"The reality is, we have lost a generation because of the impact of COVID-19 on education,” says Compassion Indonesia Country Director, Handoko Ngadiman. Find out how Queensland-based Jim Rawson is partnering with Compassion to support education in the developing world and help restore a generation.
19 May, 2022
Can you imagine how different your life would be if you lacked access to education?
Sadly, this is the reality for 258 million children around the world who are out of school. Research shows that children from the poorest households are five times more likely to be out of school than children from the richest families.
Potential is everywhere, but opportunities are not.
Education and poverty are inextricably linked. If parents are unable to earn a reasonable income, then a child is less likely to receive education. Without education, a child is less likely to be able to support themselves in the future and so the cycle of poverty continues. A study from UNESCO has shown if all adults received just two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, it would lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty. However, for children living in poverty, education is a luxury many simply cannot afford.
While access to education in the developing world has been a significant challenge over a number of years, the global pandemic of 2020 made an already adverse situation worse.
COVID-19 closed schools around the world, including here in Australia. Globally, school closures lasted an average of 224 days, but in low- and middle-income countries this period was often far longer and the response was less effective. In many developing countries, teachers were unable to adapt due to inadequate training, while families had no internet access—or sometimes even electricity—to allow their children to continue learning remotely.
COVID-19 reversed 20 years of education gains and the impact on the lives of children living in poverty has been extensive.
Creating Education Opportunities: Jim’s Story
If anyone understands the importance of education, it is long-time Compassion supporter Jim Rawson. Based in Queensland, Jim has been investing into the lives of youth and young people for over 50 years. With four degrees under his belt, including a PhD in Veterinary Science, Jim has channelled his personal experience witnessing the power of education into creating the same opportunities for children in Australia and in the developing world.
As well as being the State Director of the Scripture Union for 28 years and introducing school chaplaincy into the state school system in Queensland, Jim has also been ministering with Power to Change for 22 years, with ten of these as the Chairman of the Board. On a personal level, Jim has been a foster carer as well as a mentor to numerous university students, some of whom were refugees in Australia. He has seen firsthand the power of education and discipleship in helping children achieve their full God-given potential.
“In my 50 years of ministry, I have found that sowing into children and young people’s lives is the most effective way of ministering,” says Jim.
Jim explains that when a child is young, they are open to change and to new ideas. He says that setting a solid foundation for a young mind is crucial in helping them break out of destructive patterns of generational thinking and behaviour. The cycle of poverty not only keeps children trapped physically with a lack of opportunity and resources, but it also limits them mentally and emotionally. This ‘poverty of the mind’ results in helplessness and hopelessness, and is passed down from generation to generation, restricting a child’s ability to dream and reach for a future that is beyond what they can currently see. Education is the game changer.
“When you're not educated, unless you're remarkable, you're not going to rise up out of poverty because you have such limited options in what you can do,” says Jim. “Whereas once you're educated, the options open up to you. Children start to see that they can do better than mum and dad.
“Education opens up the opportunities.”
Jim’s personal experience is evidence that the benefits of education aren't limited to the content being taught. Education serves to broaden a child’s mind and teach them transferable skills and ways of thinking that are applicable to life beyond a curriculum. Jim recalls his shaky start in education, failing high school and and his first year of university. However, once Jim began to invest in his education, he started learning skills that have held him in good stead throughout his adult life and career.
“When I became a committed Christian and started to dive into education, it really started to train my brain,” says Jim. “So when I became the head of Scripture Union in Queensland, it meant that my brain was trained in how to organise thoughts, how to think through issues and problems, how to work through theological problems, to resolve issues with staff, and so on.”
Even if a child does not end up working in the industry they trained in, the life skills they learn through receiving an education, like problem solving and healthy patterns of thinking, yield long-term benefits for life well after the classroom.
This is why every child in Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program has the opportunity to go to school and receive an education. Without a solid education, children are unable to reach their God-given potential and explore their dreams. They are more likely to be exposed to varying forms of abuse and exploitation, work in low-paid and unskilled jobs or be subject to child marriage. But for thousands of children, breaking the cycle of poverty requires more than school lessons. There are times where more is needed than what sponsorship alone can provide. This is where further education and training support is needed.
Partnering with Compassion: Supporting Education
Jim has funded three education and training related initiatives with Compassion in Thailand and Bolivia, as well as other projects. These initiatives have ranged from funding vocational training for students to spiritual development programs and tertiary education, which are all beyond the scope of sponsorship. In situations like this, the additional support received through education and training focused initiatives can be life-changing for vulnerable children around the world.
