshop, he didn’t understand the difference Wellspring can make in a school and in the lives of teachers and students. Now, he sees this impact and understands the importance of Wellspring’s training in the implementation of the new curriculum. He even said that Wellspring trainers are welcome at the school any time, a direct contrast to his earlier attitude.

Because of our continued effort, Pascal eventually saw the benefits of Wellspring’s approach. Because we continued this pursuit instead of giving up when times were tough, an entire school is now being empowered thanks to this Head Teacher’s vision.

Will you partner with us as we invest in the lives of leaders like Pascal, equipping them to be agents of lasting change in their schools and beyond?

Invest in the life of a leader

Care Beyond the Classroom

At Wellspring, we seek to empower the next generation. Our aim is to transform the lives of students by equipping them with a quality education. As they move towards their futures, this foundation can make all the difference in reaching their full potential. Transformation occurs when all stakeholders realize the value and potential of each child and band together to ensure their success. This is why our School Development Program focuses heavily on teachers – essential stakeholders in a child’s education.

When we train teachers in providing a quality education, thousands of students reap the benefits. Each time a teacher takes to our training, the students that arrive in their classrooms not only this year, but for years to come, will receive an education centered around their needs and founded on Christian values. Through our program, teachers learn how to treat their students with love, dignity, and respect. They come to care for their students – and this care even extends beyond the classroom.

At one of our Gasabo Schools, a teacher recently noticed a student shifting in her seat during the middle of a lesson. The student couldn’t focus on the teachings. Her shoulders dipped forward and her head hung low over her notebook, but she wasn’t able to lift her hand to write. She was clearly in an extreme amount of pain. When the lesson finished, the teacher approached the student at her desk to ask what was wrong. The student confided in the teacher, explaining that her mother had beaten her back so badly that she could barely sit up. She said that this wasn’t a one-off, but something that her mother did frequently. The student expressed a desire to run away, leaving her education and family behind, so that she could escape her mother’s brutal beatings.

But this teacher didn’t want her student, a girl of incredible value and potential, to sacrifice her education and future.

The teacher brought her student’s story before the school leaders and asked for their support. The mother was called into the school to discuss the situation. When she arrived, the Head Teacher counselled her and helped her to understand the problematic nature of her actions. The mother asked her daughter for forgiveness, changed her ways, and now they have a good relationship.

Because this teacher was trained with our program, her student can continue her education and be empowered with new skills that will serve her in the future. This student may have dropped out of school and never have completed her education without the intervention of her teacher. This is just one case. Wellspring’s training currently impacts over 1,600 teachers, who in turn impact over 91,000 students.

When you partner with Wellspring, you are not only investing in life change today, but in lasting transformation that will have ripple effects for years to come. Will you join us as we work together to empower the next generation in Rwanda and beyond?

Empower a New Generation

ABCD: School Future in Parents’ Hands


Musave School is located in a rural part of Rwanda’s Gasabo district. The surrounding community is riddled with poverty, yet the parents are working with the little they have to ensure that Musave School can provide the best possible education for their children. This motivation is a direct result of Wellspring’s empowering Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) training. ABCD involves counselling communities to recognize their own assets and skills in problem solving. With this program, communities like the one surrounding Musave School can ensure the sustainability of quality education by using their own strengths to support their school.

Parents have begun a number of initiatives to support Musave School. Part of the school grounds that previously sat empty now houses a banana plantation. The parents take great pride in this project, tending the field and harvesting the fruit themselves. Parents also started a vegetable garden and raised the money for a dairy cow. All of these initiatives are improving the environment of the school by providing ingredients for the school feeding program, ensuring that students have a balanced diet and can focus on their lessons without the distracting presence of hunger pangs.

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musave-cow

Because of our ABCD training, parents also realize the positive impact of their own involvement in their child’s education. They visit the school to meet with teachers, and parents now provide time and help at home for their children to complete school work. When this approach is combined with our teacher training, students are supported from all sides, which guides them towards success. In the most recent school year, 100% of students at Musave School passed their exams. Many of the students received the highest possible level of merit and gained admission to some of the best secondary schools in the district.

But the parents have a dream of seeing this positive transformation spread beyond the school boundaries. They have a vision to bring this lasting change to their entire community. They’re beginning on this journey with a new initiative. Parents contributed the money to buy a pig for the school, who has recently given birth to piglets. The leader of the Parent Committee shared with us his vision for the school piggery:

“Our hope is to give a pig to each of the poorest families in the community. We want to help develop the community by providing assets for those who are poor. Wellspring’s training empowered us to take the future of our community into our own hands.

The sense of pride and ownership that the parents have in the piggery is clear. With the little they have, the parents are utilizing the techniques taught by Wellspring to begin the process of solving the issue of poverty in their community by themselves.

