• A Visit To Life International School

    Posted by CLAUDIA YOUNG on 8/25/2014

    On July 1 I visited a tiny, new school in Ipaja called The Life International School.  

     Life International School
    After being granted entrance through a locked gate, we were ushered into the principal's office, a small office with some simple essentials.  I couldn't help but notice the Reading Olympic plaque proudly displayed on the wall, the only wall decoration in his office. 
     principal's office      Reading Olympics plaque
    What a friendly man he is!  He was so happy to welcome us and after a short conversation he led me into a classroom where all the students were gathered. This is a new school, so the total number of students is just over 50.  
     I presented the students with one of the colorful paintings that Jamison's students and staff had made on our MLK Day of Service.  Then, I presented some school supplies, and finally I shared a song with them that they will be practicing.  Hopefully we will get a video of them singing soon!
    Jamison painting now in Nigeria!       a small gift for the students      Sharing a new song
    Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of the older students, many of whom had participated in the Reading Olympics.  I taught a poetry lesson and we brainstormed lots of ideas for them to use to finish their poems.  What a great audience they were! 
     poetry lesson      a great audience!      great focus!     a brave poet sharing her thinking!   
    I left them writing and was given a tour of the little school.  I noticed many different things.  Bright murals decorated the walls...I was told a local artist had done the work.  The murals really made the school look more cheerful and shared some inspiring messages.  Who knew that Barney was in Nigeria? 
     Barney!      playground      colorful murals      more artwork
    I even found a Make a Difference quote!a great quote!
    I was able to visit some of the younger children and peeked in on lunchtime!  Most of the students had packed rice or pasta. 
    I also was shown some of the challenges they face there.  It had rained the night before and some parts of the roof leak, and as there are no windows in some areas, water can get in that way, too.  I took careful notes as this school will be a future project for the Make a Difference Kids and the Make a Difference Children's Foundation.
    At the end of my tour we all sat together to take pictures....it was so hard to say goodbye to this loving group of children.  I cannot wait to get started on some projects to help improve their school and to link our students with theirs through a postcard exchange! 
    great kids!  
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  • Nigeria's First Reading Olympics

    Posted by CLAUDIA YOUNG on 8/22/2014

    Monday, June 30, was a historic day.  On this day, after months of planning, Dr. Ugboh, his wife, his brother, and I hosted the first ever Reading Olympics to be held in Nigeria! 

     My team
    Dr. Ugboh and I wanted to try to recreate the model we use here.  Since this was the first time for such an event to be held here, we started this year with 3 schools.  Each school put together a team of readers and they read and studied 3 books.   We visited the schools ahead of time to be sure everyone was prepared and understood how the competition would work.

    On June 30, we met all three teams on the campus of the West Africa Theological Seminary, the institution where Dr. Ugboh taught for several years before resigning to come to the United States in August.  Each school brought other students to watch and support their teams, and to be inspired to compete in future years.  Some of the students in the audience were as young as 3 years old!

     future Olympians        the team from Bright Horizon      A young audience member!      A young visitor from LIfe International School
    After explaining the rules, we were set to begin at around 10:30 a.m.  First everyone joined together to sing Nigeria's national anthem.
     singing the anthem      Moderating and scorekeeping         double checking the score   Life International School on the Left, Bright Horizon on the right      St. Paul's team
    Then the competition began.  All 3 teams participated at once in a round robin format.  Dr. Ugboh was the moderator and I was the time keeper and score keeper.  The competition consisted of 3 rounds, just like ours does here.  The competition was fierce!  The room was very hot and humid but the players maintained their focus and time flew by!  When the 3rd round was over I glanced at the clock for the first time and was shocked to see it was 3 o'clock...we had been at it for over 4 hours!  The students shared snacks and water while we calculated the scores and then it was time for the award ceremony!
     The first place team was St. Paul's...they were such a strong team and so well prepared!  Only half a point separated the second and third place teams, Life International and Bright Horizon.  These two teams were somewhat younger and showed a lot of courage during the competition. The medal ceremony is something I will never forget. 
     proud Olympian      big smile!      even young readers got medals    a happy competitor!   a proud reader!     
    Jamison's reading specialists, Mrs. Bombowsky and Mrs. Prime, donated medals that I took to Nigeria with me.  Each school  received a plaque provided by the Make a Difference Kids.  Also, each player as well as some of the students that came with them to support them received medals.  The look of pride that each reader had and the thrill I felt as I awarded each child a medal are engraved in my mind and on my heart forever. 
         st. paul's         Life International School       Bright Horizon
    What a great exhausting day it was...a historic day...and one that will hopefully inspire more Nigerian children to love books.  I was proud to be part of this event and we are already looking at inviting 20 schools to participate next year.  Well done, Olympians! 
    All of the Olympians...and future Olympians!  
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  • Life is Very Challenging For Some Children

    Posted by CLAUDIA YOUNG on 8/4/2014

    resting in front of his home  The day after our visit to Bright Horizon School, we went to visit some friends that I met last year in one of Lagos' poorest areas.  Even though it was my second visit, it was hard to drive down the streets of this Lagos slum see the conditions that some of the families there live in.  

