All posts by Sarah Harrington

Physical punishment is still a very real issue.

Physical Punishment: A Very Real Issue

In the midst of the rolling hills of Rubavu District, between the shores of glistening Lake Kivu and the forest slopes of Volcanoes National Park, lie 75 primary schools. Each of these schools has a unique story, but they are all bound together by one thing: their use of traditional teaching methods—specifically physical punishment as a tool of behaviour management.

Physical punishment is still a very real issue in this area of Rwanda and it has been for some time. Our trainers who grew up in the Western Province vividly recall stories from their childhood where their teachers would slap them for simply answering a math question wrong. They remember how this pain bred distrust and all the times their friends dropped out of school because they would rather spend their days helping their families earn a meagre sum of money than being beaten with a stick in the classroom. This is why our trainers have such a heart for this region that they are willing to traverse flooding rivers and hike steep slopes just to reach the schools we work in—because they don’t want these kids to suffer as they did, because they know it can be different.

And they know this because they’ve already been part of making it happen in Gasabo District.

Eleven years ago, Gasabo was just as reliant upon physical punishment as a tool of behavioural management as Rubavu is today. The teachers themselves grew up being beaten by their teachers and didn’t know any other way to control their classrooms. Today, this is entirely different. Our Wellspring trainers have introduced the teachers to positive behavioural management, and the transformation in the classroom has been astounding.

In a recent English lesson at Sha Primary, we were privileged to witness this in action. As soon as we stepped into the classroom, it was abundantly clear just how much positive behavioural management has transformed the lives of these students. Instead of a classroom filled with distrust and fear, the kids arrived with smiles on their faces and eager to learn. Instead of beginning the lesson by being yelled at and threatened with the stick in order to behave, the students were greeted by name by the teacher. Together, they wrote the classroom rules on the chalkboard. The teacher then drew a smiley face, and told them that each time they behaved well and participated in their learning, he would put a star under the smiley face. After they received five stars, the teacher would reward them with a song. The students immediately perked up with excitement, eagerly participating throughout the lesson in order to earn their stars. For every right answer, the students were rewarded with ‘flowers’—a Wellspring-taught technique that sees the teacher and other students praise the speaker with a flower-type hand gesture. There was no punishment for a wrong answer, just encouragement to try again. And when the students earned their five stars, the students and the teacher cheered together before launching into song. The love and respect in the classroom was overflowed as they sang together. There was no misbehaving, no acting out, and no talking out of turn throughout the whole lesson. The kids were attentive. They showed the teacher love and respect, because he showed them love and respect first.

We know this can happen in Rubavu too. Every child, no matter where they are in Rwanda or in the world, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Using positive behavioural management techniques in the classroom is the first step in providing a quality education that will empower these students to fulfil their God-given potential. With your help, we’ve seen this transformation happen in Gasbao. Will you partner with us to see this change spread to Rubavu too?

Help Us Transform Heartache Into Hope

By providing Quality Education for Rwandan children

The first $100,000 given by December 31st, 2017 will be matched 1:1 by generous donors.

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Students in class at Kacyiru I Primary.

Kanyamibwa is a Transformed Teacher

One of the joys of our work is seeing transformation happen in all lives—from parents to leaders, teachers to students, and even lives beyond those of whom we directly work. When one person experiences transformation in the way they act and see the world, their new attitude has ripple effects on everyone they encounter. They spread their light to others.

And that’s exactly what happened—and is still happening—with Teacher Kanyamibwa at Kacyiru I Primary.

When Wellspring first began working with Kacyiru I Primary, our trainers were unwelcome in the school. Teachers regularly demonstrated how little they cared for their students. They didn’t lesson plan, used physical punishment in their classrooms, and sometimes wouldn’t even show up to teach. They were unwilling to change their ways, which made them hostile to our trainers. Teacher Kanyamibwa was no different. When Wellspring staff arrived to offer training and support, Kanyamibwa sought them out to discourage them from returning. He did not want to put any effort into his work.

But our trainers were not discouraged.

Whenever Kanyamibwa tried to drive them out of the school, they took the opportunity to share how values-based techniques, such as positive behavioural management, can drastically improve a classroom. They planted the seed of transformation in his mind. Little by little, these interactions became the time for Kanyamibwa to learn and change his teaching practices. Each of these interactions watered the seed a little more.

Last year, during a Wellspring workshop, a group of teachers began questioning the merit of a quality education. They wanted to know why they should pour more effort into their work and why the kids of today deserve a better education than the one the teachers themselves received in their childhood. Instead of egging the teachers on, Kanyamibwa immediately supported our trainers. They explained that the role of teachers is to educate the next generation, to equip the students for future success. Kanyamibwa’s support not only of the trainers, but of these ideas, came in stark contrast to his earlier actions.

Kanyamibwa is a transformed teacher.

With help from our Wellspring trainers, Kanyamibwa learned how to provide his students with a quality education. Today, locally made teaching aids line the wall of his classroom. His students work together in groups to grasp lesson concepts with deeper clarity. Kanyambiwa even establishes classroom rules at the start of each lesson to manage the students with positive behavioural techniques instead of physical punishment. Kanyamibwa has expressed his gratitude to Wellspring for helping him become a teacher who cares for students and he is demonstrating great commitment to empowering the future generation with a quality education.

But that’s not all.

Other teachers at the school saw that Kanyamibwa, the teacher who had been the most hostile towards Wellspring, had wholeheartedly embraced our techniques. They saw his joy in teaching and how much his students now loved their lessons and their teacher. They realized they could experience this transformation too and could have a lasting impact educating the next generation. Now, many more teachers are embracing Wellspring’s techniques. Kanyambiwa, in expressing that Wellspring helped him become a teacher who cares for students and empowers the future generation with a quality education, has brought transformation to the other teachers at the school as well.

Kanyamibwa’s story illustrates that persistence is more important than force. Sustainable change does not happen overnight. Instead, it is the product of continued effort. This is why Wellspring is committed to continuing to support schools until they can sustainably provide quality education to all of their students. But we can’t do this alone. Your partnership is key as we seek to work with schools in Rwanda. Will you partner with us on this journey and be part of Rwanda’s education story?

Help transform teachers

2017 Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda

Why We Ride

81 riders • 220 kilometers  • $101,000 (and counting) raised

This past weekend eighty-one cyclists came together to ride for quality education in Rwanda. They pedalled nearly 18,000 kilometers in total, which is more than the distance from Vancouver to Kigali! The route ran through British Columbia’s beautiful North Okanagan. We started by Kalamalka Lake, rode to Shuswap Lake for an overnight stay, and did it all again the next day!

Many of our riders not only biked 220 km, they also fundraised to support Wellspring’s work in Rwanda—donations can made until October 15 . While the ride was tough, every push of the pedal was for a good cause. It’s easy for us to cite stats, but the truth is that behind each number is an individual. A leader who is learning how to push their school towards success. A teacher who is receiving the training to equip the students in their classroom. A child who finally has access to an education that matches their God-given potential and gives them the future opportunities they deserve.

And that’s why we ride.

We may have only just passed the finish line on this year’s Lake2Lake ride, but we’re already thinking about next year and we hope you join us!  Sign up for our email updates to make sure you stay up to date with news about next year’s ride.

Learn about the difference quality education is making in Rwanda, and how you can be involved. Sign up for The Source:

Joel Olson

Joel Olson

Meet Joel Olson, our Education Adviser and Technical Consultant to the Wellspring Academy in Rwanda! Since joining our team, Joel has revolutionized how the Wellspring Academy engages with parents to build the school community. We’re blessed to have Joel as part of our Wellspring family and are excited to learn even more from him as we look to use technological solutions to grow community in Rwandan public schools.

Joel completed his Bachelor of Education at Trinity Western University in 2005 and, as a mark of his outstanding work as a student teacher, received the Maxwell A. Cameron Award. After graduating, Joel worked in various schools in Langley before settling as a Grade 6 & 7 teacher at Fort Langley Elementary. He also studied at Simon Fraser University to complete his Masters of Educational Leadership K-12. His thesis topic was Using Technology to Increase Parent-Teacher Communication: The Smart Way to Communicate. Joel’s research, which paid attention to the rapid onset of technology in schools, communities, and society, has helped Wellspring as we seek to grow both community involvement and technology usage in schools. In August 2016, after connecting with Wellspring through his church, Joel and his family packed up and moved to Kigali.