At Wellspring, we wish to create lasting change and self-sustainability, which means holistically transforming and empowering school communities. The parents at Musave School are actively participating in this transformation. We look forward to the future as we continue to partner with them and provide the necessary support as they continue on this journey towards self-sustainability.


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Claudine lacked passion for teaching

At Wellspring, we seek to make a lasting and sustainable impact on students, teachers, schools, and communities. We believe permanent transformation can occur even in the hardest of hearts when shown a little love and support, and change in one life can lead to hope and opportunity for many more. This is exactly what happened with Claudine, a teacher at Munini Primary.

When we first began our training, Claudine lacked passion for teaching. She was often absent from work, didn’t care for her students, and used physical punishment. Little was taught or learned in her classroom. Despite the enthusiasm of other teachers, Claudine actively fought against our program.

But Wellspring’s trainers didn’t give up.

Claudine clearly had potential—but something was holding her back. Our team approached Claudine about her attitude and, to our surprise, she opened up. She divulged that her husband would regularly beat her, which affected her mood and behaviour at school. Our trainers prayed with Claudine and offered to support her through this difficult journey. This moment marked a turning point in her life and in the lives of her students. Claudine decided to commit herself to God, and promised to make an effort to change with the support of Wellspring’s trainers.

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Many months later, Claudine is one of the best teachers at Munini Primary. She loves her students and shows great passion when teaching. Recently, leaders from the District Education Office visited the school to observe lessons.

They identified Claudine as the best teacher at the school, citing her commitment and care for students as superb. She also received the Umwalimu w’indashyikirwa award recognizing her as one of the most excellent teachers in the district!

Because Wellspring did not give up on Claudine, her life has undergone lasting change. She is now providing the children she serves with the kind of quality education that will change their lives too.

Transformation is being experienced in schools and communities across Rwanda, and is being made possible through your partnership!

Claudine is one of 1,700+ teachers benefiting from our School Development Program, which now impacts 90,000+ students in 71 Rwandan schools. Lasting change is also taking place beyond school walls as we empower exceptional leaders to deepen their impact, equip communities to develop innovative solutions, and partner with government to see systemic change.

Will you partner with us as we work to see lives transformed, in Rwanda and beyond? Together, we can be part of changing the future for tens of thousands of children in Africa.

Change the future of Rwandan children

Teaching Aids Key to Quality Education

Active participation is a key part of education. When students actively participate in their learning instead of just observing passively, they grasp concepts with greater clarity. That’s why Wellspring trains teachers to build teaching aids—materials that illustrate learning concepts and encourage students to engage with the lesson. With our methods, teachers help students to enjoy their lessons and get so much more out of their education.

Wellspring shows teachers how to make teaching aids with local material, which ensures that these methods can be used anywhere. Instead of relying on shipments of materials from North America, schools can be sustainable by using items from their environment. Maps can be drawn on rice sacks, size comparison balls can be made from banana leaves, and shapes can be cut from locally-made fabric. We encourage teachers to come up with their own ideas for teaching aids with one simple question: “what makes teaching aids effective?”. Not only does this encourage creativity, but when teachers consider this question, they produce their own unique teaching aids that are aimed specifically towards their students and lessons.

Recently, Bweramvura Primary, a model school in the Gasabo district, held a teaching aid fair. Members from education non-profits came to see teaching aids that were constructed using our training. Science teachers proudly showed off electric circuits that students could connect to illuminate a light bulb. English teachers demonstrated the use of different word puzzles for students to comprehend language. Math teachers showcased cut-out shapes for students to understand geometry. Every subject was represented with a variety of unique teaching aids. Teachers were proud to show off their creations, demonstrating to visitors how they use these materials to make learning fun in their classrooms.

Teaching aids also encourage teachers and students alike to think about the practical applications for their lessons. A pulley in science class teaches students about weight and force, but once this information has been understood, it can be applied to the student’s life outside of the classroom. Students have even come into school and told their teachers that they made pulleys to help them with daily chores at home!

Teaching aids are just one method that we use to encourage teachers to invest more in their lessons. With our training, teachers learn how to care for their students and provide quality education in their classrooms. But this training can only exist with your support. People like you are helping us bring lasting change to Rwanda by investing in the lives of teachers and students. We’d like to invite you to become a School Partner as together we pursue the implementation of quality education across Rwanda.

Become a School Partner

Kibara Students Benefitting from Transformative Teaching

Kibara Primary School lies over an hour down a dusty and bumpy road, yet its rural location doesn’t affect the school’s quality. The grounds are decorated with vision gardens and the walls are adorned with educational murals. The students are well behaved and friendly, waving to visitors as they organize themselves in neat lines to enter their classrooms. The impact of Wellspring’s School Development Program is evident everywhere you look. The educational murals were painted by a teacher trained in the importance of visual teaching aids by our team, and our trainers showed the school the benefits of positive behavioural management.

