Year in Review: 2022
2022 was a bounce-back year for many, including Wellspring.
We found our footing and walked new ground with God’s promise of hope. We experienced opportunities and impact beyond our imagination–all thanks to God’s blessing through your faithful partnership!
Here are a few highlights:
Expanding our Borders
The children and youth of Uganda faced a two-year school closure due to Covid-19. Students are dropping out at alarming rates. Girls are suffering from gender-based violence and early marriage. Teachers are demoralized. Leaders have lost the trust of parents who do not see the value of education.
We want to change that. These children are loved by Jesus; they need an education that helps them reach their God-given potential.
Wellspring has partnered with the Kuwasha International Development Society to launch a School Development Project designed to improve education for 7500 vulnerable children, especially girls, in Rakai, Uganda.
In 2022, Wellspring travelled to Uganda to mentor a team of master teachers and social workers. The leader of this Ugandan team also travelled to Rwanda to observe and learn. Together they developed and launched a program to train and mentor 75 teachers and 30 Principals in 15 schools. They delivered two teacher workshops, one leader workshop, and one workshop to 45 parents and community leaders to strengthen teaching practice, rebuild trust, and mobilize parents so that children will experience safe, welcoming, and effective schools where they can truly learn.
We have already seen the fruit: parents are sending more girls to school, teachers are using positive strategies to manage classrooms instead of shame or the stick, students are more active and involved in lessons, and leaders are supporting one another to improve school safety and management. This project is moving full steam ahead for 2023 with seven workshops and hundreds of coaching visits planned over the next twelve months.
Crossing the Digital Divide
We want to help pave a pathway out of poverty for more children by training more teachers with our powerful skills-based approach to improved quality education. With funding from the Government of Canada’s Fund for Innovation and Transformation, Wellspring is testing an idea to help teachers—especially women—build digital skills for their own professional learning, so they can more effectively support girls and boys to learn and thrive.
In 2022, Wellspring adapted several of our in-person training units into a blended digital format by creating film and interactive content for 528 teachers to access on their phones, laptops, school computers or at community data centers. 46 Teacher Multipliers (peer leaders) and 30 School Principals in 23 schools received 1:1 coaching to improve their practice and help them lead the teachers in their district.
Several teachers are using a computer for the very first time. More seasoned teachers demonstrate a hunger to learn; they say they don’t want to be left behind as Rwanda moves forward. All teachers gather in their school teams to view newly created films (featuring our trainers), have discussions, engage in activities, and learn together. Instead of just two per school, we are now reaching more teachers! Wellspring trainers report that lessons are better organized, teachers are planning student learning around core objectives, and they are more responsive to the needs of girls. This project has the potential to completely transform our work, extending our reach within and beyond Rwanda to improve quality education and pave a pathway out of poverty for even more children!
Building Resilient Youth
Rwanda has been praised for its phenomenal growth and regional influence. However, the country still faces challenges associated with entrenched poverty, gender bias, and the lingering effects of a country traumatized by genocide. Recent data points to rising teenage pregnancy rates, gender-based violence, drug use, school dropout, under-employment, and suicide among Rwandan adolescent youth.
Research has shown that focusing on mental health and inner well-being is vital to unlocking the aspirations of young people so they can change their circumstances and thrive. Wellspring is committed to helping every child reach their God-given potential, so we have partnered with CorStone to deliver their Youth First program, a school-based resilience and adolescent health program designed to improve mental and physical well-being and strengthen education-related outcomes among students ages 13-15.
In late 2022, Wellspring launched work in 55 middle schools across 7 Districts to train 211 teacher facilitators in social-emotional learning. These teachers will run in-school and after-school clubs for 7246 students to help them develop resilience and promote student well-being. This initial work will lay the foundation for the scale-up of Youth First to at least 30,000 grade 7 students per year in public schools across all 30 districts in Rwanda by the end of 2025.
Policy is Power(ful)
Wellspring is committed to grassroots training that improves individual school communities and systemic advocacy that catalyzes significant shifts in policy and practice to strengthen quality education across East Africa.
We were invited by the Education Commission to investigate the state of elementary education across Rwanda as part of a three-country African study called the Innovative Pedagogies Project. In 2022, our team joined with another Rwandan NGO to observe 54 lessons and interview 132 teachers and leaders to evaluate three key hallmarks of education excellence by asking: Are Rwandan classrooms:
- Inclusive? Do all children have the right to learn, including students with disabilities, girls and boys, and ethnic and religious minorities?
