When education is reasonably easy to access it can be taken for granted. For a person whose family has endured generations of poverty however, education can be the key to freedom and the creation of a new legacy for the generations to come.
This gives Christian teachers a wonderful mission opportunity to be Christ and to share Christ in parts of the world where education is desperately needed. Carolynne (Caro) and Carley are New Zealanders from Newlands Baptist and Karori Baptist respectively. Trained teachers, they have chosen to use their teaching skills to bring hope to the futures of those who struggle in poverty. Here they talk about their work at GEMS School in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
So what first prompted you to go overseas to teach?
Caro: I’d always thought I’d head overseas at some stage in my life, but because of advancements in my workplace, it never happened. Then in 2010, I visited GEMS School. I saw a school that aims to be an affordable English-medium school in a God-honouring atmosphere and I knew there was a role here for me.
What does a person need in order to teach overseas, other than teaching qualifications?
Carley: A willingness to try! I would never have discovered that I was capable of doing what I do if I had not taken the terrifying plunge and got on the plane. Also, you need to be able to adapt to different situations and be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Above all, you need to be able to rely on God for everything because it’s impossible to do life here without his support!
How is teaching overseas different from teaching in New Zealand?
Caro: School is the same but life is different and the people are different. It’s incredibly rewarding because you’re helping a generation of children beat the poverty cycle they were born into. Teaching becomes more than just what happens in the classroom: these students want you to become part of their lives. You work with national teachers too and it’s wonderful to impact their lives. They’re so willing to learn and improve their skills.
When you first thought about teaching overseas, what was your biggest hesitation?
Carley: Uncertainty about my experience. Was two years teaching in New Zealand enough to equip me for teaching overseas? And did God really want me to go to GEMS? I wavered for a long time. It took a conversation with the incredible Dawn Withers to overcome my hesitation. She gave me the best advice ever – two simple words – “Just go!” I came to realise I’d never feel totally ready and the only way to find out if I was experienced enough or meant to be in this place, was to just go!
Tell us one incident that makes this all worthwhile.
Carley: Where do I start? Recently I had a very special conversation with one of my students. She’d failed a few of her exams so she couldn’t progress in her studies. However, we give our students the option of studying over the holidays and re-sitting their exams. This girl studied extremely hard, re-sat her exams, and passed! She comes from a very poor family so when I told her she’d passed she was so happy. It made me cry with joy also because she has the chance for a better life. Moments like this make my work worthwhile. Being able to be a part of something that is giving students a chance, and being part of the bigger picture of transformation in this country is incredibly special.
Caro: God makes it all worthwhile. I have a passion for the work the teachers are doing. It has been rewarding to see them grow in their personal faith and their teaching as they work towards becoming God- focused teachers. I’m in New Zealand as I write this and Carley messaged me the other day to say how wonderfully trained the secondary school teachers I work with are. It was exciting to hear that even in my absence, the teachers continue their great attitudes and remember their training.
To find out more about the work of Tranzsend and opportunities that might be available for you, visit their website. You may not need teaching qualifications to go!