At BTI, we are passionate about making a positive difference in the world. Our amazing lecturers, students and graduates live out of this commitment in many ways in their individual careers and personal lives - but from time to time, an opportunity comes along for BTI as a whole institute, to look beyond it’s own borders and make a difference on a bigger scale.
We were presented with such an opportunity in 2011, when Ian Atcherson from Effective Aid International approached BTI about providing a Teacher Education programme for the Karen teachers living in the Maylar Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border. These dedicated teachers are responsible for educating the children in the camp, but have not had the opportunity to receive any formal teacher education.
The leadership team at BTI felt positive about responding to this request. BTI Dean, Andrew Smith says, “Part of our vision here at BTI is to recognize how well-off we are here in New Zealand in so many ways, not just financially, but in terms of resources, in terms of experience, in terms of freedom. We want to find ways of taking that and offering what we can to people who are not as well-off as we are.”
In May, BTI sent recent graduate, Graham Cook to live and teach in the refugee camp, delivering a customised BTI Teacher Education programme and being BTI’s representative in the camp. Andrew Smith travelled to the refugee camp with Graham and spent a week learning more about the needs of the people and exploring how best to meet them. “We're really clear, we're not about colonizing,” explains Andrew. “We don't want to take New Zealand learning or experience and dump it on other places. That's not appropriate. So we work really hard at ensuring that whatever we do is related to the context that it's culturally appropriate. But it's a real privilege to be involved, sharing what we have been given with those in other contexts.”
While the existing teachers are welcoming the idea of professional development, it is quite a mindset change for them to be exposed to other ways of teaching. The way the project has unfolded, BTI is primarily working with a group of 20 young people who are not teachers at all, but who want to be. Andrew comments, “They're, for the most part, Christian and very keen to see how God might work through them and in them to enable them to help their people. They have an amazing vision that goes way beyond just working with individual children. Their vision is very much to see their nation changed and to look forward to hope for the possibility they might, at some point in the future, be able to go back into Burma and see the Burmese state which exists in theory become much more of reality.
Andrew has been in regular touch with Graham since returning to BTI. “He appears to be doing a fantastic job. I hear very good reports from the other staff in the school about what he's doing, really getting alongside the students, working with content that we're providing in terms of training, and facilitating their working through the material.”
Click on the image to hear more about BTI's Mission in Burma