WorldTeach has a great story to share with you today. WorldTeach 2012 Namibia alum and former Field Director Rachel Mayer recently celebrated something special – her wedding! In lieu of wedding gifts, Rachel and her husband Christian directed guests to donate to WorldTeach. We are humbled by Rachel and her guests’ generosity and are happy to share her story below.
Reflections on my WorldTeach experience
by Rachel Mayer
I found WorldTeach through Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who inspired me by writing that education was so far the only research proven way to improve the socio-economic status of people and countries. And as a 22 year old, I was looking for an adventure before settling down to start a family, so I signed up for a semester-long program in Namibia. Within a week of my time at my site in Divundu, I knew I was not going to be able to leave after only 4 months. This turned into a two year service at the Rukonga Vision School, a brand new government initiative to provide top-notch education to orphaned and most vulnerable children in the country. I was so lucky to act as a teacher, mentor, counsellor and leader in the school at such a pivotal moment. The colleagues I worked with at the school were some of the best teachers, as yet, that I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and working with to establish a school which would help the students grow into strong minded, academically gifted young adults. It was up to us to set the vision, mission and goals of the school, develop weekend programming, teach and parent the children in our care, and the teamwork made the dream work.
After teaching as a volunteer for two years, our field director position for Namibia became available, and I worked to fill the shoes of the person who had led me through Namibia’s ins and outs for the previous two years (Bret–you probably know him!!). In Windhoek, I was also able to continue building the relationships I had started at the Vision School. Unfortunately, at that time the Ebola crisis scared a lot of people away from the continent. But it had become my home, and I couldn’t leave the Land of the Brave just yet. WorldTeach supported me in finding a way to stay in Namibia while the program was on hold, and it was during this time that I met the man I would someday call my husband.
Over the year and a half I spent in Windhoek, the WorldTeach program started again, as Christian grew restless to start a new adventure elsewhere in Africa. Thanks to WorldTeach, I am still living and teaching in Africa, and the leadership opportunities I was given throughout my time in the program in Namibia have qualified and inspired me to always be looking for ways to support and improve education systems from the inside.
For me, that’s the beautiful thing about WorldTeach–the partnerships. We’re not there to come in with band-aids, quick fixes or “our way or the highway” approaches. The long term dialogue between WorldTeach and the Ministry of Education has created a relationship where our volunteers are always best placed to meet the teaching needs in Namibia. This should be inspirational to all partnerships, and has definitely been so for me in my own life and work. This partnership has also been going on since independence in 1990. Some of my colleagues had WorldTeach teachers who impacted their lives. How cool is that?! One generation of volunteers’ work impacting the next, all around the country–building positive learning environments and then those kids go on to teach others. Most of my students are now teachers, too, and I couldn’t be prouder of them!
These are just some of the reasons that Christian and I chose WorldTeach as an organization to receive our wedding gifts–also, with our mobile lifestyle bringing us to Kenya, Ethiopia and who-knows-where next, we didn’t want to haul around a china set! But seriously, WorldTeach’s work in Namibia, and its impact on our lives has been monumental, not to mention the lives of the children who are able to any small way we can help that work to continue, we’ll do it!