Breaking the Chains 2020

“I am blessed to serve in the role as the Director of Open Schools Worldwide and to run with the vision of the co- founders who, from different continents and backgrounds, lived the words from Isaiah 58:6, “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free”. This was the starting point eighteen years ago for Open Schools Worldwide that helps marginalized children and trains local Christian partners to provide basic education while sharing Christ’s love. What a simple, powerful formula with the potential to change and transform lives here and for eternity. “

-Angie Pape
Director

Read the full report here!

A Journey Back to God through the Pandemic

Martha teaching

Martha was among the thousands in South Africa who had lost their jobs last year due to the pandemic. As the eldest child in a family of 6, the pressure to support the family rested on her shoulders.  In many cultures in Africa, it is common practice that the oldest child works and provides the financial means for the parents.

Martha
Martha

“I had lost my job during lockdown and had no source of income to assist my family.  My father did not realize that I would no longer be able to support him. I felt that God wasn’t there for me and I stopped socializing with people. It was tough,” said Martha in tears, as she recollected the trauma of it all.

It was at that time that she volunteered for the Open Schools Worldwide training through her church, Community Ministries, in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg.

“The training changed me. It touched me on a personal level, particularly during the ‘Route 86:11’ board game. I couldn’t finish the game. It became very personal and challenged me. It helped me find myself by understanding that there is a reason why we go through trials in life. It was a gift from God that ended with me wanting to be part of the program,” she shared.

The Route 86:11 game is based on Psalm 86:11. ‘Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name’.

After the training, Martha reached out to others for help. “I had been in a deep trench. To regain my self-confidence, I started interacting more with people from church and received counselling from a lady pastor. My spiritual life improved, changing everything for me. I felt like Christ was back with me and I was back with Him. The relationship was better.”

God was at work in her life, healing her relationship with her father. “My father, who was born in Malawi, had never been happy with me wanting to become a teacher, because those who teach in Malawi are not paid much. His plan was that I should get an education, go to university, work, earn lots of money and assist him financially. However, all his efforts to get me a job failed.

When Open Schools started their community ministry, I told him that I was going to go to church every Saturday to serve in this program. Every weekend was a struggle, but he finally began to see the reality of the situation. He started to accept my hopes and dreams and even began sponsoring food for the Open Schools program that we started in the community!”

Martha’s dream is to give back to the community. As someone who narrowly missed being married off as a child, she wants to open her own non-profit organization where she can help children who are marginalized and vulnerable, the orphans and the victims of child marriage.

“Last year, I blamed God for everything, without realizing that He gives and He takes away. He opened my eyes and put me on a new path where I can engage with more people. He changed my life for the better,” Martha said emotionally.

Remembering A Spiritual Giant

With deep sorrow we learned that Dr Vivian Subramoney, the chairperson of Open Schools Worldwide, passed away on New Year’s Day 2021. Vivian, or Viv as he was affectionately known suffered from complications caused by the COVID-19 virus. In a great outpouring of grief, many friends and acquaintances expressed their sorrow at having lost such a spiritual giant.

Dr Phil Renicks, co-founder of Open Schools, distinctly remembers the first time he met Viv. “We met for a meal at a restaurant, but before Vivian took a bite of his meal he asked the server for a take-away box putting half of his meal in it.  When we left the restaurant, he gave it to a homeless person sitting outside on the street. This was the Viv that we knew,” he said.

Vivian loved his family and this was apparent in his life. “His favorite thing to do was to spend time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He loved them dearly and would see them every day. On weekends, he would visit them and they would make tents using sheets and blankets. Tata, which is what they called him, would soon have the children in fits of giggles as they camped out on the floor,” said Angie Pape, Director of Open Schools Worldwide, who worked very closely with Vivian.

Vivian was born on 16 December 1960 in Northdene, Durban. After 2 years of Bible College, he served with the Apostolic Faith Mission, before pastoring a church in Johannesburg. He moved to Durban where he met his wife Dru. A few years later, they moved back to Johannesburg where Vivian started working at Emseni Hospital, a shelter for the destitute, homeless, and orphaned. He served as a director of Scripture Gift Mission and was actively involved in the development of the Pavement Project, a ministry counselling program to help marginalized children who have experienced trauma.

He later joined Open Schools Worldwide and was instrumental in developing the tutor’s training materials and the Route 86:11 Board game. His strong leadership skills were indispensable during a difficult period in the life of the organisation.

He was a critical thinker and loved God’s Word. He received his doctorate in December 2019 for his thesis on ‘Pastoral Psychology, The Recovery Factor’, the focus being on the Transformational Healing Ministry of the Church in addressing the needs of people exposed to severe trauma. He also studied Industrial Psychology, Human Resources Management, and Labour Law, and served as a Labour Consultant in South Africa.

During his lifetime, he helped establish two hospitals, shelters for destitute people, training centers for unemployed people, a home for abused and abandoned children, two street children’s shelters and numerous church plants.

