Opening a New Believe In Me School
Yesterday we blogged about our very first Believe in Me school, which we opened in 2004. Today we wanted to write about the process it takes to open a school inside a Chinese orphanage, as we are often asked by orphanages and adoptive parent groups to please consider opening a school in a certain location.
In most locations, our schools serve children beginning at 18 months through school age. They are often divided into three classroom sections, including a preschool, kindergarten, and then traditional school with a focus on math, writing, and reading. When teachers are hired, we send them to Beijing for specialized Montessori training, and then new teachers visit one of our existing schools to watch how things are done. In addition, LWB holds special education training camps where specialists from the U.S. meet with all of our teachers in China to discuss curriculum and other training needs.
Usually the first step in LWB opening a school is a site visit to the location to see the current conditions and space available and to decide if there are enough school-aged children who would benefit from an on-site school. Even if the orphanage is fully behind wanting a school program, the city and provincial officials must be open to the partnership as well since we require a local manager who speaks excellent English to be on site. Our local manager is responsible for preparing regular child reports and is the link between the volunteers on this side of the ocean and the teachers in China.
If all of the above falls into place, then there is the very real issue of finances and whether the school can be sustained for a 3-5 year commitment. The initial cost to set up a Believe In Me school averages right around $10,000. This provides for classroom renovation, initial teaching materials, and teacher training in Beijing. The much bigger issue, however, is whether the daily ongoing schools costs can be covered. For a school with 30 children, for example, the costs for teacher and aide salaries, the school manager, classroom materials, new books, art supplies, etc are around $1,900 a month.
While that doesn’t seem like a lot to run an orphanage school, it is still a big commitment for us to meet, as that means we must find around 75-80 sponsors per school at $25 a month.
Our newest school, for example, just opened this year in Lanzhou, Gansu, an orphanage which is home to over 280 children. We were so blessed to have someone step forward to fund the set up costs for this school, and now we are in the process of trying to get all of the children fully sponsored. We are still $1,000 a month short of having the running costs for this school covered, which of course is a concern to us as it is such a wonderful program!
Just as we mentioned yesterday, the nannies here have told us that when the kids leave school and go back to their bedrooms, they always come back very sad that school has ended. They ask the teachers again and again to please let school be longer. Doesn’t that show so clearly how much the kids needed this school to bring essential stimulation to their days?
We have quickly fallen in love with the children here, and we want to see this school touch their lives for a long time to come. Won’t you consider supporting one of these great kids from Lanzhou? For less than $1 per day, you can know you are bringing real joy and nurturing to an orphaned child. We need 40 more sponsors to meet our monthly costs. Please click here to see some of the children in need of sponsors.
Thank you so much for joining with us to change their lives in such a real and positive way!