Reaching Out In A Moment of Grief

A teacher knows she has truly taught empathy if her students can comfort her when her own heart is breaking.

Beauty Nzila, founder of the Blessed Vale School, deeply mourned the passing of her mother this year, so much that she had to take a brief respite from her duties at the school. She thought she would have to bear her burden alone. She did not anticipate that her middle school students would step up to provide the food and funeral arrangements and then take their place alongside her, to mourn her loss as no one else could do. Better than anyone, they seemed to understand her pain.

The children had been raised with the habits-of-heart at the center of their lives ever since the school first opened. They now felt such deep empathy that they took on adult roles in the community. Beauty realized she had prepared children in a vulnerable community for moral leadership, with the help of her Full-Circle Learning curriculum. She describes the training of her staff as the event that helped her achieve her life's purpose.

Beauty told this story as the Zambian Full-Circle Learning Program Director, representing her country at Liberia's Education as Community Transformation Conference. Hers came as one of many testimonials of both the effectiveness of and the need for such academic programs. She spoke of Full-Circle Learning as a process that inspired her own growth as an educator and has shaped the lives of children and families, from the time she started a community school under a tree until this year, when she has opened a secondary school, receiving no government funds for her tuition-free school.

Image: Beauty visits the Liberian training center.

Image: She leads other teachers in a training demonstration, creating a nest to hold students within their embrace.

Beauty's Blessed Vale School serves perhaps the most economically stressed, crime-ridden neighborhood in Lusaka, helping students apply their inner strengths and outer skills to transform their community. At the Education as Transformation conference, the school founder stood alongside Liberian speakers who also offered stories of sacrifice that gave form and substance to the vision of the nobility of the teaching profession and the strategies that create positive change in the next generation.

In Liberia, two civil wars and the scourge of Ebola interrupted education repeatedly over time. These combine with continual economic and public health challenges and limitations in basic services, including transportation, to make the accessibility of "education for all" a challenge. Transcending these obstacles, teachers have stepped up the goal to provide "education for altruism." Teachers have worked toward these sane goals this year in the Gambia, in Tanzania, and in Ethiopia, just as teachers have effectively done for so many years in Lesotho, Kenya, and South Africa.

When you consider helping us support this work, remember the echoes of empathy you will create among students who know that each generation must stand on the shoulders of the last, especially in times of great need.

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