If you were to walk down the aisles of the open air market of Tacloban City, Leyte you would encounter a phenomenon seen all around the developing world - more banana vendors than any one city needs casting a colorful mesh of green and yellow under a canopy composed of varied colored umbrellas. People who visit these markets daily have key vendors they return to for product, but many bananas go uneaten. There is more supply than there is demand to meet it. What leads to this phenomenon is not a mystery. Needs on the farms weigh heavier in the moment than the need to ensure children are in school. Knowing that teachers will often neglect to show up or leave early, leaving the children alone doesn’t bolster parental confidence in the school system either. These realities compound to grow children up into adults who lack the capacity to access to jobs that would diversify their opportunities.
Two of the primary focuses of our organization's efforts in South East Asia are Primary and Biblical Education. We recognize that systemic issues like the above would be more easily overcome if people had an understanding of biblical priority on educating the next generation. We realize the undeniable need the country has to see children grow into ethical adults to help change unjust structures. Several of our team members have devoted their lives to working in the education field and spend their days teaching at both the Academy and Institute for G.O.D.
The Academy for G.O.D.
It is estimated that 6.2 million primary-school aged children in the Philippines are not in school. The burden associated with this statistic is something our South East Asia Team holds dear to our heart. The opportunity for quality and appropriate education is a gift that should be available for all children. Whether we reside in the Philippines or in Old Hickory, TN, several team members have gained or are working towards competency in primary education.
If you walk into the Academy for G.O.D. any weekday morning, you’ll find Alison Sherrod, the South East Asia Team Lead Manager, carrying out the school’s morning procedures such as announcements, attendance, office tasks, and parent communication. Furthermore, if you’re a prospective family in the Nashville area and interested in the Academy, Mrs. Sherrod will be your first contact for enrollment and admissions.
Meg Mathews also works on the administration at the Academy as the Vice Principal, specifically for jr. high and high school students. Mrs. Mathews plays an integral role in determining and enforcing behavioral procedures and in student counseling.
If you take a walk down the hall, you’ll find Craig Duffy emphatically and energetically teaching Problem Solving or Bible to his class of nine and ten year old students. Craig is a lead teacher at the Academy and has been a member of the South East Asia Regional Team since 2006. He reflects on how he carries his daily occupation and his vocational calling hand in hand, “Despite particularities like culture and religion, all human beings deserve education; to write, read, speak, and learn what makes for peace. That work will need to be done in every community and in every generation.”
The Academy for G.O.D. offers a variety of subject matter, from Gardening and Building to Language Arts, Music and Math. Team member, Joel Olson, has taught building skills such as using a saw, hammer and drill to Academy students since some of them were in Kindergarten. As the Tech Specialist, Nathan Cameron, SEA team manager, may also be found teaching or setting up student iPads. Shaun Galford, our resident historian, teaches World History at the Academy. Chris Cameron also teaches a variety of music courses at the Academy, including Worship Band and Song Performance.
The Institute for G.O.D.
On those same days you can find Shaun teaching history, anthropology, or Bible to college students. Nate, Alison, Chris, and Hannah Duffy work together to teach Tagalog to prospective South East Asia Regional Team members. Tim Sherrod, another team member instructs the Institute’s Greek class and several others have taught classes over the years. On the weekends you can find Joel teaching sustainable building skills to Institute students, preparing them to build solid and appropriate structures in the regions they serve in abroad.
If you enter the Institute in the afternoon you’ll find Nate and Shaun working in the administration office handling the daily affairs of the school and managing its various programs. Nate manages the Institute Online program and Shaun works hard organizing Neighborhood Bible Study and Continued Education opportunities for graduates. These experiences give the team the educational capacity necessary to implement similar programs in the Philippines.
If you were to make the 18 or so hour flight to Manila then hop another jet to Leyte you could find team member Leafa Vagatai teaching students in an elementary school near our team housing. The Millers also spend time educating in the local jails and schools. They are laying the groundwork for the team to bring the qualitative education noted above.
The South East Asia Regional Team has a strong educational emphasis among our team goals according to the strengths and skill set of these team members who spend each day at these educational institutions. The opportunity we have each day to administer and teach is directly connected to the causes we support in the Philippines and gives us the experience to do what we do here well when we go there.