- Engaging? Is learning engaging and playful, motivating students to learn?
- Adaptive? Is teaching aligned with students’ needs, or is it a one-size-fits-all approach?
Our research revealed strong national education policies but an absence of these hallmark teaching strategies in Rwandan classrooms. There are some encouraging pockets of excellence, but most lessons are teacher-centred; they do not actively engage students, they do not meet the needs of students with disabilities, and they do not include any adaptation to close gaps in learning. We have shared our findings with the Rwanda Ministry of Education through a policy brief and two policy dialogues. We have also published two online articles and created three videos outlining our findings and recommendations. We are strongly urging the Ministry to move the application of policies from paper to practice by training teachers, especially those already on the job, to effectively use inclusive, engaging, playful, and adaptive teaching strategies. This research and advocacy project has further strengthened the relationship of trust between Wellspring and the Rwanda Ministry of Education.
Empowering Learning for Girls
Rwanda has robust gender equality, yet, harmful gender stereotypes persist within homes, communities, and schools. These norms limit girls from reaching their full potential and keep them from becoming leaders who can tackle the complex challenges of today’s world. The Rwandan government has key targets for gender inclusion, and Wellspring is partnering to help them achieve this vision.
In 2022, our Empowering Girls project trained teachers to make classrooms safer and more inclusive for 7000 girls and boys. Teachers gathered for three 2-day workshops exploring the barriers girls face and how to create an equitable learning environment in routines, seating arrangements, leadership roles, teaching resources, and gender-inclusive language. They learned gender-responsive teaching strategies and explored how to prevent harassment and gender-based violence at school and in the community. All teachers received 1:1 mentoring and lesson modelling in their own classrooms from Wellspring trainers.
Teachers reported a positive shift in their own personal attitudes and teacher evaluation scores present solid evidence for a considerable shift toward gender-responsive teaching strategies. Teachers are adjusting classroom routines, using inclusive language, focusing on the specific learning needs of girls, and integrating gender issues into everyday lessons, including deliberate attempts to confront harmful stereotypes. Girls are more active in classroom activities, collaborate in mixed-gender groups and are given more classroom leadership roles. School principals report that classroom changes are so dramatic that parents are asking what is happening at school to cause boys to do housework and girls to ask for more time to complete homework!
Seeing YOU again!
Wellspring is a highly relational organization; we believe in the dignity, value, and worth of each and every person we serve with the love of Christ. Our work in East Africa is intrinsically relational in nature, and our approach to resourcing that mission is also relational. We have missed seeing our donors and sharing life together! We are so grateful to gather face to face to encourage, inspire, and spur one another on to embody the Kingdom of God in our communities, our families, and our shared mission at Wellspring.
In 2022, we hosted 250 people at our annual Vancouver Gala, enjoyed two Lake2Lake cycling challenges in BC and Ontario, and hosted events in your homes using our fun new game-based approach to sharing our mission. We returned to Rwanda with donors on a Vision Trip. Countless conversations were enjoyed over coffee, around dinner tables, on walks, in churches and at local events. Thank you for meeting us there and being curious and invested in our team and the children we serve!
2022 turned out to be one of Wellspring’s best fundraising years to date, mostly due to three large grants: a one-time gift from a single donor, a modest one-year grant from the Canadian government and a substantial grant from a partner organization, CorStone, to implement a brand new program. Wellspring continues to rely heavily on major donors and foundation grants for most of our funding. During COVID, we lost a very large number of mid-level annual donors, and this hit us hard. We are slowly building back, but it will take several years to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Led by the Board and CEO, we are launching a significant re-visioning and re-engineering of our organization to position us for future growth and expansion. We are excited by how God is prompting and beckoning us into new and much-needed efforts to improve education for even more children in East Africa. We have a new strategic plan that foresees growth in several new areas.
The Road Ahead
Let us tell you more about what is emerging!
Call us for a coffee or join us at our Drive for Dignity: Fueling the Future of Learning events happening across the country in 2023.
Pray with us as we lean in, listen to God and learn from one another so we can seek justice, worth, and dignity by showing the love of Christ and empowering new generations through inclusive, quality education!
If you’re interested in financially partnering with us as we continue in these exciting new projects and programs, please give here.