“Wellspring began as a dream.  Now, in reality, countless lives and entire communities are being transformed through education in Rwanda because of Wellspring.”

In his work with the Wellspring Academy, Joel advises the school leadership on how to build an engaged community. He works alongside teachers to empower them with the necessary skills to make a lasting impact in students’ lives. Joel also partnered with a local tech company to build a two-way automated SMS program to connect with parents. Since rolling this out, parent engagement in the school community has skyrocketed. Now, over 600 parents are engaged with their child’s education and students are supported both at school and at home. In addition to his work at the Academy, Joel works with our Abundant Leadership Institute to facilitate discussions and learning. His exposure to different experiences of educational leadership allows him to offer great insight in the ALI classroom.

As Wellspring moves forward, Joel will be playing a role in our expansion to the Western district of Rubavu. This rural region poses many new challenges, such as increased dropout rates and high levels of gender-based violence. Expanding to 75 new schools is no small undertaking, but we believe these schools can be transformed into vibrant learning communities that recognize each child’s dignity and worth. As Wellspring grows, Joel’s research in school communication, as well as his expertise as an educational leader, will be invaluable. Thanks for being such an integral part of our team, Joel!

Back to School: Empowered Students

Back to School: Empowered Students

Whether you’re in Vancouver or Kigali, Toronto or Gisenyi, kids are our future. When principals put in late nights at school events, when teachers skip dinner to mark a student’s test, and when parents wake up early to take their kids to choir practice, they do it because they care about the children. All of this hard work nurtures their growth and empowers them to succeed in every way. But when these stakeholders aren’t putting the child at the centre of the story and are looking out for their own best interests instead of the child’s, it can cause disastrous suffering. A dysfunctional school has negative effects on a child not just in the present, but many years into the future as well.

And that’s what Wellspring saw when we arrived at G.S. Kagugu.

Before Wellspring’s training, classrooms were a place of fear and loathing. The students hated learning because one wrong answer or misplaced word could lead to a beating that would result in nasty bruises. Their lessons were boring and some days they didn’t receive any teaching at all. Instead of learning good values, the students followed the poor example of their teachers and school leaders and began to skip school and adopt bad attitudes. Parents saw these negative effects and many of them chose to pull their kids out of school. They felt their kids could at least work to earn money to support the family instead of spending their days trapped in the classroom. But this meant that many kids were losing out on the chance to have an education and break the cycle of poverty being thrust upon them. Not having an education severely limits future opportunities.

But when Wellspring began to work with the leaders, teachers, and parents at G.S. Kagugu, remarkable transformation took place, and it all came back to benefit the kids. By teaching leaders how to build a healthy working environment, students are now being taught by teachers who are happy and love their work. By training teachers in the proper methods to teach a quality education, students are actively engaging with their learning and are grasping concepts with a deeper clarity. By helping the school to embrace positive behavioural management instead of physical punishment, kids are not fearful in their classrooms and are willing to engage in their learning instead of being afraid they might speak the wrong answer. And by working with parents to sensitize them to their role in the school community, children are being supported at home and encouraged about the importance of continuing their education.

This training has been hard work, but the fruit has been sweet.

The exam results at G.S. Kagugu have improved a staggering amount and many primary students are now receiving scholarships to schools of excellence. Relationships are now founded on trust and respect, and students feel able to approach their teachers for help about everything from a science question to needing advice about trouble at home. Engaged parents are telling their neighbours about the changes at the school and encouraging them to re-enroll their kids. These outreach efforts have led to many of the dropouts returning to school. Kids who wouldn’t have finished their education are now back in the classroom and excited to learn. This fills our hearts with uncontrollable joy.

G.S. Kagugu is a living testimony to the importance of holistic school transformation. When all stakeholders work together and rally around the children, a vibrant community that empowers the leaders of tomorrow emerges. We are so privileged to have played a role in G.S. Kagugu’s story, but this school is only a chapter in the wider story of Rwanda. We want to see this transformation spread beyond this school compound to impact neighbouring schools, like G.S. Gisozi I. We dream of a Rwanda where the ripples spread until every school has undergone the same transformation as G.S. Kagugu. We want to invite you to come along on this journey with us. Schools like G.S. Gisozi are almost fully funded and a monthly gift from you can help us impact even more students. 

I want to help transform Gisozi

That’s it for our blog series about holistic school transformation. Thanks for reading along, and remember to keep checking back for more impact stories from real people who are being empowered by our training. If you ever want to dive deeper into our programs or learn more about what Wellspring does, we’d love to chat with you!

Wellspring is a Christian organization working to empower the next generation of Rwandans through quality education. We believe we are uniquely placed to be a catalyst for transforming education for hundreds of thousands of African children and fostering vibrant communities that address poverty in all its forms. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every individual, no matter their circumstances, should be shown the same dignity and worth that Jesus showed us.

 

Back to School: Engaged Parents

Back to School: Engaged Parents

This week, we’ve been diving deeper into G.S. Kagugu’s transformation into a model school. So far, we’ve talked about how effective school leaders push their school towards success and how caring teachers promote learning in the classroom. Today, we’re looking at how engaged parents strengthen school communities.

Parents are a vital part of a child’s education. Here in North America, a parent’s role isn’t over when the kids are dropped off at school. There are parent-teacher meetings to attend, agendas to sign each night, and model solar systems to help design. While the involvement of parents may vary between families, most kids have some sort of support system to turn to when they don’t understand a homework question. Because the encouragement for their education doesn’t stop the moment the school bell rings, they are being equipped for success on all sides.

This is the case for plenty of families in Rwanda as well, but unfortunately the majority of children in the public school system are not being supported in their learning at home. As they didn’t go to school themselves, many parents don’t realize they should be carving out time for their kids to study or asking them about their lessons. With the new post-genocide schooling initiatives, there has been an assumption that education falls within the realm of the government, not the parent.

But this is shifting. Parents are starting to realize they do have a role in their child’s education, but they aren’t sure how they should become involved or even if they have the means to do so. And that’s why Wellspring developed our Asset-Based Community Development approach (ABCD).

Before engaging with Wellspring’s program, parents at G.S. Kagugu were impassive and uninvolved with the school. Few parents attended school meetings due to poor communication and tensions between parents and school leaders. They would not offer time or help for schoolwork at home and would not visit with teachers to check on their children’s performance. There was a deep lack of trust between the parents and the school community, and the school was suffering because the parents were unwilling to help out.

This all changed when our community trainers began working with parents. Our Asset-Based Community Development training focuses on mobilizing parents and empowering them to bring about change through their own skills and talents, all while placing an emphasis on a parent’s role and responsibility in their child’s education. This program works in tandem with our School Development Program to help the school become self-sustainable and ensure the children are supported from all sides as they receive a quality education.

Today, parents at G.S. Kagugu are taking ownership over the school at the centre of their community. They understand that their involvement strengthens G.S. Kagugu and the education of every child at the school. When there is a general meeting, the attendance levels are high and there is a willingness to collaborate between leaders, parents, and teachers. Parents now call teachers to check in on the performance of their children, and teachers reach out to parents when there is a problem. Students are being encouraged to study at home and are returning to school ready for their lessons the next day. Parents are even volunteering their time and skills to help construct a new school hall. New parent initiatives are beginning all the time, and they all work towards strengthening the school and supporting the kids.

A healthy school that provides a strong education is at the centre of any vibrant community, and parental involvement is key in making this happen. The parents at G.S. Kagugu have propelled their school—and their children—towards success. Wellspring has a vision of this happening in every school community across Rwanda. You can be part of making this vision become a reality by partnering with G.S. Gisozi I, a school only a few blocks away from G.S. Kagugu. Will you be part of G.S. Gisozi I’s journey?

I want to help transform Gisozi

We’re coming to end of our blog series about holistic school transformation. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at how the transformation of all the stakeholders in a school community—leaders, teachers, and parents—work together to support the students. Thanks for reading!

