You never forget a teacher who helped you believe in yourself. These five teachers are breaking barriers, defying odds and helping young people around the world see that education is key to a brighter future. These are their stories.

1. Florence—Ghana

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When 16-year-old Florence came home in her school holidays, she found a village full of students ready to learn and nobody to teach them. After a teaching strike, children were withdrawn from classes and the local school was on the verge of collapse.

Knowing how much education changed her own life, Florence couldn’t stand the thought of these children missing the opportunities she had. She sprung to action and offered her own services as a teaching assistant and encouraged students to go back to school.

“She was a natural,” says one of the local staff, Mr. Duodu. “She has the patience and time for each student.”

With the support of the local church, along with Florence’s hard work, it wasn’t long before the school was up and running again.

“It was my pleasure to give back in this way,” says Florence. “It was my school and they needed help. It was the least I could do.”

2. Lisette—Nicaragua

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Eleven-year-old Amanda remembers sitting in the corner of her classroom, watching as her teacher drew lines and curves on the whiteboard that formed shapes she couldn’t recognise. All the other children seemed to understand, but Amanda spent her time in school trying to make herself small enough that she wouldn’t be called on for an answer.

When a child doesn’t learn to read, they lose their confidence. “Amanda told me she didn’t want to go to school,” says her mother. “I thought that would be something I didn’t have to deal with anymore.” She was struggling to put food on the table and education already seemed like a luxury they couldn’t afford.

Amanda thought her teacher, Lisette, wouldn’t notice she wasn’t at school. But Lisette went out searching for Amanda and began to teach her from home.

“You’re a smart girl,” Lisette told Amanda. “Don’t give up on school yet. I know you can do it.”

“Her words changed me, and I felt inspired,” says Amanda.

Amanda even started dreaming of becoming an accountant! Lisette and Amanda worked together from home each afternoon, and the local church provided books and school supplies. As her mother watched her learn and grow, she began to see the power of education in their family. When Amanda went to her mother and told her school was getting hard, she responded very differently than she had the first time.

“You have to go to school, Amanda,” she says. “Remember that you want to be an accountant. I’m proud of you!”

With the support of Lisette, Amanda is now learning to read, attending school and her family has learned how education can change their future!

3. Leonard—Malawi

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In Malawi, access to quality childhood education can be a challenge. With the support of the local church, early childhood education is now available to children between the ages of three and five in Kapalamula. This initiative is giving young children the opportunity to learn vital skills that many children living in poverty may never learn. Nobody is more passionate about early education than brand-new teacher Leonard.

“We started from zero, but in a short period, they have learned so much,” he says.

Leonard beams with pride as he watches the students he has taught for the past three months. He is hopeful that as they learn more in preschool, primary school will be an easy transition for them, and they will learn to love education.

He says their growth has been clear. “They take simple instructions, can identify shapes, numbers, colours and can recite the alphabet,” he says.

A common saying in Malawi is M’mera Mpoyamba. Loosely translated, this means ‘early moments matter’. The smiles on the faces of the children in Leonard’s class are all the proof needed that it really is true. M’mera Mpoyamba.

4. Nelson—Nicaragua

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“When I was a little kid, I never thought a boy from a poor, rural community in the north of Nicaragua would ever amount to anything. Then, at the centre, I found people who believed in me and I thought, ‘perhaps I can do more,’” says Nelson.

At twenty-two years old, Nelson stands by the door of one of his classrooms, joyfully welcoming each child as they come eager to learn. Teaching English was not always his plan, but after seeing the need in his community, he decided to play his part to see children in his village thrive.

“I felt the need to give back to the centre because it was thanks to their constant support that I was able to get a scholarship to learn English when I was fifteen,” he says.

After working hard in school, and with the encouragement of his own teachers, he graduated from university. He is now ready to give back to the place that motivated him to see past his own difficulties and trust in the Lord.

“I like helping people,” he says. “I wanted to help not only by teaching English, but by showing students that they can do it.”

One of Nelson’s students, eighteen-year-old Jahary, says that Nelson taught her to never limit herself. “He helped me believe that if I set my mind to something, with the Lord’s help, I could do it.”

5. Your teacher—Australia

Wherever you are in Australia, we know that your teacher has helped shape you into the person you are today. They have the opportunity to impact not just their own student’s lives, but the lives of children living in poverty around the world.

By giving a Gift of Compassion in recognition of your teacher, you can give a child living in poverty access to clean water, baby essentials, or food security. For these children, lack of access to basic necessities can mean that school is out of the question. But with the support of their global neighbours like you, children can spend less time worrying about whether they have food to eat that day and instead make it to school on time each morning!

Or you could instead encourage your class teacher or school to fundraise for vocational training, computer access or even a whole university education for youth living in poverty. This year, you and your teacher can join with the incredible teachers you have read about today and make a major impact in the lives of children who are excited to learn, grow and thrive.

Give the gift of education today with a Gift of Compassion. All donations over $2 are tax-deductible in Australia.

Words by Abigail Hogarth, with field reporting by Rachael Cudjoe-Yevo, Luke Tembo and Junieth Dinarte.