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Joana Gomes, the Project Director for JRS in Goz Beida, with a group of students in Djabal camp.

Goz Beida, 15 August 2017 - In a small village in Eastern Chad where living conditions are harsh and the environment is perpetually hot and dry, Joana Gomes, the Project Director for JRS in Goz Beida, Chad, finds beauty in the surrounding mountains and in the community.

“I love it there. Even though it is remote, I am living a normal life. Being with such open and kind people, I have made it my home” she says.

In Goz Beida and a nearby town Kuku, JRS focuses heavily on education and child protection. JRS works to provide elementary and intermediary education but with 6,000 children and too few resources including only 140 teachers in each camp, many children have to learn sitting on the floor.

With the dire need for teachers, JRS found that many were unqualified and decided to launch a teacher training programme that teaches pedagogical skills and recognizes teachers for their merit. Since the programme began, Joana has seen improvements in teaching and curriculums.

JRS also provides tertiary education in the area including computer literacy, French, and English classes. This allows non-traditional students to continue to work on their education.
JRS formed a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to prepare the community to manage the schools and to help parents feel invested in their children’s education. The group includes students, parents, directors, and other members of the community. They are working on ways to invest in the schools for future reconstruction projects.

In this sense, JRS is working to help each group of PTA developing income-generating activities. By setting up small businesses, such as running a “cinema” or a mill, they will start earning money that can be reinvested in order to renovate the classes and buy school materials. Eventually, they will be able to cover all the schools’ needs independently, including paying teachers’ salaries.

“With so few opportunities, many parents feel that their child’s future will be the same whether they study or not. We are trying to change that mentality through education especially on child protection which includes a child’s right to an education” Joana says.

She recalls the day one girl told her that she wants to go to university before she gets married.

“Even though it was one out of 140 students, changing the mentality of one girl and getting her to realize her full potential gives me all the motivation I need.”

Joana started her time in Chad six months ago and while exhausted, maintains a sense of passion and excitement for her work.

“I really believe that education is the only way to change the world. Whether in big ways or small ways, our work has an impact. Every day, I strive to be an example for our students.”

Thanks to dedicated and devoted staff like Joana, JRS projects have a noticeable impact on their communities and continue to open up opportunities for refugees and the forcibly displaced through education.

- Sarah Morsheimer, International Communications Assistant