Wellspring is a Christian organization working to empower the next generation of Rwandans through quality education. We believe we are uniquely placed to be a catalyst for transforming education for hundreds of thousands of African children and fostering vibrant communities that address poverty in all its forms. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every individual, no matter their circumstances, should be shown the same dignity and worth that Jesus showed us.

Back to School: Caring Teachers

Back to School: Caring Teachers

No matter where you are in the world, teachers make up the heart of every school. Here in North America, they are the ones decorating their classrooms with bright posters that teach students about grammar tenses and multiplication tables. They are the ones planning fun science experiments and choosing novels for book reports. They are the ones imparting their wisdom to our children. When we say goodbye to our kids at the classroom door, we trust that their teacher will not only take care of them for the day, but will also teach them lessons that will set them up for success in the future.

In Rwanda, the picture is a little different.

Unlike in North America, teachers are afforded very little respect in Rwanda. Despite being the ones educating the next generation, they are seen as the lowest of the low in society. The training they receive is minimal, leaving them unprepared for the challenges they will face in their classrooms. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many teachers in Rwanda do have a true passion for empowering the new generation, they just don’t have the training to implement it. And that’s where Wellspring comes in.

Yesterday, we looked at how change in the hearts of leaders is propelling G.S. Kagugu towards success. Today, we’re going to look at the team of educators as we continue following G.S. Kagugu’s journey from a dysfunctional community to a model school.

Before Wellspring began its training in 2011, the teachers at Kagugu were following the example of their poor school leaders. Instead of working together and supporting one another, the teaching staff were divided. They were set in their old, ineffective methods of teaching and did not care about the school or their students. Teachers often left school to drink or smoke, leaving the students just sitting in the classrooms, or would take days off without warning and return to school without any lessons prepared. When lessons were taught, they were lacking in engaging activities or real-world connections and did not resonate with the students. Physical punishment was also used when students answered a question wrong or spoke out of turn, which twisted the classroom from a home of learning to a place of fear and distrust.

This all changed when Kagugu’s leadership embraced Wellspring’s training and encouraged the teaching staff to do the same.

Wellspring worked with a selection of teachers from Kagugu to empower them with quality education techniques. With our trainers, they learned how to use local-made teaching aids to demonstrate their lessons, how to encourage deeper understanding of concepts through active participation and group work, and how to encourage and care for students through positive behavioral management. Through peer learning, the multipliers (teachers who received high-level training from Wellspring) then passed these skills along to the other educators at Kagugu, which helps the school become self-sustainable when it comes to effective teaching practices. Now, the teachers who were trained by their peers are performing at the same high level as those who were trained by Wellspring!

With this training, the staff’s passion for education has been renewed and the quality of teaching has vastly improved. Teachers are rarely absent and always come to school with lessons planned. They care about their students and work closely with leaders and parents to ensure that every child is looked after. Teaching aids are used in the classroom and cross-cutting issues are integrated into lessons so that the students understand the value of their lessons in the real world. In their free time, P6 teachers even help their students to revise for exams. The entire attitude of the teaching staff has shifted. This healthy school environment has helped the school to retain their good teachers and even attracts teachers from other schools who want to work in such a positive community.

When Wellspring first began our School Development Program, G.S. Kagugu was a struggling school. Its teachers lacked the training necessary to help their students succeed. Now, Kagugu is one of the top performing schools in one of the top performing school districts of the entire country, and the high performance of students on exams can be traced back to the transformation of teachers.

Teachers play a direct role in a child’s future, which is why a large portion of our School Development Program focuses on empowering teachers with the skills to engage their students with a quality education. We’ve seen how this training can transform entire school communities, just like G.S. Kagugu, and we have a vision of spreading this impact across the Rwanda. You can be part of this story too by supporting a school to receive this transformation through our School Partners program! G.S. Gisozi I, a school merely streets away from Kagugu, is 78% funded. Will you be part of G.S. Gisozi I’s journey?

I want to help transform Gisozi

We’re halfway through our blog series about holistic school transformation. Tomorrow, we’ll be talking our experience in working with Kagugu’s wider community and parents to teach them about their role in their child’s education. Looking forward to sharing with you!

Wellspring is a Christian organization working to empower the next generation of Rwandans through quality education. We believe we are uniquely placed to be a catalyst for transforming education for hundreds of thousands of African children and fostering vibrant communities that address poverty in all its forms. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every individual, no matter their circumstances, should be shown the same dignity and worth that Jesus showed us.

Equipped with Effective Leaders

Back to School: Effective Leaders

For any school to succeed, it must be equipped with effective leaders. This is true in Canada, Rwanda, and throughout the world. Here in North America, we know that when we send our kids off to school, the principals will be looking out for their best interests. We trust that they have undergone rigorous training and post-secondary education that has equipped them to lead their schools and cultivate a team of teachers who will provide a quality education for our children.

This isn’t the case in Rwanda. While most head teachers truly care for their students, they simply have not received the necessary training to be able to grow their school communities into vibrant places of learning. Because of this, many schools in Rwanda fall into a dysfunction. Leaders are not leading, teachers are not teaching, and learners are not learning.

This is why the first step towards holistic school transformation comes from working with leaders. When leaders are on board and ready to rally around quality education, remarkable change can take place.

And that’s how the story began at G.S. Kagugu.

When Wellspring began our School Development Program in 2011, our trainers found G.S. Kagugu in a state of disarray. This all stemmed from a leadership team who did not trust one another and put their own desires ahead of the needs of the school. Instead of making plans for school improvement, they sought to prolong the corrupt environment from which they were benefitting. Wellspring knew that for our trainings to take root, the school leadership would need to have a change of heart.

That’s exactly what happened when a new head teacher was appointed.

Having experienced Wellspring’s training at another school, the new head teacher understood that the mark of a true leader is their servant heart, and that their success comes from the success of those they lead. With Wellspring’s support, he worked closely with the entire school leadership team to teach them about the importance of their actions upon the school community and help them adopt this servant attitude. With this new heart for serving the school, the leadership began to craft a plan for school improvement. They met with teachers to listen to their point of view, and opened their office to learners, parents, and local leaders to hear their stories. Using the skills taught by Wellspring, the school leadership crafted a healthy school environment, something that had been lacking for many years. Now, the leadership works closely with the teachers to show them they are valued. Instead of discouraging peer learning, teachers are encouraged to share their skills with one another and lesson plan together. The leadership also raised funds to buy phones for each teacher, which has helped immensely with the issue of miscommunication between teachers and parents. Now, communication flows easily from all levels in the school.

G.S. Kagugu is unrecognizable from the dysfunctional school that our trainers first saw in 2011. Leaders and teachers are collaborating, students are achieving excellent marks on exams, parents are passionately engaged, and it all stems back to the transformation of the leaders.

Change in the hearts of leaders brings about change in the lives of everyone, which is why it’s the first step towards creating a vibrant school community that sees all stakeholders thrive. Through our training modules, Wellspring helps leaders understand their responsibilities to their school community and walks them through creating school visions and plans for improvement. With your help as a School Partner, we can extend the transformation seen in G.S. Kagugu to other schools, such as G.S. Gisozi I. Just like Kagugu, this school is full of potential just waiting to be realized.

I want to help transform Gisozi

But Kagugu’s story isn’t over! Tomorrow, we’ll be breaking down how our training empowered the teachers at Kagugu to provide their students with a quality education. See you then!

Wellspring is a Christian organization working to empower the next generation of Rwandans through quality education. We believe we are uniquely placed to be a catalyst for transforming education for hundreds of thousands of African children and fostering vibrant communities that address poverty in all its forms. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every individual, no matter their circumstances, should be shown the same dignity and worth that Jesus showed us.

T’S BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON

It’s Back to School Season

It’s the back to school season. TV’s are looping commercials of children running through store aisles amid notebooks and pens. Classrooms are neat and tidy, ready for the chaos of the first day of school. Kids are soaking up their last few rays of sunshine before heading back to the classroom.

In North America, we don’t think twice about sending our children to school. We know that their teachers have undergone rigorous training, that their classrooms will be full of brightly coloured posters that reinforce learning concepts, that they’ll get to participate in fun and informative activities that will stick with them long after the school bell rings. We never have to doubt the quality of education that our kids receive in North American schools.

