Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Reflection

Board Member Ann Highum writes:

Greetings to friends of Empowering Learners! It is my privilege to write to you as a new board member of this wonderful organization.

It was back in 2011-12 that my husband Jerry and I became interested in what Ann Sponberg Peterson and Ethan Schultz, along with several others, were doing in Namibia.  Seems there was a beautiful library at Oshigambo Lutheran High School in northern Namibia--
but very few books for the eager learners there.  After the first goal of filling that library with books was completed, it only seemed right that a group of 12 hardy travelers accompany Ann and Gregory Peterson in the Summer of 2012 to check out the situation! We also took with us laptops and scientific calculators for the high school, school supplies and soccer balls for primary schools, and Braille books for the School for Visually Impaired in Windhoek.

Any travel is life changing, but this trip was remarkable in so many ways. 

The one day that changed our hearts and minds was a morning we spent at a school for kindergarteners, named after our host, Pastor Philippus Ndilipune Henok.  The 20+ 5-year-olds were obviously learning all kinds of topics, in English, with a wonderful teacher, but in woefully inadequate facilities.  The school was basically a cube made of galvanized steel, with dirt floors, one window and one door.  After leaving them teaching materials and a brand new shiny soccer ball (accepted with great joy), our group got on our bus and said, "we can do something to improve this--how much would a new school cost?"  After hearing it would cost local builders about $5000 USD to build a simple, nice brick building, we went back to Decorah and raised the money in less than three months.  As a result, there are now several such kindergarten facilities either complete, or in progress in northern Namibia, funded by Empowering Learners.

Over the years since, many committed people, as part of the Empowering Learners group, remain interested in and passionate about the education of our Namibian brothers and sisters.  As a life-long Lutheran, I am especially proud of the Lutheran Church and many of the Lutheran Colleges for reaching out to the significant numbers of Lutherans in Namibia.  Luther College's own alums, Namupa and Mati Nengola are making a huge difference in their country, using the education they received in the early 90's at Luther. 

The vision of this philanthropic organization has enlarged, just as our hearts have.  In the midst of continued fund-raising for books, the School for the Visually Impaired, and the kindergartens – additional high schools, combined schools, and primary schools are now being served.

As a final note, I believe it is important to note the philosophy that our friend, Ann Sponberg Peterson, and the board employ in the efforts of this non-profit; that is, making sure that we allow our Namibian colleagues (principals, teachers, pastors, and patrons) on the front lines, in schools, in churches, and in communities, guide each and every project.  They advise us what is needed most.  Empowering Learners responds to their requests and we help them take the lead in moving forward.

We truly walk with our partners in Africa. 

I am so grateful for the privilege of participating in Empowering Learners!

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