If anyone understands the importance of education, it’s longtime Compassion supporter Jim Rawson. Based in Queensland, Jim has been investing in the lives of young people and young people for over 50 years. With four degrees to his credit, including a PhD in Veterinary Science, Jim has channeled his personal experience into testifying to the power of education to create the same opportunities for children in Australia and the developing world.
As well as being state director of the Scripture Union for 28 years and introducing school chaplaincy to the Queensland public school system, Jim has also ministered with Power to Change for 22 years, ten of which as Chairman of the Board of Directors. On a personal level, Jim has been a host family as well as a mentor for many university students, some of whom were refugees in Australia. He saw firsthand the power of education and discipleship to help children realize their full God-given potential.
“In my 50 years of ministry, I have discovered that sowing into the lives of children and youth is the most effective way to serve,” says Jim.
Jim explains that when a child is young, they are open to change and new ideas. He says establishing a solid foundation for a young mind is crucial in helping it break out of destructive generational patterns of thought and behavior. The cycle of poverty not only keeps children physically trapped with a lack of opportunities and resources, it also limits them mentally and emotionally. This “poverty of spirit” leads to helplessness and despair, and is passed down from generation to generation, limiting a child’s ability to dream and reach for a future beyond what they can currently see. Jim believes education is a game changer.
“When you’re uneducated, unless you’re outstanding, you won’t get out of poverty because you have such limited options in what you can do.”
“When you’re uneducated, unless you’re outstanding, you won’t get out of poverty because you have so few options in what you can do,” says Jim. “Whereas once you are educated, the options are open to you. The children begin to see that they can do better than mom and dad. Education is the key to unlocking these opportunities.
Jim recalls his shaky early days in education, his failures in high school, and his freshman year of college. However, once Jim started investing in his education, he began to pick up skills that served him well throughout his adult life and career.
“When I became a committed Christian and started diving into education, it really started training my brain,” says Jim.
“So when I became the leader of the Bible Reading League in Queensland, it meant that my brain was being trained in how to organize thoughts, think through questions and problems, solve problems theological, resolving issues with staff, etc.
Even if a child does not end up working in the industry in which they were trained, the life skills they acquire through an education, such as problem solving and healthy thinking patterns, provide long-lasting benefits. term for life long after the classroom.
Jim has funded three education and training initiatives with Compassion in Thailand and Bolivia, as well as other projects. These initiatives range from funding student vocational training to spiritual development programs and higher education, all of which go beyond sponsorship. In such situations, the additional support received through initiatives focused on education and training can change the lives of vulnerable children around the world.
Compassion’s education programs work hand in hand with youth discipleship and mentorship. “Nobody taught me,” Jim said. “I was capable of it, but I needed someone to guide me in my young life. I was not from a Christian home. By being able, I had many opportunities but very few resulted in good results. I have now seen many young people becoming disciples and marveling at the positive results, both spiritually and professionally.
Jim also remembers the life-changing story of a young Rwandan man he mentored and named Jay. Jay had lived in eight refugee camps before coming to Australia at the age of 13. He didn’t speak English when he arrived in Australia, but within three months he had learned enough to enroll in school.
“The school principal took Jay under his wing and really opened the door for him,” Jim recalls. “Jay eventually became the captain of the school and studied for a degree in process engineering. I started by guiding him and Jay ended up becoming a Christian.
Along the way, the young man, whose goal one day was to punish and kill the 40 people who killed his parents, underwent a transformation of heart and mind. Jim remembers Jay’s priorities changing when he encountered God’s love.
“Jay said I should spend my time blessing them and helping them. Thus, he has already invested $40,000 of his own money in the trip. He is not even 30 yet, but he has invested in buying land for a school in Rwanda.
“We don’t want dependence on the West. It is not useful for people.
Such is the power of education and the making of disciples who come together.
While other projects that provide physical resources such as food, clean water and health care have immediate and obvious results, Jim maintains the importance of supporting education and training initiatives.
“There’s a very old saying that you can give people a fish, but if you teach them how to fish, they’ll be a lot better off because they won’t depend on you,” says Jim.
“We don’t want dependence on the West. It is not useful for people. They are incredibly capable and very smart, but they just never had the opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty. And so, if we can teach them “how to fish” with education, ultimately they will become leaders in the nation. It will make a huge difference.
By way of conclusion, Jim encourages investment in education and training projects to give children the opportunity to make a difference in their own lives and in the community around them.
“A person who is not educated in many ways is unable to achieve the results that he could achieve in his life,” he says. While he acknowledges that some children will eventually outgrow him, overall he saw the lack of education put children at a disadvantage.
“Educating a person at least opens up an opportunity, rather than never having the opportunity at all. And you never know what the outcome might be, maybe a future Nelson Mandela!
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