This isn’t the case in Rwanda.

In most Rwandan classrooms, teachers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of students, walls are bare and lacking in teaching aids, young kids are lectured at instead of being actively involved in their learning. In fact, many children aren’t even given the opportunity to go to school, as their parents feel they won’t learn enough to make it worthwhile. A lack of education means that children are not prepared for their future, and may very well end up stuck in the same cycle of poverty as their parents.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

With Wellspring’s innovative School Development Program, schools undergo a holistic transformation that sees the entire community rallying around the kids. With support from leaders, teachers, and parents, children are equipped with a quality education that matches their dreams and God-given potential.

How does this work? How can a school go from a place of distrust, disorganization, and disrespect, to home of consideration, care, and competence?

We’re glad you asked.

This week, we’ll be running a blog series that breaks down the transformation that occurs in each stakeholders’—leaders, teachers, parents, and students— lives with our program. And this isn’t just theoretical either. We’ll be sharing real stories from Groupe Scolaire Kagugu, a K-12 school with 5516 students and 73 teachers located right in the heart of the capital city of Kigali. When we first started our work in the Gasabo district, Kagugu was in a state of disarray. Now, it is a model school in one of the top performing school districts in the country.

Join with us this week as we map out Kagugu’s route to transformation.

But that’s not all! You are a key character is this story.

You make our work possible. With your support, Wellspring is able to send our trainers into each of these school communities. We dream of a day when every school in Rwanda will have the chance to experience the same transformation as G.S. Kagugu. But we need your help to make this a reality.

As we share G.S. Kagugu’s story, we’ll also be sharing information about Groupe Scolaire Gisozi I, a K-12 school in the busy wood market district of Kigali with 2663 students and 49 teachers. Through our School Partner program, G.S. Gisozi I is 78% funded and needs only $305/month more (or 6 donors at $55/month) to fully fund the school to experience holistic transformation that involves the entire community. This week, we’d like to invite you to join our School Partner program, where your gift can help thousands of students to be empowered by a  quality education. You can come alongside G.S. Gisozi I and play a role in the school’s—and Rwanda’s—future.

I want to help transform Gisozi

Wellspring is a Christian organization working to empower the next generation of Rwandans through quality education. We believe we are uniquely placed to be a catalyst for transforming education for hundreds of thousands of African children and fostering vibrant communities that address poverty in all its forms. Why do we do this? Because we believe that every individual, no matter their circumstances, should be shown the same dignity and worth that Jesus showed us.

Teaching Real-World Values at Akimitoni School

Teaching Real-World Values at Akimitoni School

In a small classroom, with barely enough desks to fit all of the students and no light except for the few sunbeams that make it through the small windows, a wonderful lesson is being taught. Florence, a Grade Three teacher at Akimitoni School in the rural Nyabihu district, has made a commitment to providing her students with the best education possible despite such a lack of resources

And she’s succeeding

In 2015, Wellspring entered into a partnership with the Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda (AEBR) to launch the Christian Foundations in Education (CFE) program. This two year program saw Wellspring provide quality education training in fifteen AEBR schools (with leadership training in an additional seven) across three western school districts. Akimitoni is one such school, and Florence is one of the teachers who was selected to receive high-level training from Wellspring and equipped to pass her newly acquired quality education techniques along to her colleagues. Florence took her training to heart and applied these new skills with an eager spark.

As part of the final stage of our CFE program, Wellspring conducted surprise visits to schools to see if teachers were utilizing these quality education techniques every day, not just when they knew they would be observed. When our trainers arrived at Akimitoni School the day before the program ended, Florence was not expecting them.

But that didn’t matter because Florence has consistently been using Wellspring’s techniques to the fullest extent.

Florence, a Grade Three teacher at Akimitoni School in the rural Nyabihu district.

We were welcomed into her classroom with open arms and greeted by the smiling faces of students, beaming at their teacher and eager to begin their lesson. Immediately, our trainers knew that Florence had used her new skills to create a home of trust and learning in her classroom. As the lesson progressed, Florence seamlessly integrated all of her skills to create an engaging and informative lesson. Most importantly though, she infused real world values into each child’s learning. The integration of values and crosscutting issues is new in classrooms across Rwanda, stemming from the recently adopted Competence-Based Curriculum. This initiative focuses on creating competent citizens and helping students learn how to apply the concepts they learn in school to their lives.

Florence has mastered this.

In her math lesson about currency, Florence taught the students how to identify the difference between 2000RWF and 5000RWF notes. As a group activity, they studied the two bills and wrote lists of what they could buy with each at the local market. Another teacher may have finished the lesson here, having already achieved the learning outcomes, but Florence wants her students to be equipped for success in their lives. And so she continued the lesson by teaching them the value of money. Her Grade Three students learned about the importance of budgeting and saving, as well as the necessity of respecting the bills by keeping them clean and not writing on them. The kids followed along eagerly, excited about a lesson that provided them with real skills and knowledge they can use outside of the walls of their classroom.

All of this is because Florence used her skills learned from Wellspring and applied them to her lesson. She cultivated a classroom of respect where her students trust her to speak into their lives. We are so happy to see the wonderful teacher that Florence has become and we know that she will continue in her growth as she spreads these skills to other teachers.

Though our CFE program has recently wrapped up, Wellspring has been encouraged by the success seen in these Western Province schools and we are excited for our next step in this region. We learned a lot through this program and are now preparing to launch our entire School Development Program in all 86 primary schools in the northwestern district of Rubavu. To learn more about this expansion, check out our recent gala videos. But for this new project to be successful, we need your help and partnership. Will you join with us on Wellspring’s most ambitious journey yet as we seek to bring quality education to 91,500+ new students and 86 new schools?

Help provide quality education

Mary Nankya

Mary Nankya

Say hello to Mary Nankya, a quality education trainer for Wellspring. Mary is one of our longest serving trainers, as she joined the organization in November 2007, almost a decade ago! Mary brings a unique blend of compassion, wisdom, and dedication to her role at Wellspring. We’ve been so privileged to spend the past ten years with her and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Mary was born and raised in Kafumu, a small village in the Mpigi district of Uganda. She studied and received a diploma in primary education before moving to Rwanda. Mary taught Grade 4 and served in a number of different schools, including Green Hills Academy, before joining Wellspring in late 2007.

As one of our quality education trainers, Mary’s job is to work through our School Development Program to help the next generation of Rwandans receive a quality education. This is done by training teachers to succeed under the Competence-Based Curriculum. This curriculum, adopted by Rwanda in 2015/2016, focuses on a learner-centric methodology of classrooms instead of the previous, lecture-based model. A lesson that is crafted with the students at the forefront instead of the teacher helps the students learn more through techniques such as active participation, positive behavioural management, and use of teaching aids. Mary also works with Head Teachers to help them develop their leadership skills. Good leadership is essential for a school to succeed, as the leader can support the teachers through lesson observation and feedback, as well as engaging with the wider community to ensure that students are being supported at home as well. Mary also models lessons to teachers and leaders to help them understand the components of a great lesson and to train them in assessing and analyzing lessons when providing feedback for their colleagues through peer learning.

Gilgal Kids School
Gilgal Kids School

In Wellspring’s future, Mary is excited to see Wellspring’s vision expand beyond Gasabo district to impact more and more lives. This is already being realized through Wellspring’s expansion to the district of Rubavu in the west of Rwanda and through initiatives of our staff members, who are taking what they have learned through Wellspring and applying the techniques, such as Asset-Based Community Development, to their own home communities. Mary is one such individual. In her home country of Uganda, Mary’s family has helped to established a school that seeks to provide quality education to the next generation of Ugandans. Mary is working hard to ensure that every child receives the quality education they deserve. We couldn’t be prouder to call her a Wellspring staff member.

Vision for the Future at Gikomero

Vision for the Future at Gikomero School

To look at Gikomero School and the surrounding village today, you would never know that this area used to be considered a prime example of division and poverty. Today, students and community members are happy and hardworking. They are motivated to serve as an example for other struggling villages as a testament to the value of transformation that comes from a quality education and a school that provides it at the heart of the village.