In addition to all this, he volunteered with the South African police force. “We were in his car once and a call came on the police radio. Vivian suddenly set off at a high speed. He pulled his blue light out from the glove box and put it on the car roof. I asked Vivian if we could slow down. But Viv said, ‘people might be getting hurt, I need to get there’. That was his concern, always for people,” said Dr. Alan McIlhenny, co-founder of Open Schools Worldwide.

He was passionate about marginalized children and those who were educationally deprived. His actions and life work reflected Proverbs 22:6, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ He was very relational, larger than life, and would make you feel special and valued.  When visiting the Open Schools projects, each tutor and learner felt his compassion and love. Vivian also had a very close personal relationship with Jesus and helped the tutors create opportunities to support the children’s spiritual development.

“We are so blessed to be able to carry on Vivian’s legacy, and, in fact, double the work that he co-started. We will make him proud and miss him every day,” added Angie.

Open Schools Worldwide in 2020

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Emebet and friends

God at Work in Ethiopia

As a single parent, Emebet’s mother struggled to support her two children in Korah, Ethiopia. Due to circumstances beyond her control, Emebet was sent to work as a servant at the age of 14. Emebet’s opportunities for education were always limited, so she was unable to complete even a year of formal education. Often life for children surrounding the trash dump is without hope, as children fall into the same patterns of poverty that their parents experienced.

In 2019, Open Schools Worldwide partnered with Beyond Borders and Brook Hills Development Organisation (BHDO) to start a project to provide a basic education, along with two meals a day. When Emebet’s mother heard about the school program, she asked if her son could join. However, on opening day, Emebet showed up instead of her brother. “We didn’t even know who she was. She said that she was joining in place of her brother, so we accepted her instead of her brother, since we couldn’t take any additional children, due to the limited space,” said Toi Mears, Ethiopia Director of Open Schools Worldwide.

Toi has been working in Ethiopia for the past seven years, dividing her time between the United States and Ethiopia. Toi’s involvement has opened the door to adopt three Ethiopian children who still live in Ethiopia. The pandemic has disrupted Toi’s travels, but she and her husband, Troy, were able to visit last month and connect with ministry partners and her children whom they love.

On Toi’s recent trip she was able to visit Emebet’s mother. “She told me that things had been really hard because of the pandemic, and that the family was struggling. They couldn’t beg or work at the dump as much. To help her family, Emebet had volunteered to leave the Open Schools Worldwide education program and go back to being a servant. Her mother decided to fast and pray for three days and after the third day she told Emebet that she wanted her to continue studying. They were going to trust God to continue to provide for them.”

Toi shared, “I was really surprised to hear this. I didn’t know that Emebet’s mother had become a Christian. Our staff at BHDO and Beyond Borders are amazing at discipling families, and they may have discipled her directly or Emebet could have told her mother the gospel. Either way, I was excited to hear this. It has been so difficult to be stuck in the United States. I have so many people whom I love in Ethiopia. Through this and a number of other stories, I felt like God was giving me little hugs, and saying ‘Don’t worry. While you are gone, I am still working.’ This was just what I needed to hear to keep me going.”

As Toi told Emebet’s mother that Open Schools was starting a second program in Korah this year with room for her son to join the program, Emebet’s mother burst into tears thanking God. Her son would now get an education and meals. God was already providing for her needs! “This is a huge deal for those, like her, who live in extreme poverty. To know that another child will be getting fed and receive an education takes a lot of weight off her as a single mother,” Toi explained.

Open Schools Worldwide currently has 18 children in the program at Korah that started last year and is working to start two new programs this year. The second program will also be at Korah for 11 children from the trash dump community, and another at Chirkos, Addis Ababa, to support street children. Open Schools Worldwide is grateful for Toi’s love for marginalized children and how, through God opening doors, we are able to provide life changing education to more and more children in Ethiopia.

Education at the Rubbish Dump: A Story of Hope

Living at the Ngozi Mine dump in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, with three siblings and a single mother, life was hard for Preciate. She often dreamed of an education and a future, but finding the money to pay for her schooling was always a challenge, and she was forced to drop out after grade 3.

In May 2016, Open Schools Worldwide started an education program at the Ngozi Mine dump. Many of the children who joined the program lived and worked at the dump, assisting their parents, relatives, or guardians, collecting items among the rubbish that could be sold for some money. None of them were enrolled in school. However, the authorities soon insisted that these children were put into formal schools. In January 2019, Open Schools partnered with a local NGO, and sponsored the school fees for 19 girls, including Preciate.

many girls at the dump get pregnant or married off in their teens; but despite her age, 16-year-old Preciate was determined to go back to primary school to study. She was put into grade 6 and excelled.

“I was so thankful for the opportunity to study. In spite of going to school every day on an empty stomach, I was focused on my goal to do well,” she said.

Preciate committed her life to Jesus during these years, through an Open Schools partner-church that was set up at the dump. A key verse in her life has been Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

“Things are still a challenge at home. Our mother does her best to take care of us but struggles financially. Her health has deteriorated. Sometimes we have to sleep without eating anything. But I always remember that Jesus is with us,” she shares.

“There are so many people who have been instrumental in helping me through life. My desire is to become a doctor, and help bring change in others’ lives, by letting my light shine in the world,” she adds gratefully.

Written by Brehznev Masesa