Compassion's education programs work hand-in-hand with the discipleship and mentoring of young people. Education and discipleship have a symbiotic relationship at Compassion—investing in education increases the engagement of youth and their participation in Compassion’s program, which enables greater scope for discipleship. This distinctive was important to Jim as he considered partnering with Compassion. He has seen the importance of this relationship at work, in both his personal and professional life.
“No-one discipled me,” says Jim. “I was able, but I needed someone to guide me through my young life. I was not from a Christian home. Being able, I had many opportunities but very few resulted in good outcomes. I have now watched many young people being discipled and marvel at the positive outcomes, both spiritually and vocationally.”
Jim also recalls the life-changing story of a young man he mentored from Rwanda named Jay. Jay had lived in eight refugee camps before coming to Australia when he was 13 years old. He couldn’t speak English when he entered Australia, but in three months had learned enough to enrol in school.
“The school principal took Jay under his wing and really opened the door for him.” recalls Jim. “Jay eventually went onto become the school captain and study for a degree in Process Engineering. I started off mentoring him, and Jay ended up becoming a Christian.”
Along the way, the young man, whose goal was to someday punish and kill the 40 people who had killed his parents, had a transformation of heart and mind. Jim recalls that Jay’s priorities changed when he encountered the love of God. “Jay said I’ve got to spend my time blessing them and helping them. So, he's already invested $40,000 of his own money in the journey. He’s not even 30 years old yet, but he’s invested into buying land for a school in Rwanda.”
Such is the power of education and discipleship coming together.
While other projects that provide physical resources such as food, clean water and healthcare have immediate and obvious outcomes, Jim maintains the importance of supporting education and training initiatives.
“There's a very old saying that says you can give people a fish but if you teach them how to fish, then they'll be way better off, because they're not going to be dependent upon you,” says Jim.
“We don't want dependency on the West. It's not helpful for people. They're incredibly able and very intelligent, but they just never had an opportunity to break out of the poverty cycle. And so, if we can teach them ‘how to fish’ with education, ultimately, they'll become leaders in the nation. It’ll make an enormous difference.”
Jim hopes to continue his partnership with Compassion, joining together to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. He says,
“Compassion uses your donation money well and holds people to account. The organisation has extensive expertise and works very well with local churches.”
This is central to Compassion’s model of development. Because Compassion is committed to sustainable child development, projects are always carried out as long-term collaborations with maximum community engagement. With deep roots in their communities, local churches are best placed to identify children’s needs and respond with contextual solutions that change lives long-term. With strong community investment, these projects often have effects far beyond the physical work, touching all aspects of community life: building the local economy, investing in the community’s skilled workers and giving children a strong support network as they grow.
As Jim discovered, funding a specific project with Compassion results in a true partnership. With regular updates on the project’s activities and finances, children and staff letters, interviews and photos, alongside a relationship manager who is available to answer questions, it truly is a partnership that works together to make an impact! Jim encourages anyone looking to partner with Compassion to take the plunge and he outlines why:
“I look for return on investment. I want to know, what is the spiritual return here? Also, what is the life outcome? And I want the two to go together. And that's why I'm absolutely sold on giving to Compassion, because I know I'm going to get a return on investment on both counts.”
As a parting comment, Jim encourages investing into education and training projects to give children the opportunity to make a difference in their own lives and in the community around them.
“A person that is uneducated in many ways is disabled from ever achieving the outcomes in their life that they could achieve,” he says. While he acknowledges some children will ultimately rise above it, overall, he has seen the lack of education leave children at a disadvantage.
“To educate a person at least opens up opportunity, rather than not ever having the opportunity at all. And you never know what the outcome might be, perhaps a future Nelson Mandela!”
If you are interested in funding a project with Compassion like Jim, you can find out more about partnering with Compassion. Together, we can bring hope and make a significant impact in the lives of vulnerable children. As Jim says, your contribution could create a future world leader!
To support education opportunities for children living in poverty, you can give to our 2022 Restore a Generation appeal.
Looking for more? Explore more stories about supporters who have partnered with Compassion to make a significant difference or read our 2021 Annual Impact Report and discover how your generosity and advocacy can release children from poverty in Jesus' name.
Words by Sidhara Udalagama
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