     Lagos home     dusty street

    We had a nice visit with our friends, though, and I was happy to see them again.  Afterwards I was able to explore the grounds around their home.  That is when I discovered a group of children....the older children were do some washing while younger children played in the dirt lot. 

     washing     living under a building
     I asked where they lived and was told they are homeless, so they live in a room under a school building.  They were curious about me and I asked if I could take pictures and was told yes...some of them even posed for me.  
     posing for the camera   curious but shy
    I looked around and noticed that on the other side of the stone wall were homes made out of scraps of metal and boards, and saw small children peeking out of the cracks. 
     a home made of all types of things         a shared bath house
    It was difficult to see that they needed food and proper shelter, and not have any way to help them.  But it motivated me to work harder to grow the Make a Difference Children's Foundation and I hope to be able to bring relief to the children living in that community in the near future. 
     another home...
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  • Teaching Poetry in Nigeria

    Posted by CLAUDIA YOUNG on 8/3/2014

    On July 25 I visited the tiny Bright Horizon school in Ipaja, a suburb of Lagos.  This little school holds classes in an unfinished church building an is run by some wonderful, passionate teachers who make do with very little supplies. One of the challenges they face is there are some walls with open doorways and no windows, which makes things difficult as it rains so often here! 

     Bright Horizon School                                     Open doorway and window
    I received a warm welcome and quick tour of the school, making a mental list as I walked throughout the building of what things Make a Difference could do to help these children.  The children play outside in a sandy lot.  There are chickens walking around, and I even saw a pink one!
    play area           pink chicken!

    The school was mostly held in one large room with portable blackboards used as partitions to separate classes. 

     visiting each class
    The children ranged in age from tiny babies to 6th grade students...students start full day school at the age of 3 in Nigeria!  The oldest students learn in a tiny room attached to the building and I was excited to meet the team that would represent Bright Horizon at the Reading Olympics that would take place in a few days.  I taught this group a short poetry lesson, guiding them to describe what they would do if they were in charge of the world.  As I worked with them I couldn't help but think about how different it was to teach the same lesson to my own students in my beautiful classroom at Jamison, with all of the supplies and comforts that we have there.  One thing that really stood out to me was how much these children wanted to learn what I was teaching, and how hard they tried throughout the lesson.  Sitting in plastic chairs, using boards for desks, some writing in their laps...they were focused, and polite, and brave to share their dreams with me, a stranger.  I took note of the broken blackboard and decided then that I would return to the school before I departed for the US...at least I could leave them with new whiteboards. 
    teaching poetry!     woking hard!
    After the lesson I sat for a few minutes with all the students  We took lots of pictures...first with my poets, and then with all of the Bright Horizon students. I was sad to leave and promised to return soon!
    my poets   all of the students and staff  sleepy baby!
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  • Lagos Welcomes Me Back!

    Posted by CLAUDIA YOUNG on 6/27/2014

    Ready to go! Back in Lagos

    It is hard to describe how exciting it was to board my plane in Houston, knowing I was heading back for a second incredible experience! In a lot of ways it was easier this time because I know what the conditions will be like and I am better prepared for the heat, etc. But it was harder, too, in a way, because I knew what I would be facing when I visited the various schools. You cannot come from a school like Jamison, where we are blessed with so many resources and great people, and visit schools where children are clearly struggling without it touching your heart. Really it is more like having your heart squeezed as you are surrounded by children who are so appreciative of the little things you are doing for them, like handing out pencil. But my heart was ready, and I was so happy I had a much travel experience this year!After a 13 hour flight from Houston I arrived to the steamy Lagos airport. Just like last year, the airport was busy...filled with so many people, colorful dresses, people grabbing suitcases and looking for their rides...and then I saw Dr. Ugboh. What a relief it was to find him in the crowd, drag my very heavy bags to his car, and set out in the famous Lagos traffic to his home. I felt like I was returning home!

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