Under our School Development Program, Wellspring has been working with Gikomero since 2011. When we first arrived, teachers would not lesson plan, they did not properly evaluate students, and they used physical punishment as a method of discipline. The leadership did not have a vision for the school to improve, and so they let this tumultuous situation continue. For the past six years, our trainers have worked with the leadership and teachers to help them combat these issues. Performance has improved dramatically and now the leaders have a vision for the future. They are working towards seeing Gikomero become a model school for its entire sector. Now that teachers understand the importance of a quality education and are well-versed in the techniques necessary to implement it, this goal is within reaching distance.

In a recent Grade One English lesson, a teacher developed activities and teaching aids that would help the students learn different job titles.

In a recent Grade One English lesson, a teacher developed activities and teaching aids that would help the students learn different job titles. But the teacher did not only teach the students about the vocabulary surrounding careers, he also spent time engaging with each student about their dream job for the future. He encouraged each one in the pursuit of these dreams and helped them to write and tape it to the wall so that they could remember what they are working towards. During a secondary lesson, students conducted experiments using weights and water to learn about buoyancy. They worked as a team and respected each other and their teacher. Both of these classroom lessons would have been unthinkable when we first encountered Gikomero.

We have also been working with the local Gikomero community using our Asset-Based Community Development methods. After sensitizing parents to their role in their child’s education and helping them to identify their assets, our trainers have seen a huge improvement in the community’s investment in the school. Parents have undertaken many initiatives, such as rallying around families who struggle to keep their children in school due to a lack of resources and bringing dropouts back to school.

All of these efforts, both in the school and surrounding community, have borne fruit.

Constructing new classrooms at Gikomero.

Recently, Gikomero was selected as a model village for the Gasabo district. In this new government initiative, each district in Rwanda is constructing a model village to serve as an example of what all communities should be striving towards. The model villages will feature, among other things, access to electricity and clean water, play areas for children, and housing for vulnerable individuals. As education is at the heart of development, so too are the schools at the centre of these new model villages. Gikomero School is already working to build new classrooms, including four smart classrooms that seamlessly integrate technology, and bring water and electricity to the whole school. Other improvements are being made at the school as well, such as investing in early childhood education materials and revitalizing the use of technology. The leaders, teachers, and students are excited to see the leaps forward that are being made in their school and community.

Wellspring feels blessed to be part of Gikomero’s story as they move forward into this exciting new phase. We are excited for this model to serve as an inspiration to others, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this school and this village!

Help provide quality education

On the blog: #WellspringWednesday: Barb Luck

Barb Luck

Many of you have probably already had the pleasure of meeting Barb Luck at an event or chatting with her over the phone, but now it’s time to officially get to know one of Wellspring’s longest serving staff members! Barb has been working with Wellspring as a Financial Officer since its inception in 2004. We’re privileged to be working alongside her as Wellspring’s story continues!

Barb was born in Vancouver before moving out to Langley, where she raised her two kids with husband, Edgar, who is a Wellspring board member! Before Wellspring, Barb used to work in customer service at Dairyland and spent her nights taking courses for accounting and computer training. When her nephew, Richard Taylor, felt the call to work alongside a team of Rwandans as they sought to heal their country through providing a quality education to all, Barb was eager to help. Over the years, she’s seen our North American team grow from two people in Langley  to an eleven person team in Langley, Salmon Arm, and Ontario.

“In the years I’ve worked with Wellspring, it has been such a delight to watch the organization grow and bloom into one that makes a lasting impact. God has provided for us in so many ways and it has been amazing to watch transformation occur in the lives of individuals both in North America and in Rwanda.”

Barb spends her days at Wellspring liasoning with our wonderful supporters. She ensures that all donations are processed correctly and that our finances are up to date. We would be lost without her! Barb also communicates frequently with our Rwandan financial team to ensure that all operations are running smoothly. Her service in North America helps the team in Rwanda to empower a new generation.

Outside of work, Barb enjoys the outdoors. She’s got a green thumb and can cultivate a beautiful garden. She also enjoys reading and cycling with her husband. When Barb reflects on Wellspring, she remembers the times when our dream felt impossible, when funds were lean and we weren’t sure if there would be enough to cover the bills. But God always came through. He provided when we thought there was no way forward. In Wellspring’s future, Barb is excited to see God’s continued faithfulness and provision as Wellspring expands. She is excited to continue to support our wonderful Rwandan team as more and more lives are impacted by a quality education.

Trust: The Foundation for Improvement in Schools

Trust: The Foundation for Improvement in Schools

**Names changed to protect identities**

Trust is key in any relationship, especially within the realm of education. For a school to succeed, there must be a strong cohesion within the team of educators. Only when all stakeholders in a school come together to support each other can a quality education exist in the classroom. Wellspring knows that trust is the foundation upon which strong teams are built. Through our trainings, we help leaders embrace their team of educators by promoting healthy relationships between teachers and leaders. Once trust has been established, team members are more willing to receive feedback from each other and can begin the cycle of continuous improvement that comes through peer learning. Trust is the catalyst that pushes schools towards success.

After attending a Wellspring workshop on the importance of trust in education, John, the Head Teacher at Gasabo Primary, realized this was the missing competent in his team of educators. In order to see his school succeed in the future, he knew this issue needed to be fixed quickly. He began to brainstorm and soon realized that trust is earned through relationships. He organized a daily tea break with the teachers at Gasabo Primary and, as a sense of community began to emerge through this daily shared experience, John started to see an improvement in team strength, open-mindedness, and trust amongst team members. Each department meets during this break and discusses how they can help one another to achieve more. The Head Teacher sits with each group, never setting himself apart, to provide support. He encourages lively discussion about ideas for surpassing the challenges faced by the school and reminds the team about the school’s vision of overcoming illiteracy in students.

Trust: The Foundation for Improvement in Schools

Trust: The Foundation for Improvement in Schools

With this daily tea break emerged a sense of trust amongst the educators. Because they now feel like part of the same community, they are open to receiving feedback from each other. Thanks to the Head Teacher’s initiative, a culture of shared knowledge and trust has developed at Gasabo Primary. When new teachers enter the school, they are quick to adapt to quality education techniques. The supportive and welcoming nature of other teachers has helped three of the new teachers to improve to the point where they are already giving lessons at the level of those who have received intense training from Wellspring. By humbling himself and supporting his educators, John has helped his team to become strong, unified, and successful, which allows the school to focus on what is important: providing a quality education for students.

In 2017, after seeing Gasabo Primary improve immensely under his leadership, John was transferred to another school to help this success grow to impact even more students. Upon his arrival at the new school, John immediately organized a peer learning session amongst his new team of educators. He made sure to meet with each of the teachers personally to establish a foundation of trust before evaluating their styles and providing feedback for their improvement. He is now spreading Wellspring’s quality education techniques at his new school, and improvement has already begun. Teachers have started to grasp the concepts of active participation through group discussions and teaching aids, and positive behavioral management techniques. John’s success at this new school proves that, with good leadership and a foundation of trust, schools are pushed towards success and quality education emerges in the classroom.

Will you partner with us as Wellspring works to equip more leaders like John to bring transformation to their schools and beyond?

Help equip leaders

Emmanuel Seromba

Emmanuel Seromba

Meet Emmanuel Seromba, one of the key players on Wellspring’s Community Involvement team. We’ve been privileged to have Emmanuel as part of our team for the past three years. His hardworking spirit and dedication not only bless the Wellspring family, but also the families of dozens of local school communities as he connects with them through our Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) workshops.

Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Emmanuel moved to Rwanda in 1995. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Theology. Before joining Wellspring in 2014, Emmanuel served as a Head Teacher in the Eastern Province of Rwanda and the manager of a local NGO. Through these positions, he learned how to work with and encourage emerging communities. This experience gave him invaluable insight upon joining our Community Involvement team.

“Mobilization is key in changing communities and Wellspring’s program is great at mobilizing parents to be part of their child’s education. Even my own family has benefitted from Wellspring’s techniques.”

