Espoir Centre: A South African Center for Hope
by Jen Tyler
Espoir, the French word for "hope," is what we have named the education training center that officially opened today in DeDeur, South Africa. It is located just south of Johannesburg, southwest of my home here, and southeast of our new SHADE office. (SHADE is a faith-based organization whose acronym stands for Sojourner, Help, Advocacy, Development, and Education.) The Espoir Centre can house up to 24 students. We help students from different African countries develop their skills for leadership. Nearly all of these students are already here, though a few arrivals are pending, delayed by visa issues. The students were as excited as any of us to start today with the official opening of Espoir!
This long-awaited project was the main purpose of SHADE's move from Cape Town to the Johannesburg area. It is a vision whose realization has been in the works for more than a year, and it's the pilot project of what we hope will become many more education training centers throughout Africa. The next center is already being built in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we are hoping that it will open later this year.
At the Espoir Centre, students will be taught--and help to teach, for they certainly brought teaching skills along with them--in four major departments: Life Skills, Basic Education, Poverty Alleviation, and Spirituality and Health. They are being taught in this order on a rotating basis, with students' spending an entire week in each department before rotating to the next one. The course will run for five months, concluding at the end of June or the beginning of July.
I am overseeing the Spirituality and Health Department. Fortunately, my co-facilitator, John Mitchley, is a local guy who has worked in and with the church for quite some time. He is proving to be a great resource, and I look forward to getting to know him better as time goes on.
As our turn to run the program does not come for several weeks, it has been an incredible blessing to sit back and watch the students and other facilitators at work. It is hard to tell who is more excited about the fact of this center's finally being up and running--the visionaries or the students. Both teachers and students are more than happy to be the ones to test out the ways in which this center will be run and to discover which programs will go really well. The students are eating up every piece of information they are offered, attentively taking notes that they may take along to aid them in teaching members of their communities back home. It is a positive cycle we are creating and an exciting process to watch and participate in.
While I am grateful to be a witness, I am even more grateful to have this time to build relationships with the students and get to know them better. Part of my role in overseeing the Spirituality Department is to see to the health and wholeness of the students, both as a group and as individuals. I am their go-to person if they have any physical health needs--from doctor visits to prescription refills to filling up their first-aid kits--and I have also been asked to be available if crisis hits or someone is in need of counseling. Mine is an overwhelmingly large responsibility but also one I could not be more excited to step into. In many ways, this is the pastoral role that I have been missing and seeking but that I had no idea would be coming the way it did.
This place we call "Hope" has certainly brought much hope to me, and I look forward to the ways it will continue to renew hope in the months to come.
Jen Tyler was commissioned as a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries in October 2009. She served in South Africa as the health and spirituality facilitator with SHADE, an agency that works with refugees across southern Africa. She currently serves with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in the Victoria Road Circuit, Capetown, South Africa.
You can read more in Jen Tyler's blog: http://jen-tyler.blogspot.com.
Date posted: Sep 23, 2010