But being based in a church isn’t the most unique thing about this school. It only takes a minute to notice that classroom after make- shift classroom if filled with eager young newcomers to Canada. Nearly all of these children have arrived from war-torn parts of the world, primarily Africa, many hav- ing lost years of education to refugee camps. Some are working hard to learn English for the first time.
Like any flourishing community, St. Aidan’s newest campus began with a dream. Francine was working as an EAL instructor when the funding was cut for some of the children in her care. She realized that not only would those six students drop out of school, but they were particularly at risk for being recruited into gangs. One boy had his first gang tattoo at just 11 years old. Desperate to find a way to keep them in school, she taught the children out of her living room for a year before beginning a partnership with St. Aidan’s School in North Winnipeg. The following year, the little group was invited to move their classes into Calvary Temple.
For two years, Francine wasn’t paid for her teaching. Her work was fuelled by her love for children, education, and the hope that through St. Aidan’s, her students could have the second chance their parents dreamed of for them. The teachers now working alongside her are equally passionate about their work, accepting just 70% of a normal teacher’s salary and longer hours in exchange for small classes and a family-like community.
The birth of the new campus is brimming over with stories of God’s provision and human compassion. Francine tells of the day a Hutterite woman came to her living room window as she was teaching in her converted storefront home, looking for a thrift store. Instead, the woman found six children gathered around their beloved teacher, each learning at a different level and in a way which fit their needs and gifts.
As the little community grew, so too did its needs. Francine has always been committed to feeding the children in her care, so churches and other communities had to be found to make lunches and drop them off. Often, when it felt like there wasn’t going to be enough, the Hutterites would show up with food and supplies, reminiscent of the miraculous provision for George Muller’s English orphanages. One year, a colony worked together to make a quilt for every child in the school.
Would you or a group from your church be interested in becoming a small part of these children’s education? You can be in touch with Francine Weibe at [email protected].