When we first opened our school, Faith Roots International Academy, to the local communities of Doryumu and Shai Hills, we wanted to meet the needs of our unique environment by helping to provide a free (or almost free) education to as many "impoverished" families as we could! The day we opened, parents and children flooded into our school. They would meet with us and share their stories and we would set them up in the classroom, sign them up for our feeding programs, and prepare them to enter our newly developing sponsorship program. We were so excited to be helping out families and couldn't wait to see what God would do for them as we began to meet their academic needs, fill their bellies each day with healthy foods, and bring them to and from the school in our rented school bus (that was all we had at the time). However, after a few months, we began to notice a few challenges--inconsistencies with the stories we were told, a challenge with parents showing up when called, and a lack of interest in their child's education. We thought that since we were opening the door for them to attend our school free of charge, that they would compensate with participation and an active enthusiasm about all we were doing with their children.
We interviewed Blessing's aunty for a sponsorship in 2011, as we were opening Faith Roots Int'l Academy.
Blessing will graduate from Faith Roots this year!
That is until we began to understand that our organization had fallen into a very common poverty trap and we needed to figure our way out the other side. After all, our goal was not to be given full responsibility of their children, but to partner with parents to create more sustainable families and grow their children together! (You can check out the book When Helping Hurts for more information on this topic.). This began the journey towards our current sponsorship program which we call our Family Impact Program.
Our Family Impact Program changed the dialogue around how we provided support to children and families in our local communities. We began to provide a free tuition for students enrolled in the program, but parents were asked to participate by paying a few other smaller fees throughout the school year. This engaged them in their child's education and they became more interested in participating in something that they had invested into. The children received a free meal and transportation to school, counseling services, yearly health reviews, and extra support academically. The change in our program really showed up with how we began to support our families enrolled in the program. Families were asked to sign two year contracts with the knowledge that the tuition monies they are no longer paying for, should be saved and used to grow their own businesses. Parents participated in monthly training meetings that cover topics like budgeting and building your business (most of our parents are small business owners or farmers), parenting, spiritual growth, and more. They were visited monthly in their homes to see how they were doing, to be prayed for, encouraged, and to offer new ideas about how they could grow their business or ways they could combat a certain behavior in the lives of their children.
Families who participated in our program, as well as other local families not engaged in our sponsorship program, were given the opportunity to apply for small micro-loans. These loans are interest free loans that are paid off in small amounts each month, where those participating meet together and are trained with more knowledge on how to grow and sustain their businesses. Once the loan is paid off, many of the members of these groups continued to meet and create savings groups together.
Since 2012, when our program began to shift focus, we have seen such great movement towards sustainability in many of our sponsorship families! Some families have been able to open or expand their businesses and are now able to provide for their children's school fees on their own and still see their home needs cared for and enough left over for savings! God is so good!
Here are a few short success stories from some of our families who have participated in our Family Impact program and our Micro-loan program:
"Ten years ago, I heard that a group of people had moved to Doryumu to start a school. I went there looking for a job and was employed to teach. When my first daughter started school there, she was given a sponsorship. The day I was called to the office to sign her contracts, I was really happy and had this joy in me. When I got home that day, I told my husband about it and showed him the documents for the sponsorship. I was really glad and really grateful.
Here, Madame Victoria and her co-teacher teach their one student on the
first day that Faith Roots was opened to the community. The class grew from there!
My husband and I started saving our daughter's tuition fees and we put them aside every month. Out of that, my husband was able to buy a taxi. The business fell through and he sold the taxi, but we didn't lose hope. We began to save again for another business.
I continued to work at Faith Roots as a teacher and when my second daughter started school, she was also given a sponsorship and now we began to save the tuition fees for both of our children. We decided to buy a container that we could use to sell cement and a few other things. When we first began this business, we would buy around 200 bags of cement to sell, but the business has begun to really do well and we now buy 850 bags to sell as well as other building materials.
Here, Madame Victoria leads some of her students to recite poetry during a school assembly. This class of students will graduate from Faith Roots this academic year! What a legacy!
I thank God Almighty that I was given the opportunity to teach at Faith Roots. I was able to learn and grow myself and my family. God has blessed us through City of Refuge Ministries."
"My children attended Faith Roots International Academy, but both have graduated. Six years ago, I was farming as my only source of income as a single mother. When I heard that City of Refuge Ministries was giving out micro-loans, I was interested and applied. I was given the micro-loan and not only that, but we were also taught how to manage our businesses so they would grow.
I started a new business with the loan. I wanted to be able to make and sell a local porridge made from corn called oblayo. I have seen my business grow over the course of the years and have learned even to save and how to pay myself a salary!
Here are the supplies Grace uses to make oblayo porridge to sell.
I have continued to grow my business and have been able to purchase a machine which we use to separate the corn kernels from the cobs. People now come to my house to help process their corn and I have been able to save more money from this business as well.
Here is the machine that Grace was able to purchase that has made her family even more sustainable!
Through growing these businesses as a single mom and the lessons that I learned through the program, I was able to help take care of my daughter through senior high school and into university! My daughter is doing her final year of nursing school at the University of Ghana in East Legon and is working at Ghana's largest hospital, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. My youngest is now attending senior high and I've been able to support her as well!
I am forever grateful to GOD for how He used City of Refuge Ministries to help me become sustainable. I can't believe I will have a university graduate coming from my house! As a single mother, I am really grateful!"
"My daughter started school at Faith Roots International Academy when she was in Kindergarten and she received a sponsorship when she was in first grade. Through that program, I was able to apply for a micro-loan to better help me take care of my children.
I used to and cut wood to burn and make into charcoal. It was hard work and many long, smoky hours. When I received the micro-loan, I was able to purchase bags of charcoal already made from the market and I now am able to sell charcoal in bulk, which brings in a bigger profit!
Through growing my business, I have been able to help my son to finish senior high school. He is preparing to go into University to study medicine. My daughter also finished junior high school at Faith Roots and is now entering senior high. I was able to save up money from her tuition fees in the bank and recently purchased a small container where I sell food stuff. I don't have to borrow money anymore and have my own personal money to keep my business running!
Here is the little container store that Betty has been able to purchase.
I am so grateful for all God has done through the sponsorship and micro-loan programs. He is such a good God!"
These are just a few of the many stories of God's faithfulness that we have seen over the years. Sponsoring a child through CORM or participating in helping us fund our micro-loans leads to real life change, which opens doors of opportunities for these children. But, the vision doesn't stop there. These businesses have actually helped to grow and develop these communities, providing services that are needed and we are trusting that just as we have seen families more towards more sustainability, our community will see that same growth!