Kristal Hoff is a high school teacher from Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada and has been involved with Hands at Work for the last three years. Her work in Malawi had inspired her to, upon her return to Canada, fight not only for the material liberty of school children in Malawi, but also for the spiritual freedom of high schoolers in Canada.
It all started when my feet were getting itchy. I had been in Africa for just over a year and a half [volunteering with Hands at Work] and then came home to teach at the high school [in Canada] I had attended: Lloydminster Comprehensive High School. My heart was still pumping hard for Africa and I just couldn't quiet myself about it. It's like that scripture where Jesus says if the people didn't speak, the rocks would cry out. I started just dreaming with a few teachers about the possibility of a partnership between the Lloydminster school and the Malawi community school. I dreamed up how it could work out: For the school to sponsor a group of 50 kids they would need to raise CA$9000 a year, which worked out to less than CA$1 per person per month. How easy! I had a few core teachers excited and then got the administration [of the school] on board.
Lloydminster is a very busy city with lots of big paychecks and lots of big dirty trucks. The dream was to see these kids see beyond the bubble of fast oil money in Lloydminster and begin to understand a bigger purpose for themselves. When I was teaching, I found that many kids have no appreciation for school anymore because they can easily quit and get a job on the oil rigs. I also found that many of the students I was teaching came from families that made it big in the oil boom and as a result never had to face suffering. It was interesting because when I thought of this relationship, I was more passionate about the transformation of the school and the student body in Canada than I was about the school in Malawi. It would be easy to find money for another source to help take care of the kids in Malawi, but I felt so strongly that it had to be these Lloyd kids.
So I started raising awareness about it before the school year ended and then I went back to Africa. When I came back a year later, the school was so excited! They had been fundraising like crazy. They sold [token hand cut-outs] to students and teachers and then sent them to the school in Malawi. They also had a "Kiss the Camel" fundraiser where several teachers and school board officials had to show their affection for a local camel! They met their target last year and sponsored the community and this year they have met half their target in the first two months of [the] school [year].
The challenge has been 'personal connection' [between the children from two different continents]. They have been writing letters back and forth [between the Lloydminster school and the Malawi community school] and sending pictures, but they have no stories of their own, no firsthand experience... The only solution is to go [to Malawi]. Though fundraising for a trip to Africa would be an enormous undertaking, it is very plausible.
When I was recently there I asked why they are [fundraising] and what they are gaining from it. These are some of the responses I got:
"We'd be able to help someone in the world who is in need and this is a way we can make a contribution and see what we're doing." - Alyssa
"We gain a world point of view instead of a Lloyd point of view. We're able to see the whole world." - Kaylin
"I'm from British Columbia [Canada] and I lived with only my mom. We didn't have very much money and many people helped us, so now it's a way we can help other people out." - Amber-Dawn
"We're gaining perspective." - Alyssa
"We're learning that it's not all about me and that we get a joy from serving other people." - Jessica
"Because Kristal went, we have a real personal connection. Sometimes you don't know in an organisation where money is going or what they're doing. It feels real because we know Kristal." - Crystal, teacher and project leader