Our kids, along with one Nashville classroom, had the unique opportunity to connect virtually across the globe this school year. In a year that was anything but normal, it was a special opportunity for these children to connect and learn from one another, thanks to an idea from Lisa Rippy.
Lisa Rippy is a familiar face at The Raining Season. Not only has she traveled to our center five times, but she is also an Ambassador for Kids at TRS. She is passionate about The Raining Season, the children we care for, and the mission we work to fulfill every day. Lisa resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she also teaches at St. Edward school. After spending thirty-two years teaching first grade, she transitioned to teaching fourth grade this past school year.
This past school year, she was also able to coordinate schedules and introduce her fourth grade class to a piece of her heart in Sierra Leone - The Raining Season. Not only was she able to share TRS with her students, but she was also able to organize regular Skype calls with several classrooms at our center. As you can imagine, the kids, both in America and in Sierra Leone, loved it!
The Raining Season was not new to Lisa’s fourth grade students, who she previously taught as first graders at St. Edward school. The school has a very service-oriented mission within the Nashville community, and the school community has also followed Lisa’s travels to Sierra Leone over the years. Lisa has shared PowerPoint presentations with the students, and the school has really bought into her traveling. Families and staff have donated money and bought t-shirts, as well as purchased books and supplies for Lisa to share with The Raining Season when she travels. They look forward to her return, hearing stories from her trip, and seeing pictures from Sierra Leone and the children and staff at The Raining Season.
Lisa’s idea to begin Skyping between her fourth grade class and classes at The Raining Season was really a two-fold goal. First of all, she wanted her class of fourth graders to have a global perspective of service. These same students knew about her mission trips to Sierra Leone and had invested in her travels in many ways. To Lisa, this seemed like the next step. Not only would this open up the world for them, but they would also be Skyping with the same kids that they had bought books for and given money to.
The second reason for initiating this Skype relationship was with the children at our center in mind. Lisa recalled a note that Abdul had given her on one of her trips. It was a picture that included the words, “Somebody in Africa loves you.” Lisa wanted our kids at the center to have another opportunity to know that somebody in America loves them - even if they do not know them. They are loved, cared for, and supported by so many that have not traveled, may or may not sponsor, and do not Skype. This year, while unique because of COVID-19, also left a significant gap in how our kids were able to develop relationships with the people who love them. It has been nearly a year and a half since any teams have visited our center. We went months without any Skype calls at all due to our lockdown protocols. On top of that, some children, while they have sponsors, do not have a sponsor that Skypes with them. Skyping between classes would open new doors and remind our children just how much they are loved.
Throughout the school year, Lisa’s fourth grade class Skyped with three different classes at our center, including the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes. Lisa’s fourth graders were all in with Skype! Lisa noted that they had great discussions about where Sierra Leone is, what life is like in Sierra Leone, and even why these children live in an orphanage. They had an understanding and a curiosity. Her class loved it, and Auntie Bernadette said that our kids at the center were also so excited!
Their final Skype of the year was during Lisa’s last week of school. To celebrate the end of the school year, they had a dance party! Lisa’s class did the cha-cha slide for our kids in Sierra Leone. Then, cramped in the Skype room, an entire class from our center danced for Lisa’s fourth graders!
As the school year has come to an end, Lisa already has big plans to continue this classroom Skype relationship into next year and beyond. She is already planning to have a theme for each month. Not only do her outgoing fourth graders want to continue building their relationships with their new friends across the globe, but an incoming class of fourth graders will also have the opportunity to build relationships and see that kids are kids no matter where they are. No matter what the circumstances may be, kids can reach out and make a difference in the lives of others.
We are so thankful for opportunities like this for our kids. Not only are they reminded that they are loved, but it is less common for kids their age to travel on teams to our center. They get to make new friends across the globe that are kids, just like them. We love when our kids get to create special memories. A big thank you to Lisa, her students, and St. Edward School for this fun opportunity for our children!
The Raining Season