Thursday, January 13, 2011


We are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

- President Obama
January 12, 2011

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“THERE IS JUST ONE TEACHER standing in front of 150 Kindergartners with one binder and a pencil. The kids stand a recite what the teacher says. It’s all lecture.” Retired Tuolumne County teacher Geanie Eaton talks about her recent trip to Tanzania. She and a few colleagues had been helicoptered in to a remote village to assist local teachers. “A binder with lessons and a single pencil.”

In place of a holiday letter detailing the history of her family, in her Christmas card, Mrs. Eaton sent a request for school supplies along with a brief summary of her work with teachers in this impoverished nation. “The only hope any of these people have rests with whatever education they can receive.”

I’d worked for Geanie Eaton when I served as the principal at Sullivan Creek School near Sonora, California.  Years later, I was employed as a district level administrator for an up-scale school district in the Sacramento area. I knew my most recent district had pallets of outdated textbooks, culled library books, teacher resources no longer aligned with California standards, pocket charts, globes that were 97% still correct and mathematics materials that allow students to play with numbers in order to better understand them.

“Mathematic manipulatives,” she cried putting her hands on both cheeks as Tim and I unloaded a packed U-haul trailer. “Oh! When I go back this summer, I’ll get to teach the teachers how to use manipulatives. This is wonderful.” She explained: "There is a ratio of one teacher to 150 Kindergartners and one teacher to about 100 first graders. While the teacher speaks, the children simply stand and listen. If a child is helping or asked to demonstrate, the others just stand.”

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AFTER TIM AND I UNLOADED over four tons of donated materials onto the concrete floor of her barn, she invited us to look at pictures from her trip in 2010. [Photos attached to this post come from Hope for the Nations and other sources, as Geanie did not have copies available for us. The attached pictures are not reflective of the rural school Mrs. Eaton visited.]

Hope for the Nations
She shared a picture of her on the dirt floor of a classroom with dozens of primary students building structures. “The teacher was beside herself when I got on the floor, but ‘this is how children learn,’ I told her.”

Another picture: “The school is built of mud bricks. Bricks of mud. No straw. Just mud. When it rains…” She paused. “The coops for the chickens are more substantial.”

Yet another: a teacher in front of countless children lecturing in English. “In Tanzania, the children have to know English as well as Swahili. They have to know English by the end of the sixth grade or they can’t go further in school.”

(c) CIA.  Yes, that CIA
Mrs. Eaton is campaigning to purchase and ship a 40-foot cargo container filled with school supplies and textbooks. She is looking for donations of materials and monetary donations to cover the anticipated $20,000.00 expenses. Her goal is to return in the summer months to train local teachers on the use of the books and equipment.

Perhaps the most memorable photo was of a 5’3” Mrs. Eaton along with another missionary standing next to one of the village teachers. With the three adults stood a handsome older teen. “He was most cordial,” Geanie reported. “And he only said one thing - but it was in perfect English: ‘It would be good to have materials.’ He had the biggest smile.”


Hope for the Nations More than a rescue operation, Hope for the Nations (HFTN) works in partnership with local communities and organizations in over 20 countries to provide orphans and vulnerable children with caring homes, health care and education in their communities. Local micro-enterprises and community development projects help to support and finance these efforts. Hope for the Nations makes a difference by starting the process of change: “Today’s Orphans; Tomorrow’s Leaders”


Contributions in support of Mrs. Eaton’s work in Tanzania with Hope for the Nations may be made through the Sierra Bible Church in Sonora, California. SBC’s contact information is readily available on the web.


  1. "Church" nephew AD: Our Delta Kappa Gamma society has been giving school supplies to a teacher in a similar situation for year. The biggest expense is not in the supplies, books, etc. it is the shipping.

  2. Yep. Then there's the paperwork on the Tanzanian side. Makes US bureaucracy look lite-weight.

  3. What a practical and worthwhile ministry!