Teaching positive identity through English club

For quite some time, Um Ali* had wanted someone to teach English to the teenage girls in her remote village. Her community valued education for women, but low test scores often prevented girls from pursuing college degrees.

Elena* and Lucy*, long-term OM workers in the Near East, knew Um Ali through their team leader. When they discovered they had one week free during the village’s summer holiday, the two women offered to facilitate a 4-day English camp in the community. However, they needed a place to stay.

Um Ali agreed to host the workers in her home, so Elena and Lucy started planning. “Our aim was not having a lot of kids but to connect,” Lucy explained.

In the morning, the women taught 12 teenage girls at a community centre in the village. After lunch, they did the same programme for a group of 11 girls at Um Ali’s house.

They focused on identity and introduced a special theme for each day: self image, self confidence, self discipline and uniqueness. “I’m very pleased with the plan we made,” Lucy said. “It’s not all about English—our approach is more holistic.”

On day one, the women told the story of Esther, followed by a lesson that incorporated practical words such as clothing, face and body. They ended by building sentences with the new vocabulary and doing a craft.

For the first two days, the girls decorated a mirror, and Elena encouraged them to remember the story of Esther, whose beauty was not only outward.

“Every time we look in the mirror, we point out everything that’s bad,” Elena told the girls. “When you finish this mirror, every time you look in it, look at something positive about yourself, whether it’s your appearance or whether it’s who you are.”

The last day, Elena and Lucy swapped the story for a discussion on uniqueness. “We should not compare ourselves to each other because we’re all different,” they emphasised.

“You could see the potential of the girls,” Lucy noted. “They were hungry to learn.”

“The ones that came in the afternoon, we knew from [previous] kids’ club, and they recognised us right away,” Elena said.  Continuing relationships and connecting through the English camp opened doors into homes.

Um Ali hosted the workers for dinner on the first night. The following nights, they visited with other families in the community. “It was very natural,” Lucy stated. “Because we were right there, they said we could come to their houses.”

“They were so exited to see us,” Elena described. “I felt like we really connected well because we were able to go into the homes. One of the boys was calling me ‘Auntie.’”

The local families also invited the women back. Lucy and Elena hoped to visit the families and continue building relationships, dreaming of the day they could also start Bible studies with the women.

“I don’t want to just go and preach because they have clear needs and we have skills,” Lucy said. “But we are not only going with our own skills, we are going there with the Word of God and God’s love.”

*Name changed

Nicole James a writer for OM International, passionate about publishing the stories of God’s work among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.