As one of our Community Involvement trainers, Emmanuel works with families in local communities to help them understand their role in their child’s education. Quality education can only succeed when it is supported by all stakeholders in a child’s life. When parents and teachers rally around their children, they are given the tools to reach their full potential. The ABCD workshops led by Emmanuel and the rest of our team focus on empowering people to help themselves. Instead of focusing on what they do not have, this approach emphasizes the community’s assets and strengths. Once the assets of the community are identified, they can be connected to areas of need and mobilized, which results in empowered citizens and improved community life. Our Community Involvement team works with these parents to realize how their assets and involvement can strengthen the quality of education at their local school. When parents are invested in schools, quality education becomes sustainable.

Emmanuel also testifies that his work at Wellspring not only impacts the lives of other families, but also the life of his own. After reviewing some ABCD modules, he brought them home to his family and engaged in a discussion with his thirteen-year-old about the four roles of a parent: Encourager, Friend, Teacher, and Enforcer. After hearing this discussion with their daughter, Emmanuel’s wife realized that it was Wellspring’s influence that affected his good relationship with their children. “Wellspring is more than just a job,” she encouraged him, “it is also a school of life.”

Juliet Kabatesi

Juliet Kabatesi

Say hello to Juliet Kabatesi, one of Wellspring Quality Education trainers! August 2017 will mark Juliet’s five year anniversary with Wellspring. Our team has been blessed with her creativity and positive outlook over the years, and so has Rwanda’s Gasabo district, where Juliet has provided training for countless teachers and impacted entire school communities!

Juliet was born in a refugee camp in Western Uganda, where she helped raise her siblings. In December 1994, she moved to Rwanda and has lived here ever since. Juliet obtained her teaching certificate in Uganda and taught Grade Three there for a few years. After moving to Rwanda, she became a Head Teacher. She stayed in that position for seven years before leaving to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Instead of returning to her Head Teacher position after completing her degree, Juliet joined the International Education Exchange where she learned how to apply her education and skills to training teachers. After a year, she moved to Wellspring as a teacher trainer to help spread quality education techniques to multiple schools and transformation the education community across Rwanda.

“Wellspring is full of servant leaders—people who are humble, caring, and loving. Because the people of Wellspring encourage and believe in me every day, I am a changed person. Now, I have the opportunity to bring this change to others.”

For the past five years, Juliet has been working with local leaders and teachers in the Gasabo district around Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Through workshops, feedback, and teaching model lessons, Juliet helps teachers understand the importance of provide a quality education for their students. Leading by example, Juliet walks teachers through the process of creating unique teaching aids and integrating them into lessons to promote active participation among students. Active participation ensure that students are invested in their learning and helps them grasp concepts with a deeper clarity. This is just one example of the good work that Juliet does! We could go on for hours about the various activities that trainers like Juliet use to help Rwandan teachers.

As Wellspring continues to expand and move forward, Juliet is excited to see more and more students impacted by teachers who love and respect them and impart a love for learning. Each student deserves an education that matches their potential, and it is trainers like Juliet who are helping this to become a reality across Rwanda.

The First Graduates from Wellspring's Abundant Leadership Institute

First ALI Graduation

It’s a joyous time here at Wellspring! On June 9th, 2017, the first nine graduates of our Abundant Leadership Institute (ALI) walked across the stage.

At the start of the program in August 2015, these students came from various education communities across Rwanda. Though many of them didn’t know each other, they all shared a passion for increasing their leadership abilities to equip their schools—and the next generation of Rwandans—for success. The past year-and-a-half of trainings saw this cohort work through modules covering everything from empowering mentorship to self-leadership. They’ve learned to assess their goals and adopt a servant heart. They know that to lead effectively, others must be put first, and that the success of a leader comes through the success of those they lead.

Each of these nine graduates worked tirelessly to finish this program. We are in awe of their dedication and hard working spirit. The impact of good leadership is immeasurable, as are the number of lives of students, teachers, and members of the wider community that will be changed due to the new mindset and techniques adopted by our alumni. We’re excited to see the transformation that our ALI graduates will bring to the education community in Rwanda and beyond, and look forward to continuing to engage with them as alumni.

Richard Taylor, Wellspring’s Rwanda Country Director had the following words about this historic moment for Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute:

“The graduation of our pioneer class is a big milestone for the Abundant Leadership Institute. We are excited about how these Christian leaders are applying what they have learned in their schools and look forward to seeing them empower a new generation of emerging leaders in Rwanda and beyond.”

The First Graduates from Wellspring's Abundant Leadership Institute

What is the Abundant Leadership Institute?

Founded in August 2015, the Abundant Leadership Institute is a Wellspring Foundation for Education program that combines quality values-based education and advanced leadership development. The most promising educators from across Central Africa come together to learn how to increase their leadership abilities so that they can transform their school communities and empower the next generation of leaders.

To learn more about the Abundant Leadership Institute and see the very real impact that this training has upon schools watch Tite’s Story, a film featuring one of our new ALI graduates, Tite Siborurema. Using Wellspring and ALI techniques, Tite transformed Kabuye School from a place of dysfunctional educational practices to a high performing place of respect and learning. After reversing its decline and setting Kabuye School on a path towards success, Tite was moved on to Rugando School to spread this transformation to a new school community.

Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute exists because we know that transformation starts with leadership. Will you partner with us as we strive to equip Rwanda’s current educational leaders with the skills to empower the next generation?

Help empower Leaders

Rachel Mahuku

Rachel Mahuku

Meet Rachel Mahuku, Wellspring’s Senior Manager in charge of Community Involvement and Partnerships. Rachel’s been a huge part of our team since 2012 and has seen our work grow immensely under her care and dedication. We’re so thankful for Rachel’s wisdom and joyous outlook, especially as we move into an exciting new season for Wellspring!

Rachel was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and completed her Bachelor of Education degree in Kenya. She moved to Rwanda to work as an Assistant Lecturer at the Kigali Institute of Education (now University of Rwanda, College of Education) before taking her Master’s degree in Education in Uganda. Her experience in education in all of these cultural contexts, as well as her many years serving as a teacher and head teacher, made her the perfect fit for Wellspring in 2012.

When Rachel first joined Wellspring, she served as a Program Manager. She participated as a Wellspring representative in the Rwanda Education NGO Coordination Platform (RENCP – a working group that coordinates the efforts of the many educational NGOs working in Rwanda) and worked closely with the Rwandan Education Board. Rachel spent many hours from 2013 to 2015 working tirelessly with the government as they created a brand new school curriculum. Rachel helped the curriculum shift from a teacher-centric methodology (focusing on lecturing and placing the teacher at the centre of lessons) to a learner-centric one (focusing on active participation and placing the student at the centre of lessons). Now, the Competence-Based Curriculum has been fully implemented into schools in Rwanda. Instead of emphasizing memorization, lessons are focused on creating competencies in students to ready them for life after school. Cross-cutting issues and values are taught regularly thanks to this new curriculum, and we’re proud to say that Rachel and Wellspring were a part of this process.

In 2016, Rachel became a Senior Manager at Wellspring. She now leads our Community Involvement team, which implements Asset-Based Community Development in local school communities, and supports Wellspring’s partnerships. This includes our partnerships with organizations such as AEBR in Rwanda’s Western Province, other educational NGOs through RENCP, and work done in coordination with the National Education Sector.

As Wellspring moves forward, Rachel is excited about the transformation in Gasabo spreading to other districts, such as Rubavu. She sees Wellspring’s work in Gasabo as only the beginning, and is eager to discover innovative new techniques that will improve and grow our impact as we seek to help education be redeemed in Rwanda.

Kanyundo Primary

A Response to a Child

Kanyundo Primary is a place that stands out against its surroundings. With a backdrop of hilly tea plantations and rural dirt roads, the well-kept compound almost looks out of place. A basketball court and small playground give kids a place to play and get out their energy so they can pay better attention in class. The grass fields don’t have a speck of litter on them and small handwashing stations sit outside classrooms, promoting hygiene amongst the school population. Kanyundo Primary stands out because the community has invested. Local parents want this school to provide an education worthy of their children. And, in return, the school is pouring back into the community.

