A Missionary at NTA School for Refugee Children

A Missionary at NTA School for Refugee Children

Oct 12, 2017

By Grace Baldus
I slowly ascend the flight of stairs, heart slightly fluttering with anticipation. Climbing over the last concrete step, I arrive at a door, the only separator between myself and the school beyond.

Eight thousand miles away from my home in Minnesota, in the United States of America, I had no idea of what I expected to see once I turned the handle and entered the room.

As I do so, I am immediately engulfed by a mass of young students clad in green and black uniforms. With incredible energy, they embrace me and excitedly welcome me to their school, smiling from ear to ear. However, within this sea of smiling faces, I spot one girl curled in a tight ball in the corner. Her pigtails fall across her face, barely masking the stream of tears flowing from her eyes. As I slowly approach and kneel beside her, a teacher explains to me that this girl is brand new to the school and has had a difficult time adjusting to the new environment. The young girl stifles a whimper, and my heart sinks in my chest.

Fast forward to two and a half weeks later. I once again open the door as I have done many times by now, enter the school, and head to the preschool room. Per routine, I am greeted by the shining faces of the students, radiating joy. I look to the corner but, surprisingly, I find it empty. The young girl who once inhabited that lonely part of the room now has joined her fellow students, her smile shining the brightest of all.

This wonderful transformation is just what the NTA School for Refugee Students does best.

As a missionary disciple with the Catholic Missionary Organisation, New Thessalonian Apostolate for the past month and a half, I could relay to you the solid education that these children receive: their abilities to count flawlessly, speak English proficiently, and even tackle more advanced concepts like fractions and poetry. What makes the School unique, however, is that within its classrooms’ walls, the students’ respectful treatment is the utmost priority.

“Dignity through Education,” is the New Thessalonian Apostolate’s mission statement and ensures that these young students who come from broken backgrounds and difficult situations receive the most essential component, even before education, to a promising future: restored dignity and rightful treatment as fellow human beings.

This mission is enacted daily by the teachers at the school who drive many of the students to and from the school. It is seen in the donors to the school whose generous subsidies ensure that the students will be well fed with two meals in their school day.

It is reflected in the many hours the Directors of New Thessalonian Apostolate spend working with the families of students within the greater refugee community.

All of this is done in the name of restoring dignity and recognising our shared humanness.

When I look at that little girl who once cowered meekly in the corner and how she has completely blossomed into a happy and energetic child, I see just what the New Thessalonian Apostolate is all about. I do not see a grief-stricken, broken refugee. I see a strong, smart, capable, and dignified human being, just like you, just like me.

Through the NTA School for Refugee Children, all of the students have regained their dignity and respect and, so importantly, the self-confidence to recognise that this treatment is exactly what they deserve and they are now living life to the fullest.

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