But Wellspring’s impact is reaching far past just the appearance of the school and is creating lasting transformation within the classrooms and lives of students.

A new teacher, who recently transferred here, identified what sets Kibara apart from her old school: Wellspring’s training. Our training team ensures that teachers know how to apply the subject of their lesson to the real world, which provides students with the resources to extend their education beyond the classroom. This skillset is particularly important given Rwanda’s new Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC), which is partially based on real-world applications of lessons and on turning students into competent citizens (click here to learn more about Rwanda’s new curriculum).

“At Kibara, teachers know how to integrate cross-cutting issues and values into their lessons. Their teaching results in competency and values being instilled into the students. At my old school, teachers were still learning how to teach the values of CBC, but here it is being implemented successfully thanks to Wellspring.”

The students at Kibara are experiencing the benefits of this transformative teaching style. When asked about his favourite subject in school, Grade Six student Jean Paul answered that he enjoys science class because of its application to the real world.

Jean Paul, student at Kibara Primary School.
Jean Paul

“Science is my favourite subject because it is practical. My teachers help me to understand how my body operates and the importance of hygiene and health in daily life.”

Thanks to Wellspring’s training, Jean Paul’s teachers have taught him how to apply his education to real world situations and are preparing him for his future. During our conversation, Jean Paul shared with us his dream of becoming the President of Rwanda.

“This school has provided me with a good environment and is giving me the skills and knowledge to pursue this dream. When I look at my teachers and when I look at the leadership, I see good role models who will support me on this journey.”

The teachers at Kibara Primary are creating lasting impact in the lives of students. Wellspring is honoured to play a role in this transformation, and we’d like to invite you to be part of this journey too. Click below to learn more about our School Partner program and how you can partner alongside students like Jean Paul.

Learn about our School Partner Program

Peer Learning: A teacher at Gatsata Primary taught a wonderful lesson after learning Wellspring's techniques by observing other teachers.

The Transformative Nature of Peer Learning

A teacher draws a chart on the chalkboard, writing different units of measurement along the top. There’s a flurry of movement as students open their notebooks, grip their pens, and get to work copying down the chart. Each student collaborates with their neighbor to complete the questions, discussing the conversion between milliliters, centiliters, and liters in hushed tones. When they finish, they eagerly raise their hands for the teacher to check over their work. She does so with a smile and a tick of her red pen on their workbooks, praising those with the right answer and encouraging those who have yet to master the math problem.

This was the scene during an early morning visit by our training team to Gatsata II Primary School. We sat in on a mathematics lesson in order to provide feedback for the teacher on her lesson plan and teaching style. As we sat there, it became evident that this teacher truly cared for her students. She encouraged each one and helped those who needed it. She knew them all by name and called for them to actively participate in their learning. She even applied the concepts of the lesson to real life situations so the students could understand why it was essential for them to learn these skills. Needless to say, our training team was impressed, especially given this teacher’s early resistance to our program.

And the best part?

This teacher wasn’t even directly trained by Wellspring. She learned the techniques through peer learning with a “multiplier” at her school.

Our School Development Program relies on people we call “multipliers”, who are teachers that we train directly. We invite these “multipliers” to attend training days and give them principles that guide them in teaching a values-based quality education to their students. They learn how to effectively use teaching aids, how to encourage active participation in their lessons, and how to organize their class with positive behavioral management, along with many other principles. We then support these teachers by conducting follow-up visits to their schools, encouraging peer learning by providing opportunities for other teachers to sit in on their classes, and teaching model lessons at the schools. We encourage the “multipliers” to pass their skills along to other teachers at their school through peer learning so that true transformation can take place.

We want our program to be sustainable, to be able to expand past the limitations of our organization, and to have impact beyond our direct training. Wellspring is achieving this by making peer learning a core component of our School Development Program. Thanks to this system, the students at Gatsata II Primary have teachers who understand the importance of a quality education and are actively working on delivering it in their classrooms.

We want you to be part of this system too, for you to have the chance to play a role in the pursuit of quality education across Rwanda. Consider becoming a School Partner and joining with a school just like Gatsata II Primary on this journey to empower the next generation of leaders in Rwanda.

Become a School Partner

Expansion into Rwanda’s Western Province

Rwanda’s Western Province is where the nickname ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ truly comes to life. Running along the shores of Lake Kivu and the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rolling green hills covered in tea plantations, farms, and villages stretch as far as the eye can see. Most local schools lie hours away from the nearest city, only reachable by dangerous roads. It is here, in this hilly and rural region, that Wellspring is expanding our School Development Program.