Since Wellspring began our training a year ago, Kanyundo Primary has dramatically improved. Classrooms here were previously full of distrust and fear. Kids were beaten for showing up a few minutes late or getting a math question wrong. Now, classrooms are welcoming and respectful places. The teachers use love and encouragement to promote learning amongst their students. Children used to dread school but now they are eager to learn. This schoolwide transformation is stemming from a leader who has adopted a servant heart.

“I’m not ashamed to testify that I have been transformed by Wellspring. Wellspring has transformed me and now, the school is being transformed too.” – Félicienne

Instead of leading from a lofty, isolated position, Félicienne, the Head Teacher, has eagerly taken to Wellspring’s trainings and now leads the school by example. When you see her around the schoolyard, she is talking with teachers and laughing with students. No longer is she unapproachable. Now, she adopts a humble attitude and speaks with great humility about the success of the school of recent national exams. When she shares her dream for the Kanyundo Primary’s future, her eyes light up and her hands become more animated.

“My dream is to see a 100% transition rate at our school for students moving from primary to secondary. But as a foundation, I want to ensure that we are a school based on values. This school is going to be a place where community members can come to learn values from us. When they visit, they will notice a difference. They will know that Wellspring has come to this school.”

Her passion for Kanyundo Primary is evident not just in her words, but also her actions. Félicienne has been leading groups of teachers and students out into the community to engage with families who pulled their children out of school. After seeing her do this a few times, students at the school felt moved to start a club, which they called “A Response to a Child”. This club provides a framework for the students to do community outreach. They are seeking out their peers who have dropped out of school and are bringing them back to the classroom. The results of this initiative have been astounding. Kanyundo Primary has created a class specifically for students who formerly dropped out so they can encourage and support one another through issues in their home life and work together to make up for the time they missed. The students in this class recently began learning how to write and they are eager to continue moving forward in their education.

Kanyundo Primary is unrecognizable from the school it was a year ago, but there is still work to be done. Other schools in the sector are so hungry for the same transformation that Kanyundo has experienced that they are sending their teachers to learn from multipliers (teachers who have received high-level training from Wellspring) here. This hunger is why Wellspring is committing to move into all 86 primary schools in the Rubavu district. We want to come alongside schools to help them overcome deep-set educational issues just like at Kanyundo Primary. But to do this, we need your help. Will you partner with us as we help improve education in the Rubavu district?

Help improve education

Shauna Cheng

Shauna Cheng

Meet Shauna Cheng, Wellspring’s Operations Administrator. Shauna is the glue that holds our North American team together, as she oversees our daily office operations. We wouldn’t know what to do without her! She’s great at tying her passion for the outdoors into her passion for Wellspring, and even co-created the Peak Week fundraiser. We’re so thankful that Shauna is part of our Wellspring’s family!

Shauna was raised in Matheson, a small town in Northern Ontario before taking the plunge and moving out to the Pacific Northwest, where she now lives in Port Moody. She received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Studies, with a focus in international development and cultural change. Her thesis focused on the importance of education in development, which gave her the perfect background for working with Wellspring! Before joining our team, Shauna worked in the Mayor’s office at the City of Surrey. She became a Wellspring team member in May 2013, on the very week of the Wellspring Gala, which is now an event that she coordinates!

“Once I heard about Wellspring’s vision for education and their model of development, I knew there was something special here, and I wanted to be part of it. It’s encouraging to hear stories of all the good work our Rwandan team is doing, and it’s a real privilege to share Wellspring’s mission with local communities here in Canada. This is a great team and I love that I get to be a part of it!”

Shauna works in our Public Engagement department, which means she spends her days engaging with the public about Wellspring’s work! She takes charge of many of our events, coordinates school engagement with local BC classes, and oversees our peer-to-peer fundraising program. Shauna’s yearly highlight is Wellspring’s Gala. Preparation for each year’s gala starts almost as soon as the previous one ends, and Shauna is there for all of it. She loves seeing the details come together throughout the year, watching people be impacted by Wellspring’s vision on the night, and helping them engage with our work afterwards. You can RSVP to our Vancouver Gala on May 11th and be part of this experience!

In Wellspring’s future, Shauna is excited for our move into Rwanda’s Western Province. As this region faces so many unique challengessuch as increased dropout rates, gender-based violence, and high levels of povertyshe’s looking forward to seeing mindsets transformed as Wellspring works to combat these issues.

Vedaste Byombi

Vedaste Byombi

Meet Vedaste Byombi Kamasa, Wellspring’s Community Involvement Project Manager and District Liaison—he joined our family in 2012. Since then, he’s played a major role in many aspects of Wellspring’s work—he even helps our gala films come together each year (RSVP to the Vancouver gala on May 11th to see this year’s films)! We’re so grateful to have spent the past five years with Vedaste and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Vedaste was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he completed his secondary schooling before moving to Rwanda for university. His education experience was shaped by splitting his schooling between these two countries, as one instructs in French and the other in English. Because of this, Vedaste pursued his Bachelor’s degree in both English and French education. After completing his Masters of Business Administration, he’s now pursuing his Ph.D. in Business Administration (Finance). Before working with Wellspring, Vedaste served as the Head Teacher at Rwanyanza School, a school in which Wellspring currently works.

“I remember when we started Asset Based Community Development, it was like a dream but seeing the outcome, it is unbelievable! When I see those changes, I feel this it is not only a job but a ministry of transforming people.”

When Vedaste joined Wellspring in 2012, he began as a Quality Education trainer. Back then, he spent his days in the field, working with teachers to pass along quality education techniques. In 2013, Vedaste was appointed to his current position of Community Involvement Project Manager. He still spends a lot of time in the field, but now he emphasizes the importance of Asset-Based Community Development to parents and school communities, which allows for the growth and sustainability of quality education. Vedaste is also our District Liaison, which means he supports Gasabo district in implementing education policy at a grassroots level, such as the new Competence-Based Curriculum.

Vedaste is driven by his optimistic spirit and faith, both of which reached a new level upon joining Wellspring and seeing the generous spirit of our donors. Vedaste’s favourite Wellspring memory is witnessing the transformation of a parent at Kinyinya School. Previously, this parent focused on what he lacked and could not see a way to provide for his children. With the help of Vedaste and Wellspring’s Community Involvement team, this parent learned to focus on his assets and strengths instead. Through this, he found a way to contribute to the school feeding program to ensure his children could participate in lunch and other school activities. This parent is now motivated to contribute to the school community and provide for his children. In Rwanda’s future, Vedaste is excited about the new generation of Rwandans being shaped through Wellspring’s initiatives, as they receive the legacy of education.

Parents at Shango Primary

Being Part of the Solution

“I’m committing myself to no longer being part of the problem. Instead, I’m going to be part of the solution,” said a parent at Shango Primary’s general assembly meeting. He was referring to the lack of comprehension in parents about the importance of education for their children. Previously, he held the belief that it was the government’s responsibility to educate his children and didn’t want to involve himself in the process. He didn’t contribute to the school community, didn’t visit his children’s teachers to hear about their performance, didn’t help with homework, and didn’t pay school fees, which put his children’s education at risk.

The lack of understanding about why education is important for children is a major problem in Rwanda today. Because parents haven’t been educated about the future value of schooling, they are more likely to pull their child out of school to earn money now. They are less likely to be involved with their child’s education, which manifests in many ways, such as not helping with homework and not engaging with teachers. Parents are key stakeholders in a child’s education and, without their involvement, a child is not supported on all sides, which hinders their path to success. To combat this issue Wellspring has developed our Asset-Based Community Development training to be a key part of our work in schools.

A father at Shango shares

Asset-Based Community Development focuses on empowering people to help themselves. Instead of focusing on what they do not have, this approach emphasizes the community’s assets and strengths. Once the assets of the community are identified, they can be connected to areas of need and mobilized, which results in empowered citizens and improved community life. At Wellspring, we help parents to recognize that they play a significant role in the education of their children. Once this understanding takes root, our Community Involvement team works with these parents to realize how their assets and involvement can strengthen the quality of education at their local school.

