Learning to appreciate each other’s differences

Jeramiah, aged 9, has never attended school and finds it difficult to make friends. He has an intellectual disability which impacts his ability to communicate verbally. Because he was different, the other children in his village were frightened of him. He was socially isolated and very shy.

This all changed when he started to attend Sunday school which ran the ‘Gudfala Laef blong ol gel mo ol boy’ (GFL) curriculum. The curriculum title translates to ‘a good life for girls’ and boys’ trains teachers like Celestine, Jeremiahs ’teacher to use bible passages and custom stories in each lesson, along with activities, to deliver messages to children aged 5 to 12 on gender equality and positive gender relationships with the aim of reducing gender-based violence.

Church of Christ Sunday School teacher Celestine started delivering lessons from the curriculum every week in her Sunday school class of 27 children, two of whom have a disability.

“The training helped me understand how to engage with, and include, children with disabilities to ensure they are able to participate,” said Celestine.

Celestine said after running the sessions for a few weeks she started to notice a big change in her students, especially in how they interact with Jeramiah.

“He is included in games as a friend.” Celestine says. She went on to explain that the children have come to understand that being different is not a bad thing or something to be frightened of. This in turn has created a big personal change in Jeremiah. “He is a happy boy with a big smile, he has a lot more self-confidence and is now attending primary school, and he is always the first to arrive at Sunday school ready to take part in lessons” Says Celestine.

When asked what he loved most about Sunday school Jeremiah said, “The singing”

Celestine went on to explain “He is always at the front of the class or in the front row of church during services, and loves sitting listening to hymns.”

Since the program started Celestine has noticed other changes in children she teaches in Sunday school too

 “They have learnt to love each other. Boys and girls are playing soccer together, and children have started sharing toys and equipment and food! “She said.

1,050 children around Vanuatu in Sunday and Sabbath schools have taken part in the World Vision’s Gudfala Laef program which is funded by the Australian government and private donations from the Australian public.