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Last year, Wellspring and the Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda (AEBR) began working together in AEBR-led schools in Western Province. We took the basic principles of our School Development Program from the Gasabo District and applied them here. Leadership training modules ran throughout the year to provide school leaders with the skills necessary to promote quality education and to implement Rwanda’s new Competence-Based-Curriculum. These modules followed themes such as Servant Leadership, Worldview and Values, and Positive Behavioural Management. For the seeds of training to take root, our team also conducted follow-up visits to the fifteen schools and provided support to teachers and leaders. So far we have seen great success with this strategy. Leaders are confronting their past shortcomings, schools are moving away from physical punishment, and teachers are encouraging active participation by the students.

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However, a quick visit to E.P. Nyagahinika, a rural school located hours down a dusty and bumpy road in the Rutsiro district, reveals that while officials, school leaders, and teachers are eager to implement the learned techniques, there is still room for growth. Locally made teaching aids line the walls of classrooms here, demonstrating that our training has certainly planted seeds within the school leaders, but more training is necessary in order to grow the school’s capacity for quality education. This is why we’re thrilled that our program will be continuing during the upcoming year—so that we can provide the necessary support to transform these schools completely. Our vision is to see the remarkable impact experienced in the Gasabo district expanded across the districts of the western province.

But the work won’t stop there. Our goal is to support the implementation of quality education in these fifteen schools in the western province, but we want to take it one step further. We want to build the internal capacity for these leaders to go forth and influence all AEBR-led schools in Rwanda. To do this, we need your help.

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Kristie Voth

Meet Kristie Voth, Wellspring’s Public Engagement Coordinator. She’s been part of the team since April 2016 and we couldn’t be happier!

Kristie hails from the thriving metropolis of Crystal City, a small farming community in Manitoba of about 400 people. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Ministry at Prairie Bible College, she felt the call of the west and has since lived on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan Valley. She now calls Langley home and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Education Degree at Trinity Western University. When she’s not busy planning events for Wellspring, Kristie enjoys hiking and sewing.

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Competence-Based-Curriculum

New National Teaching Curriculum Creates Buzz

There’s a buzz in the education community in Rwanda. Teachers and students alike are excited and enthusiastic about the positive changes stemming from the new national teaching curriculum. Competence-Based-Curriculum (commonly referred to as CBC) was first introduced in 2015 and is arriving in Rwandan classrooms on a rolling basis. A key feature of CBC is its learner-centric nature. Teachers are now encouraging students to fulfill their potential and develop new skills through active participation in lessons. CBC also promotes values-based education in order to create a strong learning environment.

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because Wellspring has been working with our own version of CBC for years! Our School Development Program (SDP) emphasizes the importance of learner-centric methods and values integration into teaching. The encouragement of students to actively participate in lessons has been a key foundation of our program. We promote these values by training a select group of teachers, who become “teacher-multipliers”. These multipliers then pass their new skills along to their colleagues through peer-learning, which ensures the sustainability of the program. The national implementation of CBC means that our School Development Program is more important and relevant than ever as we seek to equip teachers with the skills they need to succeed.

Grade 6 student David (All rights reserved)
Grade 6 student David

The positive effects of the new curriculum are already showing. David, a Grade Six student at GS Musave, shared with us about the positive social changes at school thanks to newfound encouragement by teachers.

There was a time when some students would view their colleagues as adversaries. We were all self-centered and we did not care about slow learners. But our teachers now encourage us to work together and support one another, especially slow learners, in groups. This has made our school friendlier. Our teachers also encourage us to apply what we learn in the community and to display an exemplary behaviour and attitude at home and in the community. I am excited about the future and the opportunity of using what I learn to serve my community and my country.”

Teacher Immaculate
Teacher Immaculate

Immaculate, a teacher at GS Musave, shared with us about how the new curriculum has shifted her perspective on teaching. Wellspring’s work has helped her to realize that teaching is a partnership between students and teachers.

“Wellspring’s approach has been a great relief to our teachers. Before we began training with Wellspring, teaching felt like a burden. We thought that we had to be at the center of the lesson. We thought that children had nothing to do with their learning except receiving the content delivered to them. Completing the curriculum was our only concern. Now, we realize that involving a child in the learning process by using teaching aids is the proper way of impacting the student. Furthermore, it brings a feeling of relief since teaching and learning are done as a team. It’s not about the teacher anymore. It’s about the teacher and the students working together.”

Here at Wellspring, we’re enthusiastic about the impact Competence-Based-Curriculum is already having, and we can’t wait to see the continued positive changes it will bring to education in Rwanda!

Help us continue our innovative work