American couple gives vulnerable children a chance to attend school
It is 8am on a chilly Monday morning and assembly time at City of Joy, a private school for vulnerable children located in Gatagara in Nyanza town in the Southern Province of Rwanda.
The pupils listen with attentive ears as their teacher, Madam Josephine, instructs them on what is expected of them at school. She throws bits of wisdom about life in general into the motherly talk, then walks around the assembly inspecting each pupils nails to ensure they are well-trimmed and turns collars of their uniforms for any sign of dirt.
With this 30-minute ritual over, the pupils are released from the assembly, and like a group of fluttering butterflies released from a cage, they disperse noisily and gaily to their respective classrooms to begin their daily lessons.
The school belongs to an organisation founded by two Americans; Todd Elingson and his wife Andria Elingson.
Even though all schools around the country were closed for the end of year holidays, Elingson says they keep the children in school “to keep them off the streets and bad influence.”
The couple came to Rwanda six years ago and established the school to cater for education needs of vulnerable children.
“We are Christians and sensed God is leading us to live a life different from that of the American Dream,” says Todd, “God’s Dream for us was to live in Rwanda and learn from our neighbors what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to encourage one another in our faith.”
He says that when they came to Rwanda, local leaders told them the area of greatest need and impact was education. Some children were not attending school because their families lacked books, money, and food.
Todd says they saw the need not only to start a nursery and primary school, but also a tailoring school where vulnerable adults could be trained and have the necessary skills to be resourceful with their lives.
“Our main goal is not only to educate academically but to build relationships that will share Jesus and his hope for a better tomorrow,” adds Todd.
He says that at the City of Joy, all the deserving students are chosen by local village elders, and each village around Gatagara is given several slots for the neediest families. The sewing students, he adds, are also chosen by local leaders.