*please forgive the lateness of this blog!*
The school year at NVOC has officially come to a close as we celebrated the hard work of the girls on the last day of school. We hosted an open house for the community, displaying the various sewing projects that the girls have made. Many moms came, letting their daughters lead them to the dresses that they had sewed, and these mamas looked on their children with pride. We sold many items that the girls had made as well. Beautiful skirts and dresses. This was a beautiful thing to witness.
On the black board were the health topics taught this year: pregnancy and childbirth, vaccinations, understanding your menstrual cycle, child marriage, breastfeeding, being an honorable woman, and what it means to make goals and persevere. These were only a few of the lessons that we covered, and it has been exciting to see the girls reflect upon them in class and apply them in their lives.
Outside in the courtyard, we had the chance to celebrate these bright young women by awarding eight students with a certificate of merit. These certificates championed girls who had regular attendance, were most improved in their subjects, had demonstrated great perseverance, and had brought joy to the class. Each girl has worked hard, but these eight ladies really shined, and it was an opportunity for not only the NVOC staff to congratulate them, but also for their peers to cheer them on. It was fun to watch the girls, because for almost every award that was described, they would immediately know who was about to receive it and would begin encouraging her. One girl received the attendance award because she had not missed a single day, and her peers knew of her dedication. They all cheered when she stood up and this attitude continued throughout the morning. The beauty of friendship and encouragement was in the air.
But this final day has not come without struggle. These cheery, adolescent girls do not have the innocent and carefree lives that we imagine children should have. This year we have seen girls deal with sickness and injuries, potentially abusive situations, abject poverty, and difficult interpersonal conflicts. In some situations, they have confided in the staff at NVOC and we have walked with them through these hardships. In others, they have decided to turn away and did not desire help. It has broken our hearts to witness and walk through these moments with the girls, and unfortunately, this is the reality of life in the world’s least developed country. Yet amidst these struggles, we have seen rays of hope.
These hardships have birthed tremendous growth in the girls, and part of our year-end celebration was to recognize this. Yes, they have grown academically and vocationally, but the most brilliant growth we have seen is in their character. One young lady badly hurt her leg this year, but she continued to take the (now slow) walk to school every day because she was committed. She is one of the most hard-working girls in the class and her dedication has been recognized. Two other ladies that should be mentioned are the mamas of the group. They both have a child under two, yet they attend school nearly every day (with their daughters!) and are engaging and growing. They have persevered through the difficulties of single-parenthood, but not without support. Their peers take turns throughout the school days looking after their children, so that their friends can have a break. There is a sense of family at NVOC that has grown through these hardships, and it has made the girls stronger, more unified, and even more beautiful.
These are the reasons it has been a joy to teach at NVOC. As an intern, I only got to be a part of a small portion of the NVOC story, but what a sweet privilege and joy it has been.
Would you be praying for the girls? For their safety this summer in their health, relationships, and homes. Please also be praying for wisdom in the NVOC staff as they consider what the next year will look like. Finally, please pray for the hearts of these beautiful ladies, that this year would carry them well into their summers, and that their worth as young women wouldn’t stop in the classroom, but would begin to be valued in all areas of their lives!
Written by Laura Trabadello