At Shango Primary, the impact of Asset-Based Community Development training is abundantly clear. Because parents are engaging more and following up on the well-being of their children, the school leadership are being more responsible. The grounds are kept clean and tidy to protect children. Hand-washing stations have been installed and a barber service is offered by a local parent to promote hygiene in students. A school store has even been set up through the parent-teacher committee to help those in need purchase school uniforms, materials, and food at an affordable price. Parent involvement has transformed the school and the people in it.

Haircuts at Shango

After saying that he wanted to become part of the solution, this parent committed himself to promoting Wellspring’s trainings to other members of the community. He agreed to work with connectors (parents elected by the parent-teacher committee who are trusted to connect the community to their assets) to sensitize other parents to their role in their child’s education. Because of initiatives like this to reach out to other parents in the community, 90 of 108 students who had dropped out of the school have returned to complete their education. The parents are committed to reaching the families of those last eighteen students to bring the dropout rate at Shango Primary to zero. They believe that every child has the right to an education, no matter their circumstances.

The transformation of the parents at Shango Primary demonstrates how Asset-Based Community Development can strengthen a school and the education of every child in that school. Here at Wellspring, we believe in holistic transformation in education, which means working with parents to help them understand how to best use their assets to make quality education practical and sustainable at their local school. We look forward to the future as we continue our work with parents to empower them to become involved in their child’s education. Will you join with us on this journey?

Help Us Empower Parents

Louise Reilly

Louise Reilly

Meet Louise Reilly, Wellspring’s Director of Public Engagement. We’ve been blessed to have Louise as part of our North American team since 2013. We can’t imagine our office without her bubbly presence, hard work, and commentary of Andy Murray’s tennis matches!

Louise was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland before hearing the call of the Pacific Northwest and moving to Canada in 2003, where she obtained her Masters of Christian Studies (with a Missions and Social Justice focus) at Regent College. She now lives in Langley with her husband Phil and their children. Before Wellspring, she served as the Research Manager at CCA (the UK Customer Contact Association) for twelve years, working remotely from Canada while studying and raising her two sons.

“My role with Wellspring is so much more than a job. It’s a daily privilege to play a small part in seeing the real and lasting change that education can bring, both in the lives of individuals and the trajectory of nations. I’m constantly inspired by my Rwandan friends who do this work on the ground, and who bring light and hope wherever they go. And I’m humbled too by our partners here in North America who give so generously in many ways to see Wellspring’s vision become a reality. It’s a complete joy to be part of this story!”

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Beatrice Namango

Beatrice Namango

Meet Béatrice Namango, one of Wellspring’s Quality Education trainers. She joined our team in 2007 and has been bringing transformation to education in Rwanda for a decade! We’re so thankful for Beatrice’s role in the Wellspring family.

“Wellspring has been an incredible friend to Rwanda by playing a big role in creating the new curriculum. This will soon produce critical thinkers, who are capable of solving any problem and are full of positive values. This is why I love working with Wellspring!”

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International Women's Day 2017

Female Empowerment at Bweramvura

At Bweramvura Primary, a game of soccer is underway on a field overlooking the ridges and valleys that give Rwanda the name “Land of a Thousand Hills”. The scenery is stunning, but it is the sight on the pitch that is the most impactful: boys and girls playing together as equals. Not long ago, co-ed sports were forbidden. Girls were seen as unable to keep up with boys both physically and intellectually. Now, as a female student sends the banana leaf ball soaring into the upper right corner of the goal while her headmistress watches, it is clear that schools like Bweramvura are defying this archaic way of thinking. Wellspring is privileged to play a role in promoting female empowerment in schools across Rwanda through our training about the inherent worth and potential of young women.

There’s an old saying in Kinyarwanda that goes “Impamyabumenyi y’umugore ni umugabo we”. When translated, it means “a wife’s degree is her husband”, or that a girl doesn’t need an education, she only needs to be married. A parent at Bweramvura addressed this ideology, calling it an “outdated and wrong way of thinking”, but admitted that he shared this view until recently. After experiencing Wellspring’s training, he understood the potential of his daughter and sought to give her the same opportunities that he had previously only provided to his son. Now, both his son and daughter want to become teachers after finishing their studies. Their father is supporting them equally.

Stories like this are just one example of how Wellspring is working to combat gender-based discrimination in education. By empowering leaders like Primitiva, the head teacher of Bweramvura Primary, Wellspring is helping communities to see a powerful example of strong female leadership. For the young women studying at Bweramvura, Primitiva is a role model. She is a daily reminder of what they can achieve, given the opportunity.

Primitiva, International Women's Day

Primitiva is ensuring her female students receive just as much support as the male students. Her teachers are trained to focus on both genders equally and they distribute classroom care duties without gender bias. Both boys and girls are responsible for cleaning and for leadership within the classroom. Likewise, seating isn’t separated by gender, which allows values and ideas to flow freely. These values are even integrated into lessons through discussion questions about human rights and the importance of education. Students now express that “all children have a right to complete their studies, no matter their gender.”

In this supportive environment, female students are becoming leaders in the classroom, receiving top grades, and placing first in district-wide reading competitions. The old way of thinking about a female’s worth is retreating into the shadows as each of these girls steps into the spotlight and demonstrates her skills, talents, and dedication. Young women in Bweramvura are dreaming big and, in the words of Primitiva, “they can make it happen.” As a P6 student spoke about her aspiration to become a doctor, a dream which came to light after her father fell ill and she saw him struggle with the holes in the healthcare system, Primitiva looked on with pride and spoke words of encouragement to the student.

Dreams like this are why Wellspring works to help schools and communities recognize the importance of girls. We see value and potential in each of these young women. We see the doctors and engineers and teachers they will become when given the opportunity to receive a quality education and, with our training, schools and communities are starting to see this too.

Invest in our Innovative Work

Striving for Excellence at Cyuga

Striving for Excellence At Cyuga Primary

**Names changed to protect identities**

At Wellspring, we seek to be a catalyst for change in education. This means providing schools and educators with the tools to permanently improve the quality of education available to their students. Peer learning—teachers learning from their colleagues and working together to improve their teaching skills—is one such tool. This allows for our School Development Program to grow and achieve sustainability, which means even more students can receive a quality values-based education. Wellspring promotes a uniquely in-depth version of peer learning by encouraging the transferal of skills not just from classroom-to-classroom, but from school-to-school as well.

A regional model of peer learning is important for school leadership, as it allows for model schools—schools that are achieving a high standard in education—to set an example for others in their district. Head teachers can pass along organizational and team building tips to other head teachers, and visiting other schools can inspire and motivate everyone involved. This is exactly what happened to Mary, the Head Teacher at Cyuga Primary.

Mary has experienced exceptional transformation since beginning her training with Wellspring. She has transformed from a head teacher who did not engage with lessons or provide feedback to her teachers, to a head teacher who puts the needs of her school, teachers, and students first. After attending our workshops, Mary now understands the necessity of helping her teachers consistently improve their teaching skills. Through support from our trainers, Mary has learned how to provide positive and constructive feedback during lesson observations. She now testifies that Wellspring has improved her confidence and equipped her to organize peer learning activities. But it was a peer learning visit to Bweramvura Primary, a model school, that sparked a new vision in Mary. Bweramvura Primary was recently named a model school by Wellspring due to its high achievements in quality education, attendance, and team unity. When Mary arrived at Bweramvura, she saw a level of excellence that she wanted for her own school. She sought guidance from the head teacher at Bweramvura, and returned to Cyuga with a renewed sense of passion for education. Mary is working with her teachers to achieve the same level of excellence as Bweramvura. When the teachers at Cyuga Primary organized a teaching aid fair, Mary made sure she was available to meet with all visitors and listened to their suggestions for school improvement. Mary is demonstrating exceptional commitment and leadership and is leading Cyuga Primary towards a bright future in providing quality education for all students.

At Wellspring, we have a vision of seeing all head teachers in Rwanda undergo the same transformation as Mary. We want to see every school striving for excellence as they seek to become a model school. This hunger for school improvement starts with the leaders, which is why we invest in leadership training with head teachers through our School Development Program. Will you partner with us as we strive for excellence in education alongside the head teachers of Rwanda?

Invest in Rwandan Leaders

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 for upcoming 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!

Invest in Rwandan Leaders

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.


Invest in our innovative work

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.

Help us continue our innovative work

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!

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